Small Systems: It’s tough being the little guy

Lately I’ve been working on building an 84hp control skiff, something to accentuate the capabilities of my main rack. And really, it’s been a lot of fun. But it’s also become a distraction. I realized the other day, that I’m being sucked back into the world of “more, more, more!” I have to remind myself that the joy of our art doesn’t lie in possessing or building the biggest synth on the block. All it needs to do is allow me to create, to express, to discover, to revel in the joy and the mystery of synthesis.

It’s good to stop every now and then and take stock of ourselves. Not just on our little artistic journey through modular synthesis, but life in general. Sometimes we need a bit of reflection and retrospective to gain a clear idea of where we stand and perspective of where we are heading. When you’ve got a small system, it’s easy to wish for the wall of modules. To get sucked into the “do all the things” attitude. When I took stock of myself, I realized I had become distraction by desire. And though where I stood wasn’t bad, my direction was amiss. I was beginning to move toward possession and away from creation.

So what’s the cure? I don’t think there is one. But there are some things that have helped me straighten myself out. 1) Take stock. I had to stop and take a moment to realize where I have been, where I am, and where I’m going. 2) Get back to creating, and focus in on my small system, even ignoring my ancillary rack and all the support modules there. 3) Consider what lies at the heart of my current discontent. What is pushing me into the infinite desire for more.

Only after taking stock of myself and centering myself with my system was I ready to address my discontent. My frustration lies in a desire to compose greater pieces than a single voice allows me to. But is more modules necessarily the way? Should I add more voices? Build a new system? Is there a way forward without giving up on my vision of a small system? I’ve begun to think that there is. I’m leaning strongly toward picking up an Octatrack. Hopefully, this would allow me to expand my capabilities within the confines of my current modular rig. It would enable me to bring together layers and pieces from my modular setup to create deeper sounds. I feel this is a good way forward that will enable, rather than enslave my creativity.

Small systems require a certain mentality, a certain degree of self-restraint. And it’s not always easy to maintain it. But I certainly do believe it’s worth maintaining. Getting back to that simple little 84hp synth I constructed has been wonderfully freeing. It serves as a reminder of why I have chosen this path. It is a way to distraction-free creation with an instrument, of my design. And I have to say it’s not a bad one. So, small rack people, stick to your guns! It’s not an easy path, but it’s a very rewarding one. Don’t forget to check yourself now and then. And if you feel like you’re going in a bad direction, stop, get back to your roots a bit, clear your head, and then decide which direction is best for your creativity. Maybe it’s staying where you are or even slimming down. Maybe it is adding another rack or some more modules. The important thing is to remain focused on creation rather than merely possession.