Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: E-MU

Sam Sam has her usual spots, but sometimes she sits down in unexpected places.  For example, yesterday she entered “kitty loaf” mode in front of an overflow shelf just outside the studio that continued several old E-MU modules.

Sam Sam with E-MU Carnival, Orbit and Classic Keys

The E-MU Orbit, Carnival and Classic Keys are all variants of the first generation Proteus.  The Orbit, in particular, was iconic in its time, but all rather obsolete now.  I do still use my Proteus 2000 module (a Vintage Pro with Mo’Phatt and Beat Garden expansion ROMS) quite often – you never know when you might need a few lines of Mellotron flute or strings or a classic highly-filter-swept drum loop.  There are other ways to get these musical elements, but the P2K remains quick and accessible.  The Morpheus also still has a place of honor in the studio.

Proteus 2000 (Vintage Pro) and Morpheus

Both of these later-generation E-MU instruments had more to offer, especially the z-plane filters that the Morpheus took to the extreme.  These days, I do find myself experimenting with the Morpheus Eurorack module from Rossum Electro-Music more than the old E-MU box, which is just the z-plane filter with CV-controlled parameters.  Even after using it extensively in recent shows, I still have a lot to learn and practice with it.

When we’re not up in the studio, Sam Sam enjoys spending time on the living room rug and perfecting her patented “scratch-and-roll” move.

Sam Sam scratch-n-roll

I have too many photos of her in this pose now, it’s just hard to resist.  Of course, what she wants is not a photo, but pets and then brushing.  I am more than happy to oblige.

Rossum Electro-Music Morpheus and Other Modules

Last year, I was excited to see the debut of Rossum Electro-Music. This year, the excitement is that the Morpheus module will finally be available soon.

Since our picture, although appropriately cute, isn’t the best, here is an official image.

The Morpheus module features a 14-pole Z-plane filter similar to one in the classic E-MU Morpheus (which I still use in some of my music), but goes beyond the capabilities of the original. As it is a module, one can use any sound source with it rather than just built-in ROM samples. And all the the dimensions of the filter – which are visualized as a cube – can be manipulated in parallel from arbitrary CV sources. On top of that, a step sequencer allows one to move through different configurations of the filter in real-time.

I was only able to scratch the surface of the sound possibilities with this. One thing I’d like to explore is whether with all the degrees of freedom this filter is even more unstable than the original. That’s not a bad thing per se (as long as one has a limiter handy), as it can be a thing of beauty to bring a filter just to the edge.

The Morpheus is actually part of a full suite of modules that Rossum Electro-Music is offering. The Evolution ladder filter was already debuted last year, and is a fine filter in itself. There is also the Control Forge CV generator, Assimil8or phase-modulation sampler, and Satellite CV generator. It occurs to me that putting these modules together (plus a MIDI to CV converter) one could theoretically construct an “E-MU Morpheus on steroids”.

We at CatSynth shall eagerly await the public release of the Morpheus in the coming weeks and keep an eye out for things to come from our friends at Rossum Electro-Music.

Rossum Electro-Music synthesizer modules at NAMM

Rossum Electro-Music

We at CatSynth have long been fans of E-MU Systems’ synthesizer. The Proteus 2K and Morpheus remain vital parts of my music studio – and some long-time readers may recall that I used to work for E-MU many years ago. So it was excited to see the new Eurorack modules from Rossum Electo-Music, the new project of E-MU founder and synthesizer inventor Dave Rossum.

Rossum Electro-Music

The main module available is the Evolution, a Moog-style ladder filter with some unique twists. It allows the user to switch among topologies, from 3 to 6 poles, in real time. And of course this function is controllable via CV for some interesting effects. The filter itself sounds great, with signal conditioning to allow resonant sweeps while maintaining strong bass tones from the original signal. The Morpheus module is a Eurorack implementation of the legendary E-MU Z-Plane filter, which allows interpolation on three axis between different 14-pole filter configurations. All of the parameters for the Z-Plane filter are CV controllable. Unfortunately the Morpheus wasn’t ready for me to hear, but I certainly looking forward to it.

New Podcast: Synth Summit at Luggage Store Gallery, July 2004

Tonight's podcast is an excerpt from the “Synthesizer Summit” at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. Basically, the performance is an improvisation by several artists playing hardware synths. If I recall correctly, the artists and their respective synths were:

Synthia Payne: Roland JP8000
Amar Chaudhary: E-MU Proteus 2000 (Mo'Phatt + Vintage) and Morpheus
LX Rudis: Oberheim Matrix 12
Jim Ryan: Arp 2600
Will Grant: E-MU UltraProteus

Note: many subscribers may have heard another excerpt fromt the Synthesizer Summit that I accidentally released a few weeks back instead of the advertised Woodstockhausen 2003 performance (that has since been corrected).

RPM continues

I actually had a very productive day working on the RPM Challenge. I now have three “completed” tracks, one half-baked, and the prologue and epilogue tracks done. However, that is only about 12 minutes, one third of the required length (35 minutes). Here's a little from the latest RPM blog entry (and this one is relatively optimistic):

Well, it looks like I managed to finish another track for tonight, it's entitled “ghanaplasticity”, named for the demo on a hacked E-MU Morpheus that I used as the original source. I then imported the source into Emulator X2 and performed it using the keyboard to process the original in a variety of ways.

Compared to the previous tracks, this one was remarkably quick to produce, and quite a pleasure to create. It was more like a live performance. I can listen to the seemingly strange timbres and rhythms and intuitively find something to enjoy in it, much like I do in abstract visual art.

So this one feels right, while the more structured tracks feel half baked at this time, which is why things have dragged on this long. So the question becomes, do I give up on structure and composition in order to “get this thing done?”

Other RPM participants can hear the works in progress using the Sample Engine. Everyone else will have to wait until at least next podcast, which is probably this coming Sunday.

Recent synthesizer acquisitions: E-MU Orbit V2 and "hacked" Morpheus

This town is full of old E-MU gear (as well as old E-MU employees). In recent weeks I was able to pick up two old modules for my substantial E-MU synth collection. The first is a fully functional Orbit V2:

This module was quite popular in its day, it features techno sounds that I don't believe E-MU has re-released for Emulator X or Proteus X. It is also as far as I know the only one of the modules with the special “scratcher” function that models turntable scratching of samples.

I also aquired another pre-run Morpheus. I'm not sure it has quite the extensive collection of non-production filters as my main Morpheus, but it does have a rather interesting demo track,a small clip of which I provide here for your listening pleasure.

The full demo is a little over two minutes long, and practically begs to be imported into Emulator X2 and used as the source for a new composition. Stay tuned…