Thursday, May 26, 2011

Skipping some steps..

I've decided to keep this sporadic diary of my experiences with the Buchla that arrived this week. Here she is right before shipping to me:

Will have some catching up to do but so far it arrived on May 26th and I opened it up, swapped some modules around, and started messing with it blindly. Very quickly realized this is NOT the technique to use with this machine. Unlike most other analog synths (including modulars) this is not overly intuitive even for a veteran synthesist like myself. There are scrolling menus and computers and alternative options for almost every module and the internal midi and patch information system is completely unique.

Yes, I suppose one can "turn it on, plug it in, and start making noise" but I unlike any other electronic instrument I am discovering to do *just* that is to really limit oneself and ignore purpose of having THIS instrument. I posted on a Muffwiggler forum a sentence which I think says it best, "This synth forces me to come to it, it does not come to me". Truth be told there are elements of that that are somewhat infuriating. But there is no point in getting a Buchla and then saying its base features should conform to every other manufacturer. Buchla and Assoc. are pretty upfront about making and selling their own very unique product and there is a method to their madness which they gladly explain in detail. The audio path of a Buchla uses slightly different grounded jacks to every other major manufacturer. It looks like a standard 1/8" jack as used by Euro, most frac, and other systems but it's not and you must used the Buchla supplied cables. The CV routings do use standard banana jacks but are ONLY for the CV routings. Unlike things like Serge or even ModcanA you can't mix and match audio and CV sources. And, of course, Buchla uses a 1.2 Vt/oct standard as opposed to virtually every other manufacturer from Moog to Make NOise. These are just the obvious conventions that you must accept to start to talk to the Buchla in it's own language.

The price for entry into the Buchla world is extraordinarily high. So high it forces one to really consider if these differences are going to be an issue upfront and if it's "worth" the effort". That question is, of course, impossible to answer without trying the system and therein lies a bit of a paradox for synthheads. Paying $1k to "try" something for a few weeks is one thing; paying $10k for a simple setup is another. So IF you take the plunge you can bet you are committed to giving the Buchla a workout on it's OWN terms. Perhaps I am projecting my own idiosyncrasies onto the process but for me one of the first questions I had to ask myself is, "Do I want to invest my limited time and energy into learning a new language and system?" After all, like many other semi amateur musician's I turn to music for relaxation, artistic expression, and fun. Do I want to WORK on my time off?

I have rarely been so challenged by an instrument upfront. Is that a good thing? Decades of Buchla owners, respected musicians' and manufacturers say yes. This blog is my attempt to make sense of whether or not it is for me. I hope you enjoy the journey

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