GAS - gear acquisition syndrome & related discussion

Ultimately you are trying to avoid the inevitable…….(that can sound as prolific as you want!) :sweat_smile:

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With getting into those elements of music involving things recently, I’m finding myself remarkably susceptible to the pressure sales tactic of “scarcity”. I don’t even think it’s intentional at this point on the part of the people who want to sell music stuff, with the chip shortage and all.

I tell myself gear is eventually available with patience, even if I don’t jump at the first chance to get it? That’s right, right?

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For me, the “scarcity” (real or not) has been a godsend for managing my GAS. It forces me to pause after learning about some cool module, and think more about its functionality. Usually, I’ll then try to figure out how to do the same things I saw in the video or read about, in my own rack. 9 times out of 10, I can do it and I lose steam on the new module. It’s an exercise I’ve been trying to incorporate any time I want a new module. It’s been especially helpful will effects and making me REALLY appreciate my FX aid lol

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To me it’s pretty reverse. I wanted to upgrade my graphics card, partly for real reasons and honestly partly just because my GPU is underpowered compared to rest of my components and I like technology, power and seeing numbers go up. But with the inconvenience and price driven by componen shortage I’m not going to overpay and watch online shops 24/7 for availability. Same with Beads which I think I want: I knew it was going to sell out immediately but I don’t want to preorder or mark the launch date on my calendar just so I could get it as soon as possible. Or artificial scarcity bullshit like Nintendo pulled with Super Mario 3D All-Stars which was available only for limited time, even as a digital download, it just makes me go “I know this is just a shitty sales tactic so now I’m not going to buy it at all” even though I really wanted to play Super Mario 64 on Switch. If something is widely available immediately at a decent price it might just end up in my basket without much thinking but my bar for preordering something or fighting for availability is extremely high.

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GAS as told by the little mermaid taken out of context

"Look at this stuff
Isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything?

Look at this trove
Treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?
Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs?
I’ve got twenty!
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more"

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To the GAS theorists, observers, and participants in the house, this week’s Disquiet Junto project may be of interest:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0510-cold-turkey/

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Ok, if there was any doubt that the synth community may have a hoarding problem, this should clear it up:

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I’ve come to a point where I want to change how I think about gear. In short:

  1. I have this habit of looking for opportunities to trade my gear and change things up. That made sense when exploration was my goal, but it’s a lot less constructive now.
  2. I feel like I allocate too many brain CPU cycles to gear and gear choices.
  3. I talk/write about gear all the freaking time and it’s probably pretty monotonous :laughing:

I do have one last round of tweaks I’m going through for closure, then will declare my modular “done” (again).

But also? I’m no longer taking notes on the synths, modules, and plugins I use for each recording.
I never did that in order to recreate sounds, just to satisfy curiosity and track how much I was or wasn’t using various things.

This is a habit I’ve been keeping up for years (since before getting into modular), and have done it a couple of thousand times or more… and it felt really weird not to make those notes last night. Not liberating so much an almost OCD-like experience. But I’ll see how it goes in the longer term.

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What prompted this change, if you don’t mind me asking?

I know I’m not helping anyone in this thread (testing resolve maybe) but another VEIMA auction just started and check out this synth: RMI Harmonic Synth (GAS avoided - starting bid: EU15k!)

demo record on Youtube: part 1 and part 2

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It’s been building up, I think.

For one, I read an essay last year, “Spectral Objects: On the Fetish Character of Music Technologies” by Jonathan Sterne, which had a couple of lines in it about the “feeling that an instrument brings magic or power to the musician, rather than they to it” and “agential inversion of musician and instrument” that poked my brain pretty hard.

When putting together the “notes” pages for my releases it’s hard not to notice that the text about the theme, process etc. is a lot smaller than the lists/descriptions of gear. I’m a musician rather than a writer, so I don’t think it’s bad that I can’t write multiple pages of text about an album without going into those details. But the balance kind of makes it seem like the gear is the most important aspect.

Likewise in my blog, I write much more about what I think of new gear I’m trying or what I might change in the near future than anything else.

I’ve gone through a couple of waves of wanting to make peace with the great stuff that I already have… and then I’ve continued to want to try other things. It’s mainly not dissatisfaction, but curiosity, which I guess can lead to dissatisfaction in a Yoda-like way. I figure if I spend less thinky-time on “I haven’t been using X much, I should trade it for something shiny” or “I really like Z, I want to try more things that are like Z but not exactly like it”, that leads to less rearranging stuff in ModularGrid and rewatching gear demos…

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It’s for this reason that I’ve decided that 2022 will be a depth year for me, but I’m preparing for that by trimming down the amount of gear I have too. I have been discussing the concept of “consolidating upwards” regarding our setups with the aim of hitting 1 monosynth and 1 poly synth. I’ve essentially accepted that I will fail on the former because, although my monosynth of choice is the 0-Coast, I am very attached to my Werkstatt, so I will also be keeping that. It has prompted some hard decisions (I had somewhat of a glut of monosynths and parting with some of them was harder to do than others) but the rewards are already clear, both in terms of maximising the space I have (removing the sensation of feeling cramped and hemmed in by my gear) and consolidating upwards so that my fistful of monos became a single poly (my first actual poly, funnily enough, which also seems like a significant step).

I still have items to sell and I’m attempting to consolidate upwards further in a few areas before the year is out, but the essence of my setup is solid now and it has brought a kind of excitement with it. The removal of some elements has made me see others with more clarity, too. For example: I had originally got a Launchpad Pro Mk3 with the intention of using it in a computer-free setup, but I realised that I only had 4 MIDI tracks within the LPP3 sequencer and far too many synths to use with such a setup. Getting rid of a load of them means that the LPP3 is now perfectly placed to act as the brain within a setup that includes 4 LPP3 sequenced pieces (a mono, a poly and 2 samplers) and various iOS devices I can use as standalone devices (or I can even use the sequencers within iOS, although I don’t actually know how to sync them with the LPP3 yet).

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I’m reading Anne Balsamo’s Designing Culture. The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke University Press, 2011). Loads of good stuff in here. She brings in Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things (MIT Press, 2005). This section of Balsamo (pp. 5-6) made me think of GAS and this ongoing discussion here on llllllllines

Bruce Sterling, the author and public intellectual who, in his book Shaping Things (2005), turns his well-honed imagination for science fiction to the project of unpacking the contours of contemporary technoculture, provides another vector of inspiration for this project when he speculates about the changing relationship between people and objects.¹⁴ In his case, the privileged object of theoretical fascination is the “gizmo” an explicitly designed object-form that manifests the fecundity of digital information. Living in a gizmo technoculture requires significant investments of time and attention. “What impact” he asks, “does this have on us?” He describes the cognitive conundrum of living in a gizmo epoch: "It may dawn on you that you are surrounded by a manufactured environment. You may further come to understand that you are not living in a centrally planned society, where class distinctions and rationing declare who has access to the hardware. Instead, you are living in a gaudy, market-driven society whose material culture is highly unstable and radically contingent. You’re surrounded by gadgets. Who can tell you how to think about gadgets, what to say about them – what they mean, how that feels?" (29). From Sterling’s vantage point, the opportunity costs of attending to the information-fecundity of gizmos are too great, and more importantly, not sustainable over time. In an effort to elaborate what is needed to harness these excesses, Sterling fixes his vision on one of the key elements of technoculture: the role of design and designers in creating the infra-structure of sustainability.

(Bold emphasis mine)

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This is a really good take imo. We live in a really fragile world of things, as the supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 and someone simply steering a really big boat wrong, have both painfully illustrated. There’s risks not only in attaining the device itself, but in terms of keeping the devices “alive”, the gizmos could be shut down as quickly as the power grid being disrupted or losing internet connection for the more complex ones. And none of this stuff lasts forever, and the stuff that can be repaired can often only be fixed by a small handful of dedicated experts who often don’t get the chance to share their knowledge. For any of these problems to even become problems, you also have to have the money to buy the stuff, which locks out the vast majority of humanity.

The fragility is more obvious (but maybe not more severe?) for the gizmos with no material body - streamed media, digital assets, and digital tools, are only as robust as their platforms or development teams. As consumers are pushed further into virtual worlds, there will be even more at stake. Many didn’t know what to do with themselves when a major social media platform went down for a day, and just last week the creator shared his vision for everyone to live in a virtual world. When even more of our constructed existence is at risk to platform errors, even more will be at stake.

On the music side, I think there’s some interesting read through. So you can take the path forward of avoiding gizmos, which is totally fine. An acoustic instrument is hardly a gizmo most of the time, they’re frustrating and the time input to utilize them effectively is often not worth the time and effort to many. And you don’t need any power, other than giving yourself adequate food and water.

But since we are all on a music tech forum, and I think many of us already do this, the best bet is probably to be aware of what you’re consuming, why you’re consuming it, and who your consumption affects, including yourself. If your gizmo makes you happy, and you use it to the best of your abilities, and it helps you create work that might make others happy, then by all means go for it.

Really great excerpt though, thanks for sharing, being vigilant about consumption is an always relevant topic

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As an essentialist and Buddhist ( for many years), I hit upon this very thing. It’s a tricky one to navigate.

The waters run deep……

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This is apropos, I was reading through a very, very, very long AMA-type thread for Autechre the other day. One answer stuck out in my mind—though I can’t find it in the list anymore because the list is so long!

To paraphrase: One of the pair said that he prefers to work in Max/MSP because it enables him to invest in himself instead of gear. Rather than buy an object, he says, he can learn to make a thing himself.

That stuck with me. Personally, the draw of gear was to have something new to learn, and I often find that once I have learned something at a basic level, I get bored with it. So, basically, I can see his logic, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

If only Max/MSP weren’t on a computer!

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thats very helfpul.

this is kind of counter to the gas alleviation idea, but i often wonder if there will ever be a hardware instrument as deep and rewarding as max or pd. i imagine something like the er-301 would be close, the mod duo could run patches but not really what 'm thinking of. the octatrack is the closest thing i have in terms of building tools to execute your ideas and produce rewarding unexpected results via experimentation.

i sometimes dream of an octatrack with synthesis and an expansive virtual modular dsp sort of like vcv rack in a box that can run at audio rates, take incoming audio, and create huge complex patches from logic and audio/cv processing tools.

im kind of putting my faith in elektron to continue to expand on the mk2 and digi formats to include more and deeper synthesis and sample mangling techniques along with more flexible and customizable effects within that internal modular sort of environment where everything can be routed and connected within itself.

probably what i need to do is continue to focus on bending the existing machines they built to my will and learn how to achieve anything i can imagine within those constraints. the cool thing is, the more machines you have, the more you learn and the more interaction and connections are possible. its a very inspiring workflow

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This is an interesting thought!

What is it you want that is different from a computer?

If it is the assosiation + temptation to go online and to other stuff just because it is so easy to open up Facebook, then get an Organelle. Preferably in a dedicated space with a dedicated screen + keyboard.

If you want something that is physical and without a screen, that’s why we have eurorack.

In the middle of this I guess the Er-301 would kind of be.
Then it’s that Percussa SSB-thing.

I guess I would love to hear an even more detailed explanation of what you want, hehe! I am also thinking similar thoughts.

I did buy an Empress Zoia to avoid the buying lust fuelled by DSP-pedal manufacturers such as Chase Bliss etc. I’ve got an Organelle too – and it appears, time for neither.

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i dont mind screens. i dont think i’d want a touch screen though.

sorry, i was kind of vague because i’ve tried to express this in other places a bunch of times. i feel that there is something about dedicated dsp, like the octatrack which never freezes or glitches, is realtime and performative and just extremely powerful. it has tactile parameter controls and it combines analog circuits with digital software. you can do things like parameter lock any effect control or sample warping parameter and assign it to the fader, so that when you slide the fader to the right, it produces these insane random beautifully unexpected results. the analog four and rytm take this even further with analog components, audio rate modulation, cv control, fm, analog compression/saturation, dual analog filters, and feedback routing. this is much harder to achieve in a computer. and while i like the flexibility of working in a daw or working in vcv rack, there is something about taking audio out of the pc and into the hardware realm that totally changes the way i sculpt and design/process the audio or midi

I have a norns for this reason, and i love it for those types of things. but it is on my mixer fx send, so its more of that mod duo idea. I also agree that eurorack accomplishes a lot of this, but in order for me to create the system i want, i’d have to spend way more than i can afford. Also, the nature of working in modular, kind of takes me out of music creation mode and into weirdo sound design meandering very quickly. i love that sort of thing, but its distracting for me, and that separation from my other gear kind of makes ithard for me to conceptualize it inside of my existing setup/workflow

elektron has rewired the way my brain works with music creation. i like to have everything up and running live. i dont like mutlitracking. for now, if i have to multi track, i record something like a 64 bar loop in a flex machine on the octatrack, which is fine. but i would rather all of my synths have the digitone or analog 4 workflow. in an ideal world, all of my synths would have four independent synth engines that can run 4 separate patches live with their own p lockable & sound lockable conditional sequencers which can be altered and performed in realtime.

i sort of accomplish this now by using the digitone for midi sequencing my polysynths, but its far from ideal and doesnt remove the need for multitracking. the problem i have with the digitone and analog four, even though i love them very much, is that they are sort of limited in their synthesis capabilities, which they make up for by utilizing complex motion sequencing and internal interactions between tracks and trigs, somewhat limited shared voice count, and both have a very unique (not bad) timbral characteristic that is hard to get away from. so i spend a lot of my time in the sound design stage attempting to overcome or remove a lot of those tonal qualities

so it would be kind of simple in theory, but complicated in practice to realize what i think would make my setup perfect. put a sequential pro 3 or take 5 (even a Peak, Waldorf synth, or Nord Va) inside of an analog 4 (8, 12, 16) and give us mutable warps style audio effects processing (cross mod with freely assignable external and internal audio inputs to modulate one another, freq shift, phase mod, pitch shifting, granular, resonator, filter bank, creative looping [cosmos/tensor/ct5/nebulae style re-arranging], vocoding). by their nature, they are already a form of virtual modular. i think if they could somehow expand the architecture and break the components down a little to more fundamental building blocks that we are free to interconnect and wire freely, maybe similar to a zoia, it would be the prefect instrument for me. building on the idea of layering and interaction between sampled and synthesized audio as per the rytm mk2 really interests me to, but a lot of that could be satiated with a freely assignable vocoder or some kind of custom operator style cross mod algorytm w/fdbk capabilities

you can approximate these kinds of things by just buying a Warps or a Granular pedal and running your sound trough those, even with cv control in certain instances. but the magic of elektron boxes is that everything is tied together by the sequencer. that’s why, for me, it has to be an elektron machine that combines these things

i dont expect that to happen, but i would instantly buy it no matter the price, if they did. ive been lurking the syntakt speculation thread at elektronauts like a madman hoping the new elektron product is something approaching this concept, but i dont have any real expectations for that.

i kind of wish that sequential teamed up with arturia because the polybrute does kind of attempt some of these things without the elektron mechanics. but the initial product of the focusrite/sequential merger has become my favorite polysynth. in a perfect world elektron would jump in there as well

i’ve been strongly considering it. are you saying you dont like it or it doesnt satisfy that desire for virtual modular sort of experimentation?

*edit: sorry, i know it’s off topic. i tried to avoid extrapolating my dreams and wishes

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