Small Systems: Beginnings

My own journey into the eurorack format began with the Roland SYR-E84. A case I chose, because it was available, and I could get financing on it. This meant that I could get a case and a module. Tides was my first module. It started life as a supplement to a Dark Energy II. Over time I sold my semi-modular equipment and filled my case with a more or less basic array of modules. I had a lot of fun with that and learned a lot. If you’re new to it all, building a simple system is a great way to learn and grow. Even if you already have experience with semi-modular it can be quite informative. Most modules are much more patchable than their semi-modular counterparts. The world of possibilities is much wider.

I made a couple impulsive buys along the way. Streams and Warps. Both were bought during sales, I think 25-30% off. Streams has turned out to be absolutely brilliant. It’s never leaving the collection. It lacks in CV inputs. But it makes up for it in it’s depth of function and great sound. Warps was another story. Streams is never leaving, but Warps is just waiting for a buyer. Don’t get me wrong, Warps is not bad. But when I bought it, I simply did not have the means to make good use of it in my small rack-space. I didn’t have enough modulation. I learned two lessons. 1) If you buy impulsively you are going for a ride, destination, Unknown. 2) Don’t skimp on the modulation. Modulation sources are what make your system live and breathe and move. Without modulation your sound becomes stagnant and fetid.

Very recently I acquired Elements. It’s a module I’ve dreamed of for more than two years. Before I ever set foot into synthesis, when I’d just begun my research, I heard it, and I wanted it. Acquiring Elements created a sort of watershed moment, forever altering my view of small system design. It has led me to a much more thoughtful, focused approach as opposed to, what more or less amounted to a general lack of methodology. Indeed there was an aim to expand the capabilities of my system. However, lacking a clear and concise approach to this expansion, my aim was about as good as aimless. Once you get past the beginner’s phase, it’s time to find a focus, a clear vision for how you plan to express yourself with your system. Beyond this, if I may be so bold. If there is a module which does something that absolutely speaks to you; if it is a fulcrum by which you could leverage sound to your creative will; if it’s a linchpin that ties together your artistic vision; then work toward it.

Currently I’m working on refining and iterating my Elements centered system. It’s part of a thought experiment, “what if Mutable Instruments built a desktop system?” It’s been fun, challenging and educating, and the ride isn’t over yet. I have an idea of where I think this will go. I have some ideas which have popped up along the way, which I wish to experiment with. (At some point I plan on getting three Branches together to see what I can do with a whole tree.) I’m looking forward to seeing where the experimentation leads and how it concludes. It’s a grand adventure. I hope you’re enjoying yours!


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