Friday, June 28, 2013

BookTip XV: Theremin - Ether Music And Espionage

Wow... It took me quite some time to complete reading this book, but it was worth it... and i believe I have never read such an interesting biography as this one.
Maybe it has to do with the broad spectrum of interests that this book covers, maybe just because Lev (Leon) Termen (Theremin) had such an interesting life.

Theremin - Ether Music and Espionage
by Albert Glinsky
Before i started reading this book i only knew a few things about Theremin; his Russian origin and his main
invention the Theremin (created in 1919, patented in 1928), originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone or termenvox/thereminvox.

Theremin lived from 1896 to 1993 and this book takes you along on his journey through a very interesting time with some of the world's major events of the last century: the Russian Revolution, two world wars, America's Great Depression, Stalin's purges, the cold war and perestroika.
It clearly shows how Theremin lived a life between communism and capitalism and "from the KGB to Macy's store windows, Alcatraz to the Beach Boys, Hollywood thrillers to the United Nations, Joseph Stalin to Shirley Temple."

The book is very well written and closely follows Theremin's life from the time when he came up with his first invention - the only instrument that is played without being touched, and also shows that he wasn't just a 'one-hit-wonder'.
In fact, he invented loads of things and was a true electronic pioneer that stood on the base of techniques that we still use today like burglar-alarms, television, those loops in the asphalt near traffic-lights and even RFID

A few of Theremin's other inventions on a row:
Burglar alarm, or "Signalling Apparatus" which used the Theremin effect (1920s)
Electromechanical television – Nipkow disk with mirrors instead of slots (ca. 1925)
Terpsitone – platform that converts dance movements into tones (1932)
Theremin cello – an electronic cello with no strings and no bow, using a plastic fingerboard, a handle for volume and two knobs for sound shaping (ca. 1930)
Keyboard theremin (ca. 1930), looking like a small piano, "with hornlike tones"
The Great Seal bug, also known as "The Thing" – one of the first passive covert listening devices; first used by the USSR for spying (1945 or earlier)
The Buran eavesdropping device (1947 or earlier)
Rhythmicon – world's first drum machine (1931)*

The book is IMHO must-read for Theremin players, but also a good read for people who are only interested in lifestyle and culture in the first half of the last century.
I can't wait to get a real Theremin now... I must say my skills on the Doepfer Theremin are improving after reading this book, so i might take the step to buy a 'real' one this year... an Etherwave or a ThereMAX for example.

Rhythmicon from Thomas Patteson on Vimeo.
" Ancestor of the Drum Machine: Leon Theremin's Rhythmicon
The Russian inventor Leon Theremin is best known for the eponymous instrument he created around 1919. But another invention of Theremin's is perhaps even more prophetic of later developments in electronic music: the Rhythmicon, produced in 1931 at the behest of the American composer Henry Cowell. 
This device allowed for the real-time generation of complex rhythmic patterns thought to be un-performable by humans. 
 Each successive note on the keyboard triggered a division of the basic beat in whole number ratios: the second key beating twice for each basic beat, the third key beating three times, and so on.
This video shows the Russian scholar Andrey Smirnov demonstrating the how the Rhythmicon is played.
The device shown in the video is likely the later version, developed in the 1960s and now housed in the Theremin Center in Moscow."

Theremin - Ether Music And Espionage by Albert Glinsky
(Music in American Life) - ISBN - 978-0-252-07275-8
More info about the writer and the book at

*Source / more about Theremin and his inventions on Wikipedia:

Also worth watching:
the documentary 'Theremin: an electronic odyssey' - Trailer
, plus the 'Moscow Electro'/ 'Elektro Moskva' documentary,
that also seems to have interviews with Theremin.
(thanks for the tip @adicarter)

Find my other BookTips HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Skiff- Friendly

skiff  ( s k í f ) :
" A flatbottom open boat of shallow draft, having a pointed bow and a square stern and propelled by oars, sail, or motor.
[Middle English skif, from Old French esquif, from Old Italian schifo, of Germanic origin.] "

They have been out there for a while, but it seems like more and more people like to use "skiff" type wooden or aluminium shallow racks to house their Eurorack modules.
Flat-bottomed shallow skiffs that often lie down horizontally or are slightly tilted can be very useful in many situations because they fit perfectly on your desktop, next to your computer.
In my opinion they are perfect to put controller modules in them, but be aware...

Walnut Makenoise skiff
The shallow depth of some skiffs might not be enough for the kind of modules you want to put in there.
Be sure that the depth of your modules is tuned to the depth of your skiff and vice versa.
I see a lot of manufacturers putting the word 'skiff-friendly' in their advertisements lately and most of them are usually very shallow, so you would not have a problem with those.

The walnut Makenoise skiff from Analoguehaven in the picture for example has an internal depth of only 1.75 inch (4.45 cm) without a power rail mounted. Now that's shallow...
Imagine that with a busboard mounted inside and figure out how little depth is left for modules.
Not that this is a bad skiff or so, in fact it looks beautiful and can house the most 'skiff-friendly' modules that i know, but i know for sure that my (Doepfer)  A-175 Joystick wouldn't fit in there...

My advice is to check out the depth of the modules that you would like to install in your skiff before you buy one... better be safe than sorry...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Random Video: Sequencer ratcheting like Tangerine Dream, Doepfer MAQ16/3 by Kittenpurse1

This video appeared on YouTube last month...
It's a demo of a technique that this guy developed using the Doepfer MAQ 16/3 sequencer and an A-150 Voltage Controlled Switch to imitate the the popular 'ratcheting' note trill effect used by Chris Franke in Tangerine Dream.

Video: Sequencer ratcheting like Tangerine Dream, Doepfer MAQ16/3

" The popular 'ratcheting' note trill effect used by Chris Franke in Tangerine Dream can be difficult to imitate. Here's a demo of a technique I developed using the Doepfer MAQ 16/3 sequencer and Voltage-Controlled Switch."

Uploaded by kittenpurse1

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Owl Theremin by David Cranmer

Full Owl Theremin view
Wow... this looks impressive.
David Cranmer, from Nervous Squirrel built this very cool Theremin with an Owl that can move up and down..

From the website:

" This was commissioned by Scott Williams, who got in touch to express his love of both owls and theremins. Surely the two could be combined somehow?

View without case
A few drawings were developed, and then a meeting was arranged in the Morgan Arms. Scott was easy to identify, being the only chap carrying an owl.
The final unit consisted of a geometric timber log on a steel stand, a classic analogue pitch & volume theremin, and a motorised system to raise the owl from within the casing.

The image on the right show the casing removed.
The theremin is in fact an excellent PAiA Theremax, the same as used for the Badgermin
The owl rests on a sliding carriage, which can slide along four vertical bars fixed inside the log.

Control panel
When the motor is turned on a winch mechanism winds a length of sash cord, which loops over the top of a second pulley, which in turn lifts up the sliding carriage.
When the carriage reaches the top, a limit switch is automatically pressed, switching off the motor.

Volume antenna loop with
nice woodwork
For the owl to descend, the owl activation switch is flipped once more, reversing the polarity of the motor, allowing the carriage to be lowered down onto another limit switch.

The antennae disconnect for ease of transportation, and the lower half of the stand can be unbolted. The owl variety is a Southern Boobok."

More info and pictures at

Video: Owl Theremin
" This was commissioned by Scott Williams.
The theremin control voltage outputs can be used to play the synth in the background.
More details:"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quick Tip XIII : Improvised Multiples

The bigger your Eurorack gets, the more often you need longer cables.
In case you don't have enough long cables, i would advice you to put an A-180(-2) Multiples module somewhere in the middle of your system so you can extend your cable-reach from there.
A-164-1 as
If you don't have enough multiple modules, you can also look if you have other options.

A-165 Trigger
Modifier Inputs
You should know that some Doepfer modules have multiple in- or outputs that are interconnected in a way that they can act as multiples as well...

You can recognize these in/outputs by the connected line between the mini-jacks.
The A-175 Voltage Inverter  and A-165 Trigger Modifier  are nice examples,  both have two separate channels, so also two multiples.
The A-164-1 Manual Gate module can even be used as 3 separate multiples.
The 2 outputs on the A-119 External Input module are connected together too, as well as the audio inputs on the A-126 Voltage Controlled Frequency Shifter.
A few more Doepfer modules also have this option, let me know in the comments if you find other modules that have this possibility.

This 'trick' works for CV signals and for audio but I should mention that if you use these modules as an improvised Multiple, most of the times you cannot use the module's original functions at the same time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Ladik Modules

Ladik J-010 XY Joystick module
Another new video from Ladik popped up on YouTube today.
I'm not exactly sure why, but there is some kind of charm about these kind of small east-European synthesizer companies IMO and finally i have a little bit more info about this Czechoslovakian manufacturer.

Like a site for example, find them now at and have a look at their other products, the Synare 3 clone for example looks and sounds pretty amazing.
I haven't had contact with the owner (yet), but i'm quite interested to know how this all started and where this company is heading to...
I would love to record an interview-session with them for an upcoming interview-series for my blog next winter. (I have a few more people on my list, including Dieter Doepfer himself)

Lakik J-011 J-Math module
Their latest video shows two of their new products;
The J-010, an industry standard Joystick CV controller for Eurorack, with two outputs with adjustable settings for range and offset for both X and Y directions.
and the J-011, The J-Math, a small 2-input Maths module that perfoms basic mathemetical funtions as X+Y, X-Y, -X-Y etc...
It works with control voltages and i assume it will do something interesting with audio too, but the info is not on the site yet.
Find more info about all their products at

Video: Modular XY-Joystick & J-math modules ladik J-010 & J-011 in Eurorack (Doepfer A100) format

" Industrial-grade Joystick ladik J-010 and math module J-011 for Eurorack (Doepfer A-100)."
Uploaded by RuprechtM

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Random Video: DIY Acrylic Modular Syntheziser

This video comes from Jonas Karlsson via the Doepfer A-100 Analog Modular Facebook page.
It features himself, building and installing modules into his DIY acrylic Eurorack-case.
It even has some nice music...

Video: DIY Acrylic Modular Syntheziser
" DIY Building a Eurorack modular synthesizer case of acrylic and Doepfer DIY kit 1.
Stills and video, Music is made with Doepfer A-111-5 Mini synthesizer voice,
Make Noise Phonogene Sequenced with Make Noise René
And a Korg Monotron delay "
Uploaded by miip999

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Rest: Waldorf Pulse

Waldorf Pulse
The Doepfer A-100 is not the only analog synthesier in my studio.
Although i am not a collector, I do have some other quite interesting analog machines which I will review in a new section called 'The Rest'

Th first synth that I will discuss today is my Waldorf Pulse... just the plain edition, not the fancy 'plus'-version that was released one year later with CV-Gate outputs and an audio input...
The original Pulse does have the full MIDI in/out/thru sockets and a stereo audio-output.

Waldorf is the German company that emerged from the former digital synthesizer company  PPG,
The Pulse (Years of production: 1996-2002) is a monophonic synthesizer with three digitally controlled analog oscillators and an excellent arpeggiator. 

Waldorf Pulse modulation sources and  destinations
This 3-unit high synthesizer module has 100 patch programs which are divided into 59 presets, 40 user sounds and one random sound.
It has only 4 buttons and 6 knobs on the front panel and a very powerful programming/ modulation matrix.
Besides the more standard modulations, four assignable modulation routes with selectable source, amount and destination allow unlimited possibilities for creating fat analog bass and lead synth sounds.

Waldorf Pulse programming matrix
I have used this synth quite a lot, but it is not in my live-set at the moment. Maybe i should try to integrate it in my current setup... I want to change my studio just a little bit anyway (again)
The Pulse is a very powerful machine, but sadly it is monophonic.
The arpeggiator sounds great and is sync-able via MIDI, making it great for arpeggiated basslines and trancey bleeps.
The 24dB Low-Pass filter is nice but steep, and as you all might know by now, I do prefer 12dB filters...

Waldorf showed the follow-up, the Pulse 2 at the MusikMesse this year.
This is a much compacter desktop- module but it has the same type of programming matrix and many knobs on the front and is backwards compatible with the original Pulse.
It looks and sounds great and it has 500 memories, a large LCD display and up to 8-voice polyphony.
I think i'll stick to the original...

Video: Waldorf Pulse
Video uploaded by mummstylesound

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doepfer A-170 Dual Slew Limiter Video Tutorials by Raul Pena

Yay... a new tutorial series by Raul Pena has started...
The topic this time is the Doepfer A-170 Dual Slew Limiter , enjoy!

Video 1: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter Basics
" First video in a series on the Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter. Discussing Basic Concepts and features. Audio demonstrations begin in next segment. Sound and Video by Raul Pena. "

Video 2: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter-Processing and Oscilloscope views Pt 1

" A continuation of the Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter series. In this segment Oscilloscope views of subaudio waveforms are examined when processed through a slew limiter. Audio rate examples begin in the next segment. Sound and Video by Raul Pena."

Video 3: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter-Processing and Oscilloscope views Pt 2

" A continuation of the Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter series. In this segment Oscilloscope views of subaudio waveforms processed with a slew limiter modulating a VCO are compared to those unprocessed. Sound and Video by Raul Pena."

Video 4: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter Processing and Oscilloscope Views Pt 3

" A continuation of the Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter series. In this segment we continue to compare oscilloscope views of processed versus unprocessed signals effecting a VCO. Sound and Video by Raul Pena."

Video 5: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter-Slew Portamento and Filtering Examples
" Continuing the Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter Series. This segment explores a more standard use of the Doepfer A170 Slew Limiter for Portamento. Also included is an example of using the A170 as a Filter. Sound and Video by Raul Pena. " 

Video 6: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter-Glissando AM example

" A continuation of the Doepfer A170 Slew Limiter Series. In this segment we examine a patch from the manual involving AM.Special thanks to chrisso from the Muff's Module forum.Sound and Video by Raul Pena."

Video 7: Doepfer A170 Dual Slew Limiter -Slew as AR example

" A continuation of the Doepfer A170 Slew Limiter Series. In this segment we examine a patch from the manual involving the A170 as an AR envelope.Sound and Video by Raul Pena."

New videos in this series will be added to this post weekly on Thursdays.

Check out Raul's latest survey at
Other places to find Raul's World of Synths on the Web:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doepfer A-135-1 Voltage Controlled Mixer Re-Design

Old version of the A-135
The original A-135 module was a simple quad voltage controlled mixer.
It was made of 4 independent linear VCA's, mixed to one common output.
For each VCA the following inputs and controls were available: audio input with attenuator, control voltage input with attenuator, gain (pre-amplification).
The VCA's were realized with high-quality CEM VCA's (CEM3381).

The module could be used for voltage controlled mixing of up to 4 audio signals with separate control voltages (e.g. by LFO's, ADSR's, Random, Shepard generator, MIDI-to-CV interface or other control voltage sources).

In June last year, Doepfer announced the re-design of several modules because of shortage of CEM3080 Chips that were used in this A-135 and other modules.
This year a few of these re-designed modules were released, each in a slightly extended/ improved version (like the A-130/131 that are now also DC-coupled, and the recently announced A-141-2).*

A-135-1 Redesign of the A-135
This new version of the A-135 also has some nice extras in the form of a Sum Out and 4 single outputs for each channel instead of only one (Mixed) Audio output on the original A-135.
They've also managed to make it only 18 HP instead of  22 HP wide.

The new version of the A-135-1 is also able to process slowly varying control voltages because the signal in/outputs are DC coupled.

The new version is manufactured from May 2013 and is available now.

* More re-designs were also promised to us last year, like the A-107, A-116A-127, A-132-1, A-147, A-171), so that promises a lot for the future...

Find more about various Doepfer re-designs via

Saturday, June 08, 2013

SiteTip: A Patch A Day by Hamilton Ulmer

I have been following Hamilton Ulmer's 'A Patch a Day' project from the very beginning, and he completed the first full month of his eurorack/video-project this week.

On his YouTube page, he writes:
" I am not new to music, but I am new to modular synthesis. So I am creating one simple patch a day in order to get used to my small system.

I will do approximately 365 patches over the next year. Over that course of time I will likely add modules, change my setup, and explore various rabbit holes.

A few questions arise from these constraints. First, can I manage to create compelling sounds on a small system without investing a hell of a lot more money? Second, can I consistently produce something even moderately worthwhile every day?"

Videos: A Patch A Day by Hamilton Ulmer (Full Playlist)

Very interesting sounds and a great idea for a project, I'm looking forward to the next 11 months... ;-)

You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Bandcamp

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

New A-141-2 Voltage Controlled ADSR/LFO Announced

A-141-2 Voltage Controlled
Doepfer announced another new module this week.
The A-141-2 Voltage Controlled ADSR/LFO will replace the old A-141 module that is running out now. (the last ones are on sale)

The newly announced 14 HP wide A-141-2 Voltage Controlled ADSR/LFO will be similar to the A-141 but it has a lot of extras/ improvements.
For example it has a common CV input for all time parameters (A/D/R), a 3-position range switch for time range 10:1:100 and digital outputs for EOA (end of attack) and EOR (end of release).

It also has three envelope outputs: one with fixed ADSR, one inverted output and a third output with additional CV input for level (i.e. built-in level VCA)
There's also the possibility to change the shape of each segment of the envelope (exponential - linear - inverted exponential), it has a VCLFO mode and is planned for summer 2013

The price will be around 125.00 Euro, price and planned release date (August 2013) are still without obligation !

Monday, June 03, 2013

Quick Tip XII : A-149-1/2 Connection

Since i recently own an A-149-1/2 Quantized/Stored Random Voltages combination i thought it would be a good idea to spend a few blogposts on it.
Sadly something in my mixing-desk popped yesterday, so i can't make any demo's of it right now (or even listen to loud music...) I hope fixing it will not take too long... or cost too much :-(

This first post is very basic, but i have seen the question on how to connect these two modules pop up on forums several times.
This can also be found in the A-149-2 Manual (PDF), but i guess this post (and picture) will provide all the info you need.

The A-149-2 must be placed directly next to the A-149-1 module (I prefer it on the right side as it seems more logic to me)

A-149 connection - A-149-2 on top, A-149-1 below that
The inter-connecting ribbon is the right one,
the ones on the left should be connected to the busboard
The special connecting ribbon cable is equipped with 10 pin female connectors on both ends.
Join the two modules with the supplied 10-way ribbon cable.
Make sure that the ribbon cable is not twisted, and that the colour-coded section is oriented the same on both modules.

One of the female connectors is already connected in the factory to the pin header labelled "JP2 TO A-149-1 EXPANSION CONNECTOR" on the A-149-2 pc board.
The second female connector of this cable is used to establish the connection between A-149-2 and A-149-1.
This female connector is put on the pin header labelled "JP5 EXPANSION" on the main board of the module A-149-1.
For both modules the cable has to be the same polarity (i.e. red wire to bottom for both modules).

Pay attention not to damage any of the parts on the boards.