Miasmatic Patterns was written at the request of Jon Fielder for his modular synthesizer remix project. Fortunately, this corresponded perfectly with my university’s break, giving me a chance to actually compose a piece mid-semester; a very rare occurrence, and one that I was determined to jump at given that the last 12 months have been extremely unproductive. The combination of teaching entirely online, a complete cancellation of all performances and conferences, and the lack of in person interactions due to COVID has been extremely draining and hindering to my ability to compose.

So, armed with time off, a self-imposed deadline of “get it done by the end of the week,” a copy of the Oblique Strategies, and enough coffee to induce tachycardia in a pachyderm, I sat down in front of the modular synth.

One of the more interesting and intimidating things about the modular synth is that it can’t save presets. Anything you do has to be recorded and committed to because you can’t go back and make changes. With that in mind, I grabbed a suggestion from the Oblique Strategies (“Remember those quiet evenings”) and started mapping out a piece. I started patching to create some interesting drones controlled by LFOs clocked to different speeds and recorded them as a background idea. The choice to pitch them as an F#°7 chord with different phases for every note seemed to fit both the Strategies suggestion, and the general feeling of being fatigued by the COVID pandemic. From there, I added chaotic sources (a WoggleBug using the ring modulator output, and a René sequencer with two unrelated clocks and a lot of jitter) to create some randomized pulses and pitches. Finally, after another repatch, I committed to constructing treble and bass parts played on a Linnstrument connected to the synth.

The resulting piece is an extended meditation on the continuing COVID pandemic and the extreme mental fatigue that it has created. I’m not offering any solutions or hopes, this is simply an exploration of my own perspective in the moment.

Link to my synth on Modular Grid for the curious – https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/620498

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