Mutable Instruments modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc


This poll needs a “Grey areas are where it’s at.” option. (that is intended w/ humor, playfulness, etc)


Doepfer! :slight_smile:

I agree, to a point. Had a handful of MN modules and sold them all because of their design. As for the point about contempt for ‘music’, I see what you mean, and it’s frustrating that manufacturers (seem to, at least) feel the need to design with this kind of attitude. It’s a puritanism that’s all too present in the fields I find myself working. Maybe that’s not what their game is at all, but you’re not alone in holding that opinion.

I’m one of these people, but I do try to consider if something like Plaits or Elements would be useful (or fun!) for me. My instinct is indeed to go ‘multi-function, ick!’, but I can absolutely see the appeal and use of digital modules. They’re just not my bag in terms of interaction. That, plus I get that ‘but I’m not using X mode enough’ guilt real bad :slight_smile:

That being said, Marbles looks like an outstanding piece of design.

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I haven’t played around with Elements in awhile, but I don’t think there are any hidden functions on that one.


I think there IS one, but you have to opt into it by downloading firmware?


I’m also fully aware that this is to some degree my own baggage :slight_smile: and Maths really is that great. I just don’t enjoy what I perceive as attitude; I use their modules in spite of that.

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split this topic #106

3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc


treading on ‘Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc’ thread territory. @joshhh started it up! Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc

split this topic #111

3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc


I do software QA for a living, so this comment gets all the likes from me :grinning:

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There’s a lot of love for Olivier, yes. He gives back to the community (modules like Ornament and Crime wouldn’t exist without him making his work open source) and that’s one reason why people will come out in droves to defend him.

As far as the beta testers go, whether or not they bought the modules, they’re spending time testing them, which is work in itself (fun work we can be jealous of :grin:, but still).


I run software organizations for a living, and I will tell anyone willing to listen just how critical QA is to the success of both products and customers. Thank you for your service. I know it’s a battlefield and your work is appreciated.


the Shruthi kit is what got me beyond circuit bending and noodling with modding toys and into building “legit” synths, and I think I am not rare in having MI as a sort of gateway…which I think also has a lot to do with the resulting loyalty.

there are hundreds (at least) of folks who have interacted directly with Olivier over the years troubleshooting, learning, or just buying his stuff back when he sold direct, and that sort of experience definitely fosters good vibes for me.

the fact that he shares everything and will openly talk about and respond to questions about his designs/code/etc is still quite rare for a full-time instrument designer whose livelihood depends on sales of those same designs.


The myth of the genius engineer is a huge problem, largely because it supports obfuscating the work of all of the people who actually made it happen. “Vision” is overrated. Praxis is way more important, and MI modules are a good example of that. Olivier with the assistance of papernoise are pretty much Mutable Instruments, that’s not really in play here in the same way.

I’m also not saying there are no power dynamics. There’s no such thing. Politics are always present. I am just saying the power dynamic you highlighted is different than the one in play for MI.

Some of us, myself included, prefer to express positive opinions over negative ones. That’s not to say there is no room for criticism, but the ideal you ascribe to of a ‘healthy debate’, is not an ideal we all share in all forums. There is a strong argument that “critical” culture has very toxic roots rummaging through discourse right now. Since that isn’t something we all want, I can see why that would be a point of frustration for you.

MI has some milquetoast populist design notions. Accessibility is a goal. That’s going to be inherently less divisive. Something like Mannequins, on the other hand, will inspire much more debate, because their work is opaque, inspiring, and challenging on a very different trajectory.

I do not have the impression that no one criticizes MI modules. I’ve seen plenty of hype, I’ve also seen plenty of people sell their shiny new MI modules. I also see outright criticism in the formal sense. Any module with a strong design concept will inspire debate about whether those ideas work for you. That’s what this entire thread is about, effectively.

Our opinions on MI modules don’t have the gravity of larger issues. One is not better for all, modular synthesizers are inherently an argument for the perspective of a multiplicity of design ideas. If you like MI stuff, you can have as much as you can afford; if you don’t, you’ve got plenty of choices! You can’t really know until you sit down with it and use it for a while.

I was originally turned off by Make Noise stuff, but since spending some time with a few pieces of Make Noise gear that resonated with me, I finally get it. Popularity is just another metric to consider.

Why is it popular?

Maybe it’s actually just a great design? :relaxed:


That gets to the point I was going to build up to and then forgot :laughing: We’re not really talking about Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg levels of sociopolitical influence and “power dynamics” here, we’re talking about people who build musical instruments.

So I’m not sure what the potential danger is supposed to be?


Yes, totally. Same here! I mostly dislike the font on the panels :man_facepalming:


for me, knobs are as well important. I tired one’s Maths in a store but the feel (wobbly) triggered a no. However, following a long discussion regarding the same Buchla 200 wobbliness, it doesn’t mean the quality is less…some argue it’s even better as it dampens the physical impact when touching it…not sure if this makes sense to me… : )


I don’t understand the drama. In the past 55 years there have been many approaches to modular synthesis or just synthesis in general. Chances are, only a few of those ways will resonate with an individual, it’s often a lifelong and sometimes torturous but always in the end rewarding quest to find those ways.

I can absolutely respect Mutable for the uniqueness of their approach, although it’s likely I’ll never have such a system myself, simply because I haven’t come close to exhausting the possibilities of what I have. But I always watch what’s going on, watch lots of videos, it’s interesting at least.

As for weirdnesses or imperfections in design, everything has this and in particular all of the highly sought stuff from the 1970’s, much more so than anything today. If you ever know the joys of re-calibrating trimpots or using up CV mixers because oscillator tuning drifts all over the place, you know what I mean. Or just living with scratchy pots that are impossible to quickly fix because of the way they’ve been mounted. Or living with slow envelopes because the overall sound is still inspiring. You learn to do it because the overall experience is still rewarding and you can’t spend all your time fixing stuff or modding it or re-designing it to your liking. That’s not submitting to “genius”, it’s just basic coping and prioritization.

What’s important is that the magic happens. It’s never about what something doesn’t do, it’s about what it does. That something “does” is much more rare than something simply lacking serious flaws. That you can still get to a situation and a point within that situation where you can totally abandon yourself, lose yourself in the sound and the patching and something results that is more than you. Something that you maybe feel others should hear as well. And the very fact that what happens can’t be engineered in advance, means that it also may never happen again. It does happen again, but not in ways you can precisely control or even manage, and you still have to confront those thoughts. So if there are a number of people already experiencing the magic, I don’t understand what good it does to deny their experiences. Something doesn’t click for you that’s fine, move on and find something that does.


Well played, lines, well played. Polls are now closed.


beer and plaits, seems like an ideal day.


I spent 30 minutes with it in the shop. At one point I fed an LFO to Morph while in speech synthesis. It sounded exactly like a drunk person slurring their words.

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