Last night I recorded my first longer improvised set (a little over 30 min). It's not perfect, but I had a great time dancing on my little cushion.
I played one on New Years for my partner (maybe an hour), and then realized afterwards that the recorder wasn't connected properly :expressionless:. I had felt that was the best I'd ever played, and I felt really...feelings about it. Many feelings. The most profound one was a feeling of mourning. Like I'd just met a gorgeous stranger and had a one night stand that was profound and emotional and deeply meaningful and who I had absolutely no way to ever contact again.
It also proved to me that I could do it. Making music in this way is...complicated? There is an absolutely ridiculous amount of real-time control. I can improvise and generate entire melodies, percussion, weird soundscapes, cut, chop, and stitch vocal samples, and completely modify and mangle the entire thing. This is all in a 4 sqft area with hundreds of jacks and cables.
There are currently something like 50 cables plugged into my modular, that make it into the instrument that it currently is. You can think of each one of those like a guitar cable. Except that in modular synthesis, the guitar would probably be broken into a module for the neck and string, a module for the pickups, a module for your fretting hand, a module for picking, and a module that is the guitar's body (or resonator). You might "patch" (to connect with a patch cable) the finger module to the neck, which would change the pitch. Then you could patch the picking module to the string which would make the string vibrate. Then the string to the resonant cavity. We'd also need a module to change where the finger is, to sequence the notes. And another to sequence the rhythm of the picking/strumming.
What's fascinating about the modular, is that this kind of guitar like instrument exists next to a whole bunch of other instruments also broken into their components. So I can patch the sequencer controlling my theoretical guitar fretting to also control something like the location of the stick on the hi-hat. Or the timbre of the bass. We call this modulation. Or I can patch the neck of a guitar into the resonant cavity of a space ship, and play the fretboard with a glass bottle that I'm percussively breaking with a mallet controlled by the amount of sibilance in the sound of a mountain stream. I might also want to hear that same stream directly. And another copy passed through a delay that's being modulated in another way.
It starts to get even more interesting when these sequences become generative. Some of the sequences are fixed. I turn knobs and then I get voltage that can be used to change the notes, timbres, etc. But some are little analog that produce controllable random voltages, often based on their own set of inputs for speed, variation, length of loop, amount of deviation from the current loop, etc.
Now keep track of all of this live.
I've been working up to playing this system continuously. I feel quite comfortable sitting down, and creating the bones of a "patch" in maybe 5 minutes. But especially making something more interesting, a complex web of interconnected modulation and sounds that interact with each other in a way that really inspires me, takes longer. So I've been learning how to do this in real-time, and it's hard! How to transition elements in and out. How to find and explore new spaces.
Creating compositions on the modular feels like a kind of sonic architecture to me. Of finding a space, and then elongating it. Building rooms and hallways. Creating weird doors and chambers that defy the laws of physics, an Escherian Architecture of Sound. I move into new spaces, and then I allow them to expand and contract around me. Wrapping myself in their layers and then tearing them open and venturing forward. It's sometimes terrifying, always exhilarating. Last night I couldn't sleep for hours after. My entire body was buzzing. It feels a bit like riding an extremely powerful animal. Something that could take off at any moment, but with which I've created an understanding and agreement. A friend, a lover, a fickle and sometimes terrible mistress. One to befriend and to tempt out into the night. Come with me, and dance.