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Joe Paradisio’s huge modular

Submitted by on July 10, 2010 – 7:37 pm One Comment

Joseph Paradiso is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory, where he directs the Responsive Environments Group, which explores “how sensor networks augment and mediate human experience, interaction and perception.”

Basically, he works on embedded sensing systems and sensor networks, wearable and body sensor networks, energy harvesting and power management for embedded sensors, ubiquitous and pervasive computing, localization systems, passive and RFID sensor architectures, human-computer interfaces, and interactive media. He works on crazy projects like shoes with sensors that work as synth controllers.

Oh ya, he also serves as co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, a group of Media Lab researchers and industrial partners examining the “extreme future of embedded computation and sensing.”

You can imagine how much free time he has on his hands… for things like this: (click for a much bigger version)

Meet Joe’s massive synth rig. It’s a massive, interconnected, fully patchable system of over a hundred individual synth modules and a variety of fully connected Casio and Moog keyboards.

He’s worked on the rig for almost 20 years, and he’s easily able to wire up a single set of patches that will burble away indefinitely, producing a very aleatoric, bubbling, pulsating, endlessly varying piece of music all by itself.

Joe says:

“The entire synthesizer rig … was crated up and shipped to Linz, Austria, and was featured live at the Ars Electronica 2004 “Timeshift” Festival and Exhibition. Every day, I publicly created a new patch, starting with a rudimentary idea in the morning, and finishing with a full “composition” patch by evening. All patches ran autonomously, without human intervention. I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me asking where the sequencer was and how I entered the program to make the sound. Essentially each synthesizer “program” was formed from the patchcords and control settings – every patch essentially builds out an improvised hardware design that produces and controls the associated sounds”

Here’s some video of the synth:

You can check out some more audio examples right here and here.

So what exactly does he have in terms of gear? Glad you asked:

  • (4) Wide-range VCO’s with sine, triangle, square, ramp, pulse waves and PWM, synch, & wave mixer
  • (7) Wide-range VCO’s with sine, pulse, triangle, ramp waves and PWM, synch inputs
  • (2) Phase-locked Loops with VCO’s
  • (1) Top octave tracker with mixer, phase-locked loop, and VCO
  • (1) Digital phoneme (speech) synthesizer with phase-locked loop, VCO, and 8-bit input
  • (1) Frequency-to-voltage converter with subharmonic output
  • (2) AC-coupled VCA’s
  • (1) Dual DC-coupled VCA
  • (2) Quad DC-coupled VCA’s
  • (1) Dual 6-channel VCA
  • (1) Dual balanced modulator (2-quadrant multipliers)
  • (1) Ring Modulator (4-quadrant multiplier)
  • (1) Voltage-controlled stereo bass/treble/volume/balance unit
  • (2) Voltage-controlled stereo panners
  • (1) Dual Voltage-controlled compander
  • (1) Mono Automatic Gain Control (AGC) w. external loop and squelch adj.
  • (3) Multimode (HP,LP,BP,notch) VCF’s w. adj. Q
  • (3) Lowpass/bandpass VCF’s w. adj. Q
  • (1) Cheezy bandpass VCF with LFO
  • (1) Cheezy Lowpass VCF
  • (1) Cheezy Bandpass VCF
  • (1) Voltage-controlled phase shifter
  • (1) Voltage-controlled fuzzbox
  • (1) Voltage-controlled spring reverberator
  • (2) Voltage-controlled pitch shifters (with analog delay)
  • (1) Dual Voltage-controlled analog delays (w. flanger/echo mix)
  • (1) Long voltage-controlled analog delay (w. flanger/echo mix)
  • (1) Quad Voltage-controlled clock/LFO with square and triangle outputs
  • (1) Dual voltage-controlled linear slews w. independently adjustable attack/decay
  • (1) Dual exponential lag w. separate attack/decay adjustments
  • (6) ADSR envelope generators
  • (2) Attack/Decay envelope generators
  • (1) Quad programmable, voltage-controlled monostable multivibrator (single-shot pulser) w. ramp outputs
  • (1) 6-channel voltage-controlled monostable multivibrators (pulse generators)
  • (1) Dual adjustable deadtimer
  • (1) Dual envelope follower with adjustable trigger
  • (1) Envelope Follower with trigger comparitor
  • (1) Shepard Function Generator
  • (1) Log amplifier
  • (1) Dual exponential amplifier
  • (1) Diode Waveshaper
  • (1) Crest-trough detector (gives maximum and minimum of two input voltages)
  • (1) 10-level window comparitor with differential mixer
  • (1) 8-bit ADC with self-clocking and adjustable waveshaping DAC
  • (2) Dual sample/holds
  • (1) Voltage-controlled clocked chaos generator (calculates logistic map)
  • (1) 9-stage Pseudo-random sequencer with differential analog mixer
  • (1) 10-stage pseudo-random sequencer with differential analog mixer
  • (1) 12-stage analog sequencer
  • (1) Dual 5-stage ring counters
  • (1) 8-stage binary divider with differential analog mixer
  • (1) Quad 7-stage binary counter
  • (1) Quad 4-bit programmable binary divider
  • (1) Quad Flip Flop
  • (1) Dual 4-bit binary rate multiplier
  • (1) Dual 3-to-8 binary decoder
  • (1) 12-channel logic buffer/driver
  • (1) 12-channel inverting logic buffer/driver
  • (1) 12-channel 2-input exclusive-OR gates
  • (1) 12-channel OR gates
  • (1) 12-channel AND gates
  • (1) 6-channel leading/trailing edge detector
  • (1) Quad comparitor with adjustable hysteresis margin
  • (1) 8-channel analog multiplexer
  • (1) Dual 4-channel analog multiplexer
  • (1) 4-channel analog switch
  • (1) 3-channel random trigger generator with ring oscillators (hacked electronic windchimes)
  • (1) 5-voice, 6-program, programmable cheezy drumbox
  • (1) Triggerable sound generator (noise source, VCO, LFO, Envelope, mix; based on video game sound chip)
  • (1) Programmable 8-effect voltage-controlled “Beep/sireen” unit
  • (1) Dual white/pink/random noise source
  • (1) 4-bit Touch Tone (DTMF) generator
  • (1) Dual microphone preamp
  • (2) Quad 10-channel mixers with adjustable gains, 4 adj. input levels/ch., and invertable inputs
  • (1) Quad 4-channel mixer with separate output gains and each input inverting or noninverting
  • (2) Quad mixer/amplifiers w. adj. master gain, 3 noninv. inputs, 3 inv. inputs, and 2 (x10 gain) inputs
  • (1) 4-channel mixer/amplifier
  • (1) Stereo output driver with bass/treble adj. for each channel and headphone driver
  • (1) Stereo Ouput unit with mixer, stereo simulator, headphone amplifier
  • (1) Bias/trigger unit with 4 debounced pushbuttons, 4 debounced switches, 8 adjustable voltages
  • (1) Utility panel (3 attenuators, 3 adjustable voltages, capacitors, diodes, mults)
  • (2) 5-channel adjustable attenuators
  • (1) 6-channel capacitor (AC) coupler
  • (3) 9-Ch. RCA/Phone_Jack/Pin_Jack adaptors
  • (4) 8-channel quad pin jack multiples
  • (1) Interface to heavily hacked Gibson Organ (same vintage as used on Zappa’s Uncle Meat)
  • (1) Casio CS-101 interface with voltage-controlled pitch, attack/release triggers, waveshaping DAC
  • (1) MiniMoog interface (control/access to 28 internal patch points)
  • (1) Moog Satellite Interface (control/access to 19 internal patch points)
  • (1) Radio Shack (Moog) Concertmate MG-1 Interface (control/access to 21 internal patch points)
  • (1) Heavily hacked Casio VL-tone with full-size keyboard, external note control, many intermediate voices, triggers, plus additional clocks, pulsers, binary dividers
  • (1) Heavily hacked Casio SK1 with separate voice/envelope outputs for each of the 4 voices, many additional triggers in and out
  • (1) Optigan organ with rebuilt scanning photodiodes, separate voice outputs, percussion synch output
  • (1) PAIA Hyperflange
  • (1) PAIA vocoder with low octave added
  • (1) PAIA parametric equalizer

SynthGear Tags

  • old synthesizers

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