Friday, August 25, 2017

Improvisation with the Volca Sample


This articles is part of my ongoing series on Desktop Electronic Music (DEM). The landing page provides easy access.


I've been writing a lot about the Korg Volca. But I've also been making music!

Here you can see me using some of the techniques I outlined in my tips and tricks and article on wavetable synthesis.



This video isn't meant to be a polished musical experience, but rather a typical rehearsal. In other words, it was a learning experience. It gave me a chance to figure out lighting and framing. I blocked the lens a few times... stuff to learn, indeed!

For me, a minimal performance like this is all about constraints and flexibility, working in tandem. My improvisations are explorations within a frame defined by my tools.

I think the Korg Volcas embody this principle perfectly. Their low price and small form factor means that you don't get every feature you might want. You have a MIDI in port, but no MIDI out. You have a good number of knobs to directly change sound parameters, but they are tiny. You can load new samples, but not sample directly, nor offload sounds from the unit. You have a built-in reverb but no other effects. You can store patterns and songs, but only ten of one and six of the other. And so on.

In the current do-anything digital world, these limitations can seem strange. But old-time synth users are well familiar with having to make do with the idiosyncrasies of a particular model. Indeed, this is part of their charm. It's why people still seek out an MS-20 or SH-101, and why manufacturers keep replicating old favourites for new musicians. Personality.

(But in an upcoming article I will take the opposing view and argue for improvements to the Volcas.)

I will be performing 8 September 2017 in Dundalk, Ireland at ISSTA 2017, the International Festival and Conference on Sound in the Arts, Science and Technology.

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