Q: Why would you do such a thing?
A: SOUNDWICH is a simple idea which came from an even simpler one. I like tapping on things. I often find myself in a public place tapping rhythms on random objects to “test” their resonant properties or how well the object in question lends itself to drum sounds. Sometimes I record these tapping sessions and put them in a song as a main drum loop. In its simplest form, I made a sturdy disk to tap on or place upon other things in need of tapping. I’m drawn to the acoustic properties of materials and parts, such as switches and PCBs, normally used in the creation of electronic instruments. I originally thought of the circular formation of tact switches on a PCB as a flat “joystick” of sorts when placed on a table surface. This lead to ideas around handheld interaction and using various RC low pass filtering amounts associated with each tact switch. Thanks to Chris Williams for helping me with problem solving. While showing the unnamed early prototype to synthesist Erin VanZandt she assumed I was creating a sandwich with two PCBs while initially I wasn’t. She basically completed the design by chance. My partner Emily Brandt then named the device Soundwich, we laughed, it stuck. A month later while visiting Eli Pechman of Mystic Circuits he mentioned wanting to be able to shake it. We immediately added loose washers to the three machine screws on the spot. We then began using the shaker sound to excite a resonator and the tact switch clicks to advance a sequencer in his modular system. One of my favorite things about the creative process is chance and the way chance can trigger other creative directions in yourself and others.
Influence, design support and inspiration: Erin VanZandt, Chris Williams, Eli Pechman, Emily Brandt, Meng Qi, Tom Whitwell, Gijs Gieskes and Ivaylo Gueorgiev.
A: STEREO FIELD is an instrument which allows you to "play" and touch analog stereo circuits directly via golden touch plates. Every individual has their own personal skin conductivity and body capacitance values which will inform how "patching" of the instrument allows for new paths for the circuit to follow. When touched it will create sound with either of the two stereo circuits which mirror each other, this is represented by the interlocking circles of touch plates. Incoming audio can also be "touched" or directly interacted with, which is to say audio will be traveling through your skin to other parts of the circuit that it is not normally "supposed" to go to. Have you ever tuned between two radio stations and heard the incredible effect of the audio from one station modulating the audio form another? I have always thought it was such an incredibly lush effect but wasn't sure if it would be possible to recreate faithfully in an instrument/effects unit. It turns out the Stereo Field can get you pretty close.
I have been drawn in without end to the character of analog instruments ever since I started making electronic music and by "character of analog" I mean the sound of unstable electricity under attempted control. Generally speaking, the most organic of tones are the hardest to gain access to, see: EMS/Buchla/Serge for example. What is always present in the tonality of these instruments for me a constant reminder that these are the actual sounds of electricity. I've had moments while playing a Serge system where I thought I might actually be getting electrocuted, that is how organic things can sound in these beautifully unstable systems. When you look back at the beginnings of very early electronic music and certain recordings you find out that some of these tones were actually made by destroying electronic components, aka the sound happened once and after that single sound the only evidence that remained was what was recorded to tape.
The Stereo Field exists in a sort of general celebration of doing things wrong and the kind of liberation that comes with that territory. Most importantly, with the Stereo Field you will be making circuits with your hands that are not generally "supposed" to be made. I feel that not knowing is a very important part of the creative process and often yields exciting results. I find this especially true for analog synthesizers. For Stereo Field my initial idea was to have a small matrix entirely made of touch plates mimicking the idea of the EMS VCS3's matrix, this of course only allowing the instrument's user to patch while their hands were free to touch the matrix, once their hands were removed the patch was gone. It's these magical here and gone attributes I am most interested in and for a good number of musicians this makes up a large portion of the magical qualities of modular synthesis.
With the Stereo Field there are certain sounds which can be loosely recreated. However, due to variables inherent in an instrument of this variety; (user interaction, individual skin conductivity, skin contact amounts per finger, skin temperature, analog components, control knob positions, capacitors charging and discharging, incoming audio, number of incoming audio signals, incoming CV, number of possible finger patching combinations)... the magnitude of these variables help create a certainty of uncertainty which is to say you will come across audio moments that will be there and then gone with great consistency. You will be in a sort of collaboration with the instrument as sometimes you will be reacting to what it is doing and other times you will be attempting to control and shape what it is doing but most of the time you will be doing both simultaneously. You can be certain that letting other people use your Stereo Field will result in sounds you have never heard before. They will create sounds your personal constitution doesn't allow for and vice versa. This is part of the charm of any instrument and to me this is greatly magnified when it comes to analog synthesis. This is part of the reason why I think it's important to record your first interactions with any new instrument as these moments of inexperience and the uninformed patches which come of that are only available once.
Big thank yous to the following people for helping with design feedback, inspiration, and support; Emily Brandt, úlfur Hansson, Ivaylo Gueorgiev, Meng Qi and Bet/w/een.
A: The HC-TT is a performance device that brings together a dated form of technology with an even more dated form of control: human hands. Influenced by early tape music, DJs, and childhood deconstruction, it's a guarantee that you will never be able to create the same sound twice. This is the guarantee of our imperfect human movement, a flaw that enables endless variations of sound possibilities for performance or sampling purposes.
What you can put into the HC-TT is endless. I think of it as a tape-based synthesizer with immediate response so intense that you can nearly feel the texture of sound with your fingertips. Its minimalist design can make cassettes feel like memory cards that can contain your own pre-recorded musical or non-musical ideas to be re-performed with the HC-TT. Highly suggested tapes (HSTs) include: your favorite pop album, self-help tapes, books on tape, hypnosis recordings, mix-tapes, your least favorite pop album, classical music, sound effects, children's music, adults' music, lectures, sermons, film scores, dusty unmarked tapes, melted car tapes, 4 track tapes and also additional tapes.
The HC-TT sounds great when connected to and shaped with other audio devices. More suggestions: modular synthesizers, effects pedals, DJ mixers, rack gear, spring reverbs, tape echoes, ARP 2500s, loopers, samplers and vocoders. Hearing real tape sound manipulated by your real human hands is a very analog experience and adding effects to that equation isn't terrible either. The momentary mute switch allows stuttering effects, and beat-based gating.
This device was made for a fairly selfish reason: For years, I've wanted to have a compact, organized device that mirrors the compact, organized cassette medium. Also, I just really love the sound of slow tape and wanted to have a very immediate way to access these textures.