Modular Tips and Tricks Guest Post: Anthony Baldino on composing in modular space
This week we continue our 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 Anthony Baldino. Anthony is a talented and prolific composer and sound designer; he is also a modular user extraordinaire. We’re pleased to have him aboard!
We asked Anthony to compose a short piece and break it down for us, sort of a la the Podcast Song Exploder. Here, he speaks in his own words about the haunting patch he created, patching in general, and how he uses NE modules. But first, some beautiful synth.
Kris: So tell me, Anthony, how did you get started in modular synth?
Anthony Baldino: When I was first learning how to make electronic music I actually gravitated away from synths and more towards sampling and mangling field recordings and acoustic instruments. The first synths I was exposed to were all in Reason 3, which was a great gateway into electronic music and though the school I attended had an insane amount of analogue synths, we didn't have access to them! I'm certainly not dismissing Reason in any way, it's a powerful tool—but I just didn't get the emotional reaction out of it that I had hoped for. I kept hearing about modular synths and that they were cool but it wasn't until I moved to Los Angeles and my dear friend, Gary Chang, left me alone with his gigantic Wiard system for a day that it all sunk in. He then sold me his Arp 2600 and it was all downhill from there.
KK: Haha, tell me about it. What was it about modular that made you fall in love?
AB: It plays so many different musical roles for me. It's a vast source of sounds that I certainly can't get anywhere else and wouldn't come up with on my own if it weren't for all of the happy accidents. On the performance side of things, it's probably the only instrument I've ever felt comfortable walking on stage and performing with. I'm not sure what about it overrides some of the anxieties that come along with performing but whatever it is, I'll take it! The modular for me is also a great compositional tool. My system has gotten to a point that I can compose a piece of music that has a clean arch and flows from section to section, rearrange the sections, or just achieve things that I would be really tedious doing in the box.
KK: Ok, so give me an overview of the patch: Who are the key players?
AB: This is a pretty simple patch that focuses on using Noise Engineering modules as sound sources exclusively except for a DPO kick which doubles my LI kick. I'm just a sucker for DPO kicks! But the other drums, bass, ambiance and ghostly melody are all Noise Engineering and a majority of my modulation is Noise Engineering.
KK: Delving a little deeper, what’s going on? How are you getting these lovely sounds?
AB: I wanted to try and get the most out of my Loquelic Iteritas so the challenge was to use it as both a gnarly kick or bass and as a snare sound that I often like to make.
I used the Make Noise René to sequence the pitch of my kicks and snares so my kicks / bass had a musical progression but the snares would be tuned so low that pitch is almost unrecognizable and you get this lovely morphing rumble. When the pitch of the Loquelic is really low and then ran through a VCA with a relatively long decay for a drum the result sounds like a snap or like or a dry leaf being crushed in your hand. The other cool aspect of this trick is that since the pitch is so low and rumbley, your attacks are never going to be precise and often times quite late but it adds a certain human quality to the patch. To keep this idea interesting, I used the Sinc Iter at LFO rates which, because of the waveforms, makes for a lovely random source (thank you Stephen McCaul for the tip!). I patched this into the Morph CV In of the Loquelic so that timbre of both my kicks / bass and snaps are always a little different. I ran the kick / bass output of the Loquelic through the Schippmann CS-8 filter so that I could let it grow in timbre as the patch evolved.
I also ran the snaps through the Cwejman MMF-1 in dual bandpass mode and again used the Sinc Iter as a random source to modulate the spacing between the two bands so the resonance would always be a little different. This also really helps keep the low end clean as things can get messy quickly.
The clicky / glitchy percussion is the one and only BIA.
I always send various modulation sources running at a pretty similar rate to the different modulation inputs. It's kind of a recurring theme but it keeps individual sound as well as the patch overall constantly evolving. For this patch I used the Sinc Iter once again, the Make Noise Woggle Bug and the Erica Synths Pico Rand as the random sources.
I ran the Cursus into Mutable Instruments Clouds and just drenched it in reverb to get the pad. Additionally, I ran it through the Make Noise Phonogene so when I brought it back into the patch later, I could have a blend between the straight-ahead sequence and a chopped-up version to create different harmonies and dissonances. I also ran it through some other delays and VCAs that were triggered every so often to create more oddness in the harmonic content.
Additional modules used were the Ataraxic Translatron for additional percussion and that just about sums it up.
KK: If someone wanted to make a patch like this/similar to what you’ve done here, what other modules could you see playing well with this combination?
AB: All of the modules? I'm continuously running out of VCAs and envelopes so more of those to add harmonic pulses and alternate drums. More random sources or smaller sequencers. Morphing filters. ...just give me all of the modules.
Check the Noise Engineering blog often 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.