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Guest Post: Naomi Mitchell of omiindustriies

In today’s guest post, we’re delighted to talk to Naomi of omiindustriies about her newest module, the Cascading Register, her design philosophy, some patching techniques, and more. 

Thanks so much for chatting with us! Can you tell us all a bit about yourself and omiindustriies? 

Hello! Happy to chat with the fine folks at Noise Engineering. My name is Naomi Mitchell, I’m a designer, builder, user, and educator whose work focuses on modular synthesis. I’ve been running the company omiindustriies since 2016. (A quick note: the name of my company is omiindustriies, like (Na)omi industries with an extra ‘i’ at the end of industriies.) I’ve designed and released six modules, most recently the Cascading Register and the Quad Mute. I’m currently in grad school at CalArts studying music technology with the aim of teaching modular synthesis to a wider audience. 

What made you want to start creating modules? 

The driving force behind my modules, first and foremost is: “is it something that I would like to use?” That’s how I’ve approached all my modules. Then I look at existing modules to make sure I’m not just simply rehashing an idea someone has done before.

I started using Eurorack at the end of 2014 and after a few years, I had an idea for a module that I wanted that I couldn’t get anywhere. Inspired by Rob Hordijk’s famous Benjolin synthesizer, I wanted a shift register-based source of randomness that, unlike the original Benjolin, could be clocked from an external clock source. That ended up being my first module, the Dual Digital Shift Register. My most recent module, the Cascading Register, took that basic architecture and updated it with everything I’ve learned since I released the DDSR in 2018. 

Cascading Register module

It seems like many of your modules take digital tools (like DACs and logic) and present them to a user as approachable and creative tools. Where does your design inspiration come from? 

It comes from a few different places. I look a lot from synthesizer designers like Rob Hordijk, Grant Richter, Serge Tcherepnin, Meng Qi, Andrew Fitch, Lars Larsen, Peter Edwards, others in that same vein. The music of people such as Lauren Bousfield, Baseck, Robert AA Lowe, Jonathan Snipes, Sarah Belle Reid, Laura Les, etc. More abstract concepts like chaos theory and chaos magic, rhythm, and the imbalance of the universe. 

Your newest module, Cascading Register, seems to take a number of interesting concepts and organize them into something greater than the sum of its parts. Can you tell us a bit about how it works?

The Cascading Register is a multi-faceted source of pseudo-random voltages and gates. In my research on randomness, I came across a number of different implementations of the shift register. It’s basically a microdelay line that passes single bits of information, but with a clever bit of engineering, it is the heart of a number of modules and devices that embrace its pseudo-random nature, from the Benjolin to the Buchla 266 Source of Uncertainty and the Music Thing Modular Turing Machine. My first module was the Dual Digital Shift Register. As anyone who has ever designed a synthesizer or other kind of music technology, your first project is probably going to have some things that you would have changed with a few years of hindsight. So I took everything that I’d learned over the past few years and set out to create a new module. I combined the influence on my first module, digital shift registers and runglers with new elements from Linear feedback shift registers (LFSRs) and analog shift registers. New features on the CR include an internal clock oscillator, manual data seed button, variable CV level with attenuator/attenuverters, and additional LFSR-style data feedback. 

I love this concept. The DDSR was a great module, but I don’t think we talk enough about how makers learn a LOT as we go (we certainly have. I could cite LOTS of examples). I’m sad to see the DDSR go, but excited to get my hands on a Cascading Register! 


For the techy nerds, tell us a bit about the inner workings.

Basically a shift register has a clock input and a data input. Typically the data input is a digital input, so it only has two states: on or off. When the shift register receives a clock pulse, it looks at the data input, and it moves the state of the data into the register’s data stream. Additionally, whatever state was in the first stage of the shift register moves to the second stage, whatever is in the second stage moves to the third stage, etc. When a bit reaches the final stage, it is shifted out of the register. 

Data in the case of the Cascading Register come from three places, the data-gate input, the manual seed button, and from inside the data stream of the shift register itself. This concept comes from LFSRs, a common way to generate random numbers in code. The data streams are each logically compared against each other using a XOR Boolean logic function. 

The state of the bits of information in the data stream determines the three CV outputs. The three groups of four bits of information pass into simple digital to analog converters that turn the on/off signals into stepped analog voltages. CV1 comes from bits 00-04, CV2 from 02-05, and CV3 from 04-07. Each group is offset from the one before it by two stages, corresponding to two clock pulses, creating three stepped CV signals derived from the same data stream but offset from each other in time. This idea came from analog shift registers, which are essentially a series of cascading sample and holds that pass stepped analog voltages through a series of stages. While the Cascading Register doesn’t actually use sample and holds, the idea of passing stepped signals down a series of stages remains. 

Do you have any favorite ways to use the Cascading Register? 

I’ve had the Cascading Register as the heart of just about every patch since I made the first prototype. I typically clock it from a clock divider and use the internal clock oscillator as a data source. I typically don’t do all that much pitch sequencing in my music, so I usually use the CV outputs to modulate timbre or timing elements in a patch. I use stackables and send the CVs to several destinations, so one change of the level knobs corresponds to several changes throughout the patch.

I also enjoy using the gate outputs not just for timing but as modulation sources. This works especially well with percussive sources, such as the NE BIA. I was first introduced to the gates as modulation paradigm by a Noise Engineering video from a few years ago. 

The Cascading Register was also built with video usage in mind. The clock input accepts signals well into the range of video signals and it acts as a source of video noise/pattern generator. 

What’s next for you and omiindustriies? 

I’ve got a few projects in various states of completion. Two modules focused on chaos that are making their way to being completed. I’ve also started working towards digital microcontroller-based modules. I have a Max for Live object that I created that is the precursor for one of those modules called the Big Dumb Kick. It’s a gabber kick generator with a wide range of controls in order to shape a perfect speaker-shaking hardcore kick. If anyone is interested in beta testing, shoot me an email, omiindustriies@gmail.com

Where can people find you?

I’m on social media as omiindustriies, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, & Facebook. My website is omiindustriies.com. You can find some of my music at https://panichardware.bandcamp.com/music

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