A funny thing happened on the way to the VCV Rack forum. In a paradigm many still stubbornly imagine as chin scratching noise, software modular makers are producing beautiful, liquid electronic sounds.
The latest fruits of these labors can be heard in volume 3 of the Switched On Rack series. Actually forget that this has anything to do with software at all – what you get is really a perfectly gorgeous compilation of experimental sounds, lush textures, expansive ambient music, intelligent rhythms.
It’s hypnotic, warm, entrancing stuff:
What strikes me is actually how coherent the result can be. Despite coming from an open submission online, the results hold together both than … well,
But maybe that isn’t incidental at all. There’s always this question of what makes a scene. Having access to the same set of instruments and tools is always significant to music-making – VCV Rack itself is free, and even paid add-ons are relatively affordable and one click away. And not only that, but VCV Rack users also have various ways to share tips about modules, whether they prefer reading forum posts or sending messages to friends or watching detailed YouTube tutorials.
Or they can even simply post videos of their patches to share and inspire – and even if you prefer not to try to squint to see what they’ve done, it might still prompt you to try an idea or find a previously unknown module.
For developers, this also demonstrates that you don’t necessarily need a comprehensive online strategy to make users do this. If you make inspiring tools, they may well do it on their own. (In CDM parts, we’ve seen this story repeat, from Eurorack hardware to the open monome community to live coding and even larger phenomena like Ableton Live use.)
For still more music, one person I’ve been following closely is Iowa IDM maestro Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher. Not This Time, his newest, is crisp, brain-tickling stuff. It isn’t 100% VCV Rack here, but the mind dancing textural precision is very much influenced by his Rack workflows, which are, quite frankly, where I’ve gotten a lot of my own tips. Kent does what I tend to do, which is to start ideas in Rack, then record them multitrack (using the NYSTHI modules for the purpose), finishing tracks in a DAW (Ableton Live). I personally expect to continue to do this even when there is a plug-in of Rack available, as it makes a nice compositional process.
And I love the artwork. It also comes with this poetic, provocative accompanying text to puzzle over:
Somehow the main point of the story got lost in the telling. The digressions were full of details too specific to be true.
Over the course of a long life, the past disappears. New memories arise of alternate timelines, things that were never to be.
The ax laying rusted in the tall grass might cut again.
I have forgotten her face and her name, but the memory of my feeling for her is so vivid.
People are outlived by the smell of
the cigarettesmoke on their possessions.
What I want is to hear the music that no one makes, and to which no one will listen.
Everything is deadly if you wait long enough.
So this really is somehow the point – some of the people close to their tools will be the ones working together to push a shared musical language forward, together.
For more on VCV Rack and the community – which now runs on an excellent independent forum as well as on The FaceBook:
VCV Rack: vcvrack.com
Community Forum: community.vcvrack.com
Facebook User Group: www.facebook.com/groups/vcvrack
Sign-up sheet: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1FUi3cekjhm_WmEocb7KXg_qdnIYosZIyQyr1i_Q6EK4/edit#gid=0
If you prefer in-person community, I’m teaching a workshop in VCV Rack at the landmark Berlin club about