Guest Post: Tom Hall on 5U: Using the Magnuses (Magna?)
This is part of a 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.
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 we talk to Tom Hall. You probably know him; we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t. You may know him from his hugely diverse range of projects around the LA area, because he’s an incredibly nice guy, or simply from his most important role in life, being father to Zelda.
Kris Kaiser: Tom, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background and what do you do now?
TH: I grew up on larger farm in rural Tasmania, Australia. From my earliest memories I recall having a deep interest in how things work mechanical, but also micro environments that surround us, and of course creativity. Almost every weekend of my youth was spent building, exploring or destroying something and honestly not much has changed.
I’m a versatile sound designer, programmer and musician. I primarily I think of myself as an artist, working predominantly with audio and visual media in a conceptual sense, but also building experiences and physical installations.
Over the past 15 yrs, I've worked across a multitude of genres and sound domains, including sound design for companies such as Korg, Arturia as well as designing, building and programming custom music hardware, software & live show control for some of Los Angeles’s top composers, musicians and bands.
In addition to that, for the past 6+yrs I’ve been a full-time Content Developer at Cycling ’74, makers of Max/MSP, which involves making and designing content to go inside Max/MSP, educational material, festival appearances, presentations and user engagement.
I would say that my open mindedness and ability to hone unique sounds from esoteric material allows me to work across a range of digital and analog domains, bringing a large variety of knowledge on sound and industry experience to any genre.
KK: You’re hired! Seriously, anyone who knows you (which is everyone) knows that you are incredibly multidisciplinary and knowledgeable in a wide range of things. I ask this of all our guest posters because I find the answers so interesting -- what brought you to modular?
TH: I came to modular because I bought some moogerfooger pedals on recommendation from friend Lawrence English after seeing him work with them. Until then I was 100% ITB, [but] after playing with the moogfoogers for a while and acquiring the 'full set' I noticed the “CV” I/O on the back and started using each of them to control the other, essentially making it my first modular synthesizer, right!!
From there I started acquiring other hardware, Nords in particular, and various noise-making devices, pedals, etc.
Through luck, I got a small programming job and was paid with part of a Modular Synthesizer, aka my start into 5U modular synths. I filled that case out and stuck with that for a few years, combining it with my first love (Max/MSP - that I was introduced to in 2004) and the 5U system.
I started getting into Eurorack when Granular Synthesis started showing up in modules, it’s my favorite form of sound mangling and the one thing until then that I couldn’t do in modular, until modules like [Make Noise] Phonogene and [Mutable Instruments] Clouds came along, at that time Mutable Instruments had a b-stock section on their website, so I sold all my moogerfooger pedals and sunk all the cash into a bunch of modules.
For me, I still think of Eurorack modules as Max/MSP objects and how they fit into my environment, funny how that works.
KK: I somehow find that entirely fitting. I think of each module as a piece of an ecosystem I build every time I assemble a case, so I guess it’s all about how we fit modular into our own world view and what we bring to it as well as what it brings to us.
Now on to the patch you did! It was such a great jam, and we’re such novices in the large-format world. Talk to me about what you are doing here, and what other modules are being used
TH: This patch if largely generative with the obvious /human input on the Basimilus Iteritas Magnus and Manis Iteritas Magnus.
I typical don’t play live with the 5U system as my medical coverage doesn’t cover back injuries (JK - I actually have used it once live and it slayed) - what I do find the 5U Modular system incredibly good for is more singular, focussed sound design typically, then taking the output off for slicing, dicing, sampling and further mangingling in Max/MSP or in various Eurorack samplers……but if someone would make a sequencer (in 2MU) with memory/event recall (hint hint) I would probably end up taking it out live a lot more. [Ed. note: Hmmmmmm]
All of the rhythmic elements are coming from the excellent Ardcore by 20objects using a modified “#18 Variation Generator” not too dissimilar to a Bin Seq. Basically it runs around a 16x8 table of 1s and 0s (gate on/off) depending on the two X / Y location of the dials.
These gate are doing a few things, they’re split via a Mult, some are running through dividers and multipliers for continued rhythmic variance, some of these gates used for syncing the 3x Synthesizer Dotcom Q106 Oscillators (the warmest/closest Moog voice a boy can get) - however all of the Q106’s are switched to LFO duties.
And that’s basically it.
The real heavy lifters here are the Ardcore, BIM & MIM - the rest is just various offsets of the two gate sequencers and a bunch of modulators.
KK: If someone wanted to recreate the patch but didn’t have the Ardcore, what would you suggest?
TH: A lot of this could mostly be achieved with a few clock-able modulation sources (so everything is synchronized)
A gate sequencer
A mult and clock divider
A couple of EGs
So much of the sound in this video is the BIM and MIM though, so you’re going to just have to pick those up ;) [Ed. note 2: I can’t argue….] - you could use other complex oscillators, wavetable modules and a whole lot of wave folders but you would need to experiment a a lot there.
Like Tom’s work? We do too!
And of course, find Tom in the usual places:
Stay tuned to the Noise Engineering blog for more tips and tricks for modular users. And if you have questions you'd like to see here, please drop us a line.