Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why has analogue synthesis returned

One has to wonder in an age where so much can be done with computers, why some, including myself, would be fascinated by analog circuits which not offer nearly the degree of flexibility of their digital counterparts or do they.

On of the problems, I believe, with a soft synth or a hard synth (digital) is that they fit the sonic world into a pre-concieved notion. If you want to use them for music you have to either use a limited number of presets or perhaps tweak them a bit or enter into their world. Every digital synth and soft synth is a pre-conceived world. I am not saying its a bad one but its limited because in a sense, its a sonic world that is already built and you are just adding onto it.

We call this programming but from having done programing myself, I find this a misleading word. In real programming you are building a world from the ground up. In a the world of digital and soft synths, you are just setting parameters, not really programming.

Now with modulars and DIY and other analog components, the world is more open. You are free to create from the ground up and make something totally new. It's also true that much of synthesis today is sample based subtractive synthesis. But what are we subtracting from? A sculpture takes a raw block of marble and chisels it to create art but a sound designer using digital/software based synthesis, is taking something already in raw form and simply finishing it. Samples don't lend themselves to bold sonic explorations, they are already there.

Rather than taking a finished product, a sample, I am much more untested in taking simpler components of simple waveforms and then filtering them and combining them in news ways to create something dynamic and something that no one has heard before. It seems to me that synthesis was supposed to open up new worlds but digital synthesis has closed those worlds buried under layers of programming. Perhaps analog synthesis can free the minds of musicians to explore new territory again. I hope so.

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