Modular Tips and Tricks Guest Post: Matt Lange on BIA modulation
This is the first of a new series of guest-post tutorials from Noise Engineering users showing off various tips for NE modules, modular use in general, or how they integrate modular into their workflow. A short video will be accompanied by some text about who the person is and what’s happening in the patch. Have someone you think would be great to write a guest post? Have a modular tip you want to submit for us to create a video around? Please submit ideas for this occasional column here.
This week, Noise Engineering is happy to present a tip from Matt Lange, composer, sound designer, music producer, and sometimes DJ. We love Matt's work and the way he uses modular. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of my chat with Matt about how he found modular, how he uses it, and what’s going on in the patch he created for us.
Kris: I’m always curious how people found their way into modular. Obviously, it’s grown a lot in the past few years, but particularly when you started, it was still pretty niche. So...what brought you to modular synth?
Matt Lange: I was first introduced to modular about a decade ago. I was sitting on the living room floor with a mutual friend and Richard Devine and he was putting together one of his first Doepfer rigs. I had never seen anything like that at the time. So that was the introduction to it and it definitely piqued my curiosity. Fast forward about six years and a handful of different people kept pushing it at me and saying, “For the way you work, you’re going to feel like a kid in the candy store. You HAVE to get into it.” At some point, my friend Anthony (Baldino) came over with the two little cases he had at the time. Five minutes into touching it, I needed it in my life.
K: What does that mean, “the way you work”? How do you typically use modular?
ML: For me it’s a sonic pallet I can’t find elsewhere: it gives me creative ideas that I wouldn’t come across in a more traditional format. I use the modular more as a studio tool than as a live performance tool. For me, it’s drastically different than any other synth I have---any other instrument I have! There’s a totally different ethos to how you work, how you create with modular.. For me it’s great to turn to when I’m creatively stuck, need a new idea, or just need to explore something in a different way.
K: Awesome. I hope we can see some of that in the future, too! For now, take us through the patch you have here.
ML: The patch itself is based around just five elements total.
The main one, the Telefon-Tel Aviv-esque blippy things are all made by the BIA (Basimilus Iteritas Alter). It’s getting a series of gates from a sequencer. What’s exciting about the BIA is the sheer amount of modulation you can do. Every individual hit is getting parameter changes via a bunch of sequencers and a random module that are all hitting different inputs at the same time. In this case, we have Mimetic Digitalis [ed. note: MD is a prototype NE module Matt is testing for us] getting random gates that change the output. Out 1 goes to morph, output 2 goes to synthesis mode (skin/liquid/metal). A third output is going to spread. In addition, I have the smooth/random CV out from Make Noise’s Wogglebug going to pitch. Every time it triggers, each one is a little different and all a little blippy bc of the smooth/random from Wogglebug. On top of that, sometimes it gets doubled up because when BIA is in liquid mode, liquid already has a pitch envelope on it. So depending on the direction the smooth/random is going, you get really interesting textures and different hits. I am also gating it tighter than the decay of the BIA itself because that gives me more options later as the set progresses.. For that, I’m using a Make Noise Maths envelope. Here it starts really tight, but then I can open it up and I can open the BIA at the same time; in the performance, you could hear the blips tail out and tighten back up. It’s more dynamic, and more sonically interesting.
K: Very cool. I’m loving this patch. Do you have any suggestions for other modules that would play well in it -- either to substitute in or to take it a step further?
ML: Modulation. Any kind of modulation: sequencers, LFOs, you name it. They really make NE modules come to life. Something brilliant about NE modules is the sheer amount of control you often have over every parameter for making cool new interesting sounds. The more modulation capacity you have, the more fun you can have.
My go-tos are NE’s Mimetic Digitalis, and of course Make Noise’s René and Wogglebug for all sorts of modulation. A nice filter can also go a long way. I’m partial to the Cwejman, because it’s a Cwejman! But really, modulation is really the key. Modulation and more distortion. Always more distortion.
Stay tuned to the Noise Engineering blog for more tips and tricks by and for modular users. And if you have tips you’d like to contribute or questions you'd like to see answered here, please drop us a line.