Polyrhythmic Composition - A new piece using VCV Rack

I've been working with VCV Rack, a free open-source cross-platform virtual analog synthesizer for a while now.  This patch is an early result.  We have all these new big computer video monitors in the new Music Building at Box Hill Institute (where I work), and although I could do a screen-grab, I wanted to project my computer monitor through the screen, and captured it with a pretty good video camera.  I'm performing with the buttons at the upper right.  There are 6 presets or scenes, and I can advance through them, and then select which of the three voices are playing in each section. Each section has a different polyrhythm, mostly fairly elaborate ones, like 61:63:64, or 38:61:72, or the more simple 5:7:9, among others. Most of the modules are made by Antonio Tuzzi, who designs under the nom-du-circuitry of NYSTHI.  I hope you enjoy this "puzzle for the ears" as much as I do.  Full-screen probably works best for viewing this. Good speakers, too, of course.


Four new reviews in

Four new reviews in the current issue of

First, the FREE AudioKit Synth One, for the iOS environment.  A wonderful free synth!

Then, a review of the great sounding and very versatile Spitfire Solo Strings.

And a review of five new modules for the Softube Modular environment:

Finally, a review of the very reasonably priced, and very versatile Tal-Mod virtual analogue synth.




and now, (taaa-daaa!) the metaAARDVARK! (Thanks Antonio Tuzzi!)

Antonio Tuzzi, who designs and composes under the name of NYSTHI, has designed a new module for his extensions of the VCV Rack modular synthesizer ( based on the design of the Random Voltage Module from my Aardvarks IV box of 1975.  I sent him my Master’s thesis described in My History with Music Technology, part 2, where I describe the module, and give its specifications and circuitry (download it HERE), and he replied, faster than I could imagine, with the following module, the metaAARDVARK, which extends the possibilities of the original module quite wonderfully.

I wrote about an earlier version of Antonio’s modules HERE, but such is the pace of development of his project that he’s designed many modules since this.

With this module, we have (from top to bottom), outputs from the internal clock (it can run from 0.01 HZ to 8 kHz!), a very fine control frequency input, a readout of the resultant frequency, an external clock in, a voltage control clock-speed input and trimmer, a voltage offset (and CV input), a gain control (and CV input), a portamento (and CV input) control (which only affects the Smooth output), DAC controls (more on this in a moment) and outputs for the Smooth and Stepped outputs, and a Pulse output that allows only some of the pulse outputs from the internal clock through, depending on the knob setting. A fuller explanation of all the functions can be found HERE.

What makes this more than a simple Sample and Hold random voltage generator are the DAC controls.  You can select the number of bits in the output of the random voltage generator, from 2 to 10.  This will give you from 2 to 1024 levels in your random voltage output.  But you can also set a random amount of deviation from the ideal levels that a DAC should produce, per bit, from 0% (no deviation) to 20%!  Since I had (intentionally) used very dodgy resistors in the Digital to Analog Converters of the original Aardvarks IV, to get a different set of “random” voltages out of each random voltage generator, this control allows me to emulate that, and more.  Each time you adjust this control, you get a new set of random offsets applied to each bit of the DAC.  This gives me a LOT more control over the kind of output I’m getting, and also allows me to have each separate metaAARDVARK as a particular set of random voltage “found objects.” 

When combined with Antonio’s Scala Quantizer, this allows me to work with precisely chosen segments of microtonal scales, making random choices from the elements of the chosen range of the scale.

I talked about the Scala Quantizer in my Soundbytes article, but suffice it to say that the metaAARDVARK and the Scala Quantizer have become indispensable for my work with VCV.  Here’s a snap of a patch using both.  The metaAARDVARK supplies a trigger pulse to the AD Envelope Generator, and the Stepped output (shaped by the Voltage Offset, Gain, and DAC settings) controls the frequency of the Tiny Sawish Oscillator.  The Oscillator goes through the Wave Shaper, and the AD Envelope Generator controls both the amount of Waveshaping and the Amplitude of the Oscillator, through the VCA on the 4Mix.  The output of the 4Mix goes to the Audio Output.  A very simple patch, but the amount of control I can have over the pitch and rhythm resources of my chosen scale are immense, especially if you use the voltage control inputs for the Clock, the Voltage Offset and the Gain.

MANY MANY THANKS to Antonio Tuzzi for making this module, and for his ongoing work on the VCV Rack project.  I’m really very happy that I can now once again begin working on the implications of the (new extensions of the) random generation modules that I designed waaaaaaay back in 1975.  In this case, it’s true – everything old is suddenly and delightfully new again.


Microtuning in Kontakt - a new article

Kontakt is, of course, Native Instruments top of the line sampler.  The full version of it has extensive microtuning facilities, but I haven't found any instructions all in one place, that tell you how to do the microtuning in it.  So, at the urging of some friends, I finally got it together to learn how to do it, and I've written a small article that details how to do it - it's not a simple, intuitive process, but once you follow the instructions with this article, you'll be microtuning your samples in Kontakt in no time at all.


If you have any comments on the article, or even corrections, don't hesitate to get in touch (through the contact page on this website) and let me know.

For those of you curious as to what this sounds like, you can download HERE a 7 minute piece made with the Spitfire Solo Strings Virtuoso Violin and the Spitfire Masse Woodwinds Ensemble patch.  The piece is algorithmic and interactive, made with MusicWonk controlling Kontakt, and uses a non-just non-equal-tempered scale made recently by Brian McLaren, based on the Gelfond-Scheider equation.  Here it is:


Scala version 2.42q  Copyright E.F. Op de Coul, the Netherlands, 1992-2018


  0:          1/1               0.000000 unison, perfect prime

  1:        170.718 cents     170.717780

  2:        260.362 cents     260.362420

  3:        346.323 cents     346.322900

  4:        427.668 cents     427.667640

  5:        505.207 cents     505.206960

  6:        578.383 cents     578.382980

  7:        647.951 cents     647.951420

  8:        714.015 cents     714.014950

  9:        777.081 cents     777.080640

 10:        837.475 cents     837.474810

 11:        895.287 cents     895.286510

 12:        950.844 cents     950.843960

 13:       1004.286 cents    1004.286320

 14:       1055.760 cents    1055.759980

 15:       1105.445 cents    1105.444810

 16:       1153.488 cents    1153.488040

 17:          2/1            1200.000000 octave





Two New Reviews in Soundbytes

I've got two new reviews published in the July issue of  I put a lot of work into these two, as they were both complex sets of resources that intrigued me greatly.

The first was a review of Sugar Bytes effects program Turnado, in its iPad version (there's also a computer version):

The second was for a set of free modules by Antonio Tuzzi, who makes things under the name NYSTHI, which are designed as extensions for the also free VCVRack synthesizer:

Enjoy them both!  The NYSTHI modules project, by the way, is a very rapidly developing one.  My review covers up to version 6.8.  He's now up to 6.10, with even more modules added.  Enjoy!