The varying qualities of modular based music and performances?

First off, I’ve never thought of going modular or have ever worked with it (I’m an Elektron fanboy and find too many cables anxiety inducing), so I don’t mean to raise a sh**storm. But, I’m just tired of going to shows full of modular performances that usually sound very same-y: unmusical blips, bloops, farts, plonks and the customary blast of noise or just endless meandering wankfests. Besides seeing Surgeon + Lady Starlight a few years back, most other modular performances have been like what I describe above. The performers have everything setup in terms of patching so they just twiddle some knobs and change effects as it’s too risky and unpredictable to patch things during a show. This is what I’ve observed going to many shows. Despite modular being full of possibilities I often find performances with it seemingly limited. I also notice it tends to attract more technician type of people who are more interested in modulating this with that as opposed to finishing a dance track. Please don’t hate me but it’s just a trend I’ve never gotten into and find most performances with it not to be my cup of tea. I’ll go back to my Korg Gadget on iPad now… :grin:


I think like most genres , there is a lot of crap out there. You just have to sort the wheat from the chaff. Probably one of my favourite euro performances I’ve seen is of Caterina Barberi in the boileroom.
Its a preplanned set with her improving on the system. I think this is where these systems excel. Its interesting for the performer and the listener. I think the biggest problem is when people just let a krell like patch run for a set. I mean if that’s your thing , go for it. But I mightn’t necessarily want to watch the full set. So I think its got a lot down to the persons compositional skill and technical skill combined. Too much of either , its probably not going to be as amazing as it could be.
A great example of this is also in Buchla land when you see people like Suzanne Ciani
So I think there is some good out there , but like any genre , going to be some bad.


I would say you’re not wrong. The massive popularity of eurorack has brought a lot of manufacturers to the table. There are so many esoteric oscillators and modulators and filters and voltage-controllable voltage controllers. It’s such a thick forest to navigate, so it’s easy to get caught up in the next cool new thing that doesn’t require a lot of thought, just patch cables. In the podcast I shared below, Cortini talks about eurorack as musical candy. It can be great, but it can often be shallow, unsatisfying.

I went totally eurorack from 2014-2016 and I totally agree with his comments. It had moments of being interesting, but there was too much to comprehend, and I didn’t really make anything musical with it. Just a lot of weird noises. Found my way with Elektron and I’m not looking back :smiley:


modulars should be treated like any other instrument. you can write a song and do a performance with them and some other instruments, and it’s often exiting. but do a performance with just that instrument, and it can get boring quick.


Cool man , I listened to that after work today.Seen it on Muffs! Great interview! :smile:

Yeah, not a big fan of the non musical bleeps and bloops, super experimental stuff. Seems those sounds would be great sampler fodder for a DT or Octatrack in the studio, but live? Is it that difficult to have some type of sequencer (module or external) that actually plays some notation? A melody perhaps? Richard Devine is exceptional on the modular and I believe Mylar Melodies does pretty good stuff live as well. At the end of the day, I suppose it’s the artists vision, but not my cup of tea.


I still prefer modular bleeps and bloops over much four on the floor dance music and people lusting after same old 808 drums and crap… but i also feel you. as a fan of more unusual music, i find a lot of the current modular stuff pretty weak sauce.

So I’m always impressed with some friends of mine who pull off good dance music off their modulars.

best sleeping pill i’ve found is saying to myself “someone just uploaded a generative ambient vcv eurorack video to youtube” as i hit the pillow. just the phrase bores me to bed.

but shit, it’s all just style preferences. almost any form of ‘rock’ bores me and most forms of ‘metal’ bore me even more. :man_shrugging: but i’ll listen to autechre’s 8 hours of nts sessions on vinyl and then put my TV on the ‘easy listening music choice’ channel for bathtime.


He’s good and one of my go-to “see, but he does it!” and then I think of how much insane money his rack costs (and how much of it he gets for effectively free). Hard for others to match that.

Venetian Snares’ “traditional computer music” is also a really good mostly-modular album (Machinedrums were involved, at least to aid in sequencing). But he’s someone who’s refined his beat making and sequencing craft insanely well over the years.


I like some if they are doing something interesting but a lot of time it seems people are impressed with the gear more than the sound coming out of it




The best take that someone somewhere in this forum posted was: “modular music is less impressive when I close my eyes” :joy:

Jokes aside, my opinion is like any other genre - there’s plenty of music to dislike but always something good out there if you try to find it.


There s actually the other extreme to that too: people who built out and polished their modular sets so far that it sounds just like an Ableton show. For example Colin Benders aka Kyteman: gigantic modular system, brings a technician to set it up and mix it for him, sounds just like any run of the mill Ableton tech/house set.

He was playing at the latest Dutch Modular Fest (which matches all the stereotypes given here: a gang of nerds staring at patchcord webs instead of dancing) but forgot his patch sheet so he was forced to improvize. Sounded way cooler than his regular hyper-polished set that I heard some months before.


Music is music man.

Some people like some stuff that others don’t.

The beauty of it is that nobody is right.

If you don’t like the aesthetics don’t watch.


puh strange conversation here…to be honest i seen a lot of people with Elektron Gear who plays their instruments like monkeys on a bucket. The human create …the Synth is like a brush to create his visions. Modular, VA and Analog Synths is the same kind of tool. Think about it…


I do find modular music often… underwhelming… all this talk about endless possibilities and not being stuck in vco->vcf->vca standardization - then so so many people run 16/32/64 note beep boop sequencer loops or DRONEZzzzzzz (I like both, don’t get me wrong, but I hope you see what I’m trying to say).

Having a bit of experience with modular it really is fascinating to use, unbelievable great learning tool, you can definitely do some amazing stuff BUT I feel like 1/2 or even 3/4 or 7/8 of the fun is patching it yourself. The process is so much a part of it, it’s more engrossing for the performer than the audience. You really can get lost for hours.

But to get the full effect you need so many modules, not just the “basics” like oscs/filters/envelopes but all the “boring” little bits: inverters, rectifiers, multiples, attenuverters, gate delays, etc… it just take SO MUCH to get the full benefit.

I just feel as though the rhetoric is overblown vs the actual music I’m hearing. But I still love the concept!

ps: multiple edits because I’m a terrible typist


I listened to that when you first posted it, good stuff…

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I get your gripes. I’m the complete opposite of you, all in the modular world and considering some Elektron gear now. In the beginning, I got into this allured by the unlimited possibilites and blips and bloops and yada yada yada, and I was just happy being able to make weird sounds with my modular rig. I think the album that changed it all for me was Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s Ears - suddenly I understood how a modular platform could be used for really musical purposes as well, while still staying in the experimental realm of things. Some other artists I’d recommend - Alessandro Cortini (who’s already been mentioned in this thread), Bana Haffar, a lot of the Make Noise Records (the ‘label’ of Make Noise, the manufacturer) albums are excellent, and also you could look at Ann Annie, Lightbath, Emily Sprague (on Youtube and otherwise).

Additionally, I would like to say that even Elektron gear can be used to make unmusicial bleeps and bloops. So modular music is only blips and bloops is the wrong notion to have. Yes, there’s a lot of it out there, but maybe exploring sonic possibilites using such an environment is the artists goal in the first place. You don’t like it, ignore, and move on. I don’t like house music, I’m not complaining about the DAWs/platforms used towards making house music :man_shrugging:

PS. I try to make some musical modular stuff, too.


Love love love the Suzanne Ciani/Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith album from a few years back. Also Keith Fullerton Whitman Generators (the lp and the tape versions).

This. The same could be said about any genre of music. Not much more to add.


was just about to say similar :+1:t2: