↬ Twenty-two – 09: Hordijk, Hainbach, Atomar

Hi, I’m Rudiger Meyer and this is my monthly newsletter covering what I’ve been up to and what’s been catching my attention.

Rob Hordijk passed on two weeks ago at the age of 64.

Rob was a big inspiration to me a few years ago when I first dove into the world of modular synthesis. Since I didn’t have the wherewithal to invest in hardware, my explorations mostly took place through (re)constructing modular stuff in Audulus, eventually working through a reconstruction of Rob’s entire system. That was a great learning process: the (more or less) readily available schematic diagrams, Rob’s great series of video tutorials at the NOVARS research centre, and the ease of use when it came to Audulus coupled with its active user Forum, proved to be a wonderful combination. All documented as part of my Modular Diary. I’m not sure exactly what it was to got me to latch on the him out of the myriad of possibilities. Something in his sound aesthetic and design approach, his unassuming personality and thorough background knowledge. I dreamed of being able to get one of his personally handmade systems, but that might be a bit difficult now.

A chaotic signal is not a random signal

Rob was also a great source of inspiration to others. Chaos, as opposed to randomness, was a theme in much his work, and DIY projects such as his Blippoo Box and Benjolin, provided a starting point for many who embraced his designs in their own constructions. Meng Qi for example, who extended the Blippoo Box idea with his Wing Pinger. He has a bunch of very creative designs in the ‘Ideas’ archive on his site. Amongst them extensions of Peter Blasser’s Ciat Lonbarde designs. Peter is another unique figure (to say the least). I reconstructed his Cocoquantus in the Audulus 4 beta when that came out a little over two years ago.

Audulus 4 is still a work in progress, these many months later, but the steady efforts of what is essentially a one-man team, are slowly paying off with a beautifully polished piece of software (that works fantastically on iPad). One of the additions along the way has been the inclusion of a canvas node with a Lua integration which has provided a leap forward in UI possibilities. Complex Buchla-like Euclidian circles for example. The old Audulus forum has been somewhat quiet, but the new developments can be followed on the Audulus Discord, and there’s a public beta.

That fact that it’s essentially a one man project slows down progress, and that can be frustrating at times. On the other hand there’s a joy in the thoroughness that’s invested in it. Panic’s Nova (which just celebrated it’s two year anniversary) is another example. Or my beloved iA Writer, now in version 6 as a free update, I think I payed for it nearly 10 years ago. The latter two made by small teams, family businesses of a kind. That’s how we get nice things.

Hainbach relased an album which I’ve been enjoying very much. Recorded on an old Italian Syn-Ket at the Museo Del Synth Marchegiano. Only a few of them ever made. Created for film soundtracks. Used by Morricone, for example. Hainbach only had a few hours with the instrument and recorded what is essentially a set of one-take improvisations, using Italian tempo indications as a point of departure. There’s a direct and raw quality to it that I enjoy very much. In some ways it reminds me of Benge’s FORMS 1, one of my favourite Benge albums, recorded on an old Buchla 100. One of Benge’s trademarks has been setting up patches on these old modular systems, letting them run, and then recording them without too much interference (see his various ‘Systems’ albums: 20 Systems, 13 Systems), with the idea if letting their sound shine through, rather than demonstrating some kind of compositional prowess. Hainbach still very much has his hands on the controls, but the spirit is much the same. It’s the instrument that’s at the centre of it all, and Hainbach’s role is more one of listening and guiding the overall flow. (There’s a video of him performing the original improvisations, but I prefer simply listening. Also a nice video of the artist Zé Burnay creating the cover.) I remember Aphex Twin mentioning in an interview many years ago how he loved old synth demo recordings. It’s as if the focus on demonstrating something, rather than communicating some big message/concept, opens up for another kind of music making.

What Modern Humans Can Learn From Ancient Software. Paul Ford, in another of his delightful essays for Wired, wrote about Retro computing and the joy of the physicality of old hardware, making a connection to the communities of synthesizer enthusiasts.

Keeping that history so close helps me accept the horrible truth that everything novel in our industry was actually invented by a group of Californians sitting in beanbag chairs during the Carter administration.

On that track Hainbach’s Syn-Ket got me thinking of a charming documentary (with a twist to it’s tale) that came out last December, about a newly discovered ‘Loumavox’ synth dating back to the late 60s.

* * *

One of the things that I’ve been working on is the English translation of Lene Henningsen’s Atomar poetry collection (Atomic Scars, as it will be known in English). Lene undertook the basic translation, and there’s since been some back and forth about the details. The basic translation can fall into place quite quickly, but the nuances seem to take an age to settle. There are many Danish turns of phrase that don’t have an easy English counterpart.

Nevertheless it’s all finding its way and I’ve been making a series of simple videos of single poems to accompany the weekly podcast episodes. Since the translations are a work in progress there are probably still a few details that will be changed, but I think they communicate the gist of it. The videos are mainly intended to drum up some interest via Twitter and Instagram, but are also collected on my site. Perhaps they can be turned into something at a later stage.

The original Danish version of the collection has already been sent to the printers, and the English version will be available as an ebook sometime around mid-October.

(Speaking of book-making. Robin Rendle has a newsletter running at the moment on how not to do it: How Not to Make a Book. Paper, typography, formats etc. Fun stuff.)

* * *

During the summer I spent a few hours helping Ying-Hsueh Chen move her percussion studio from a very cute set of buildings nearby.

Her new place is a good deal more spacious and she’s keen to both present concerts and events there, as well as open up the space for others to use. As she explains:

“Bådehuset” (The Boat House) is a primitive and elegant space made of solely wood, with clear and warm acoustics. Bådehuset is a newer part of Teaterøen in Refshaleøen; it is 250 meter from Copenhagen Contemporary and 600 meter away from Reffen. This 100 sqm, high to ceiling room is located on the ground floor with a big gate, which makes it easy to load equipment. The potential of the space is enormous: rehearsal room, dance room, photo-shoots, intimate concerts, small theater productions, etc. Moreover, parking around Bådehuset in connection with the rent of space is free. Write to yinghsuehchen.com for more info.

Make sure to also check out her performances of Xenakis’ Rebonds.

* * *

I wrote about the pleasures of RSS many years ago, and I still use it on a daily basis. I’ve shifted out Unread, my old favourite, for the free but fast and nifty Net News Wire. The nice thing is that with iCloud sync one no longer needs an external service to fetch all the feeds. So easy these days. Robin Sloan on the other hand finds RSS a little too stark, and has been trying out some other possibilities.

* * *

Not exactly music and the arts, but I recently went on a bit of a search for vegan shoes, and ended up with something that’s not entirely vegan (wool is among the core materials), but that I’ve been very happy with. (My only minor gripe is that they aren’t quite as easy to get on as other modern sneakers.) I was encouraged to see how many vegan shoes are now available, but disappointed how reliant on plastic that market still is. The Mirets that I ended up going with didn’t completely tick all the vegan boxes, but score pretty well on sustainability. And they’re fun. They’ve given me a 15% discount link if you’re after something in that line. There’s also free shipping for European orders until the end of September.

* * *

Minimal music: I read about Andrew Poppy in magazines as a teenager, but only recently got to actually hear his music. In a remaster by the trusted Stephan Mathieu, no less.

* * *

WWIII looms closer. Russian mobilisation announced yesterday (partial for the priveledged, complete for minorities it seems), and today on Twitter, amongst other things, the absurdity of what that looks like on the ground in Yakutsk, northeastern Siberia. Or these young guys in the Russian far east. All lined up in the night.

War will (eventually) cure us of war, but what a process.

My playlist this morning threw up Iron & Wine’s rendition of Love Vigilantes, originally a New Order (anti-war) song, it turns out. I’d heard it before, but today, as I realise what it’s about, I’m finding it overwhelmingly sad.

All the best
↬ Rudiger

Leave a comment

Available formatting commands

Use Markdown commands or their HTML equivalents to add simple formatting to your comment:

Text markup
*italic*, **bold**, ~~strikethrough~~, `code` and <mark>marked text</mark>.
Lists
- Unordered item 1
- Unordered list item 2
1. Ordered list item 1
2. Ordered list item 2
Quotations
> Quoted text
Code blocks
```
// A simple code block
```
```php
// Some PHP code
phpinfo();
```
Links
[Link text](https://example.com)
Full URLs are automatically converted into links.

<a rel="me" class="p-name u-url" href="https://rudigermeyer.com">Rudiger Meyer</a> is a composer interested in the play between music, sound, and&nbsp;media.