I think I may secretly be a West Coast synthesist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a matter of allegiance or anything. Maybe it’s all the time I’ve spent with this Make Noise system I’m building… but no, I don’t think that’s entirely it.
I honestly don’t think I’ve used a VCA (for audio) outside of semi-modular systems just about ever. I don’t even use my Mother 32 that often. I realized the other day, while spending quality time with the Mystic Circuits 0hp VCA, that the reason it kept sounding so strange to my ears was that it was a VCA, not an LPG, and I hadn’t heard one in several months. The LPG’s which I seem to have so readily, and quite unintentionally acquired, have such a nice sound to them. The combined control of amplitude and harmonics, so neatly tied together, really is sublime, to my ears. There’s nothing wrong with VCA’s, I’m just drawn to the LPG sound.
I have nothing against East Coast oscillators. They sound nice. I like a good filter. I particularly love the sweet tones of Ripples. But for all that I enjoy the staples of subtractive synthesis, I cannot get over the sound of wave-shaping. STO’s wave-shaped output makes the whole idea of squares, saws, and triangles paired with filters seem cumbersome by comparison. I can accomplish all the sound I could desire with one module.
While I enjoy a nice keyboard (that Keystep is really a lovely tool!) I can hardly keep myself away from a sequencer. It’s nice to be able to arpeggiate a chord, it sounds beautiful. But I truly enjoy the sequencer experience. Discovering a little piece of music in those potentiometers continues to thrill me.
I never set out to subscribe to one style or the other. I still don’t. This little post is not a declaration of the supremacy of the additive approach, nor a degradation of subtractive synthesis. I’m just sharing my current opinions, which are very much subject to future change and revision, according to my latest whims and fancies. No doubt, my current enthusiasm is fueled, in part, by the hours spent each week, with the Make Noise system we’re building. But, it has struck me that my purchases and tastes have gravitated toward the West Coast over the couple years I’ve been into modular synthesis.
Perhaps I’ve been a bit of a closet West Coast synthesist. Up until I got thinking about it today, even I hadn’t realized it. Wherever you find yourself, East, West, in between, or somewhere else entirely, keep enjoying what you do, keep creating, keep expressing, keep exploring. But also, recognize where you are and give it consideration. Maybe it’s time to break out of the mold you’ve fallen into and try something new, or perhaps its time to simply recognize the kind of synthesist you are and flourish in what comes naturally to you.