Analog Modular

PugixWelcome to my DIY synthesizer website. The name Pugix (and the graphic toon) belonged to an online gaming character that I used to play and has nothing to do with synthesizers.

My most recent activity:

Installation at ReHappening 2014

How can I describe The {Re}Happening? Such a unique event. Many simultaneous performances of music, dance, multimedia, all taking place from 6 PM to midnight on April 5, 2014, held in what is now a summer campground near Black Mountain, NC.  I was honored to be selected to make an installation.  Thank you, {Re}Happening!  The setting for my installation was in a cabin, reached by climbing several flights of wooden steps at night in the dark.  My cabin was at the top level, and I was surprised at the number of people who made that climb!  Thanks to Diana and my friends David Linton and Vincent Wrenn, the setup went smoothly.  David and Diana took turns minding it, while I ducked out to hear Vincent’s performance on his monochord.  On my return I was astounded to find the cabin nearly filled with people surrounding The Influencer and taking turns playing with it.  It seems that a large measure of the fascination it held was the mystery of the relationship between it and the sound.  Everyone seemed to be having fun and the whole thing was so much more well-received that I had ever expected.

Here’s a short video of getting it set up, with David helping out.

Here’s Vincent Wrenn trying it out.

And here’s Claire Elizabeth Barratt trying her hand.

I’ll briefly describe the patch, for those interested.  Two Buchla 258J clone VCO modified sine waves are mixed into the Bugbrand Frequency Shifter.  Downshift into one MOTM-490 VCF, upshift through the BugBrand digital delay into a second MOTM-490 VCF.  Each VCF through a CGS Tube VCA to the outputs, left and right.  Three sample and holds are triggered by the CGS Slope Detector by motion on one axis of The Influencer.  These steps select new pitches for the VCOs and a new rate for the frequency shifter.  One axis of the Influencer modifies the VCF cutoff frequencies (each inverted from the other) and the second axis modifies the CV of the VCAs (also in an inverse relationship).  The result is fairly playable, because a rapid motion of the Influencer will generate new pitches, but slow motions will only change the filters and loudness.  Players seemed to pick up quickly on the filter and level effects, while seeming to be a bit mystified by the random pitch changes.  No one needed to understand how it worked to be able to play it.

Finally, here’s a recording of one of the audience (unknown) playing it.

The Influencer


I propose a live, interactive installation in which sound is generated in real time by analog synthesis equipment that I have designed and built for this type of work. It is intended for interaction with an audience in a space with some acoustic isolation, such as a small room, but which is open in such a way that people wandering by may be drawn in by hearing it. A visual aspect is provided by the appearance of the equipment, including indicator lights monitoring electrical activity.

The work will generate sound patterns by means of oscillators inter-modulating in a complex manner, being modifiable by audience participation. It will proceed automatically, on its own, until affected by some interaction. The intent is to delight the audience with sights and sounds and by the experience of discovering the impact of their own actions. The work has no designated length, can run for as short or as long as desired, and can be scheduled into any time slot. People can come and go as they please.

That was the proposal I wrote to apply for the 2014 {Re}Happening event at the former site of Black Mountain College in North Carolina.  At the time of writing I did not have the interactivity part worked out.  Then I learned that a friend, Stephen Thomas Barnwell, was building a magnetic table joystick controller.  He had seen an idea found on the Internet.  I decided to build my own variation.  I call it The Influencer, because while technically it is a control device, I like to think of it as influencing rather than controlling the patch.

My build puts all the circuitry into a 3x4x5 inch aluminum box, supported by 3/8-inch galvanized pipe over a 16-inch wok fastened to a wooden table.  The circuit buffers each pot of the 2-axis joystick and provides range and offset pots for tweaking the outputs.  I set it to approximately +/- 4.5 volts.  Two standard nine volt batteries power it from within.  With on-off switch!  A 1/4-inch TRS jack for an insert cable feeds the two voltages to the synthesizer.

influencer-box-joystickinfluencer-box-potsinfluencer-box-insideI pondered different ideas for the pendulum shaft, which had to be detachable for transport.  The simplest idea worked.  It is just a 5/8-inch wooden dowel, drilled down the center and filed to make a pressure-fit with the joystick handle.  (A later version included some weights at the bottom to increase momentum.)  A magnet is screwed onto the end.  Various small magnets placed into the wok cause attraction or repulsion, depending on the polarity.  It works well enough, but I want to raise the support and make the shaft longer.  I made two of the pendulums in case one broke, which was precient.  The first one was accidentally pulled off the shaft too many times during the event and lost its friction fit.

My wife, Diana Brewster, tricked it out with foliage, a green and white color theme, and lights!  An excellent idea, since I am short on visual presentation.  Here’s a little video of a trial run in my studio.  The next post will have video and sound from the {Re}Happening installation.

Improvisation with Shane Perlowin

Shane Perlowin and I were brought together by a project created by Alfonso Graceffo in which musicians come to an impromptu session not knowing who the others are.  And so about 15 minutes after Shane and I had met for the first time, we got down to it.  I was playing Tetrazzi into Cocoquantus.  Shane used  a well-matched set of guitar pedals to augment his axe.  Alfonso made the recording and posted it for his series, Sweatshop Sessions.


Yantra Variations by Steve Lansford

Steve Lansford posted this video of his Yantra Variations, which he presented on New Years Eve at the Mission for Temporal Art.  Steve took four tracks that I had made for him, in collaboration, for this work.  He edited and combined them to make the final soundtrack.

New Years Eve 2014 Video

This video was posted by the Mission for Temporal Art (MTA).  It shows excerpts from several of the performances that night.  I did a  solo synthesizer piece (with dance by Janice Lancaster).   Steve Lansford used soundtracks I created for him in the Yantra Variations animation.  The artists are:  Elizabeth Lang, Steve Lansford, Sara Baird / Julie Becton-Gillum, Valeria Watson-Doost / Brit Castenada, Richard Brewster / Janice Lancaster, David Linton, Mark Hosler.

Quantisise Patch IV

Here’s a self-running Quantisise patch that utilizes its VCAs to control the amplitude of two VCOs and the amplitude of two CVs into the wave multipliers. It also employs the CGS Active Ring Modulator in the Blue Panel.  The MPX-1 Dual Delay adds more liveliness.