Other natural or unnatural processes that are like modular synthesis


hello, i’m new to modular (i got an 0-coast about a year ago and am obsessed with it, i just acquired a braids and am building my rack this weekend), and like all people who are new to modular, i’ve been watching zillions of youtube videos on the topic. of all of the disembodied voices i’ve heard in eurorack vids, the one that stands out most to me is make noise’s tony rolando.

in one of his videos, tony explains that the modular synthesizer and the composer meet halfway between chaos and control. even if the composer has a complete grasp on how synthesis works and what the modules do, there’s a certain amount of unpredictability that augments the composition process and creates results that are different from and better than what the composer was planning.

i make a lot of kimchi, which is a korean fermented food that is similar to sauerkraut, but spicier and more complex from a flavor standpoint. when i heard tony explain that synthesizer-composer relationship i got butterflies in my stomach because i feel that the fermentation process is very similar. fermentation depends on the bacteria that live on everything to make lactic acid, which preserves the food. also, bacteria and yeasts and other stuff that exists in the air affect the final product in ways that are difficult to articulate (it’s like the difference between a bottle of cantillon and a bottle of sour beer made with lab-controlled yeast/bacteria). no matter how perfectly i control the ratio of cabbage to garlic to chili pepper (to salt to miso etc) there is a certain amount of the final product’s taste that will always be due to those microscopic elements beyond my control.

i’m wondering if you have found any other processes in your life to be like synthesis in this way.

full disclosure: i run the tiny chicago-based kimchi company kimchi boy’s kimchi.

btw i’m new here and this is my first post, so hopefully the “studies” tag isn’t inappropriate!

//// hylozoic : lcrp.2018.solstice.1////
Film and Alt-Process Photography

Maybe not exactly what you are talking about but this was the first thing that sprang into my mind when I read your thread title. Welcome :slight_smile:


I find teaching in a smaller classroom to be like this. I thrown a lot of energy into the room, and ideas, and openings for dialog, and assignments, and todays news, and… then something happens.

At best it is amazing. At worst it is a little bland. On average it is pretty good.

The difference between that kind of a meeting-of-minds-and-souls and, say, modular to me is that for me modular and all other music is intentionally personal and introspective. I’ve never gotten into music with other people participating. In large part this reflects insecurity on my part, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deeply enjoy the solitary music.

Perhaps my interest in pattern generation and semi-randomness is yearning for some other voice. Never thought about that until now, so thanks.


Group improv is all about the relationship between chaos and control, action and reaction.


If modular synthesizers are analog modular then fluxus/contemporary scores from the likes of John Cage or George Brecht are certainly the acousic. There will nearly always be a source of chance in the score, be it from playing cards or rolling dice or the decisions of the performer



this might be the greatest first post of all time
i’m enjoying this thread!


Great subject! Will follow this thread with interest.
I’ve thought about this subject from time to time. I think this is interesting and relevant:

Not really a natural processes like modular synthesis, but a natural process (neural networks) controlling a modular synth.


I posted in @saintcloud’s Inspired food, drink thread a little while ago about baking sourdough bread. The fermentation process and all the variables sound quite similar to kimchi in that my bread changes depending on where I make it, and on the weather (particularly the temperature!). The thing I love about it, and I’m sure it’s similar to your kimchi-making, is that it genuinely feels like you are tapping into some ancient wisdom, and participating in a process that has been going on for millennia. It still blows my mind that a lot of the most beautiful bread, with incredibly complex flavours and textures, has only three ingredients: flour, water & salt. It helps that I managed to sneak a bit of starter from my favourite bakery in London, which, if you believe the rumours, can be traced back something like 400 years to an old bakery somewhere in Finland.

Modular synthesis doesn’t have quite so many years behind it, but it definitely has something of a mysterious old wisdom, which, for me, adds to how therapeutic and immersive it can be.

Keen to see more in this thread!


Also relevant to the subjects of chaos and control is @Rodrigo’s PhD thesis:



i 100% agree, if anything sourdough is an even more pure example because of how few ingredients are involved. i definitely know what you mean RE: ancient wisdom as well; dank kimchi is what helped people survive through winter a thousand years ago.

the 400 year old starter is nuts!! i’d imagine that the health department has a loophole built in for centuries-old yeast starters.


half our fridge is full of kimchi, a good portion of our garden these days is dedicated to its ingredients. we may be slightly obsessed.

growing oyster and shiitake and lions mane have this same relationship. the way we do it, at least, in logs. you provide the conditions then wait and see what happens. so incredible what happens. will find time to start a myco thread soon…


love the chunky carrot and radish (that’s radish, right?)! looks delish!

great point about mushroom growing as well, i’ve been meaning to try that out in some of my girlfriend’s old hosiery but haven’t been able to find the time or space in our 1br apartment.

a lines funky food trading thread is very necessary.


Somehow the combination of these two sentiments (quoted above) is where my mind goes. This is exactly how I deal with my sound works, definitely with performance works, and this is absolutely how I want to be “teaching”. I think of the studio (whether studio in art school, or sound studio, or performance rehearsal studio) as a space of opportunity. An environment built with intentionality, care and sincerity, in which, given thoughtful engagement, something of value might develop.


I’ve compared working with my modular to a small person taking a large, energetic dog for a walk: you may leave the house with a plan for where you want to go, but it definitely gets a vote…


Some things that come to mind while patching:

Invention; whether the bridge is material (Edisonian) or understanding itself (Einsteinian), you are drawing an idea out of the unknown and into the light.

Evolution; the push and pull of biological processes create their own gravity and inertia, propelling forward even if ‘you’ don’t know what ‘you’ are being pulled towards.

Decision-making in Poker; probing for the sweet spot between statistical probability and human behavior.

Sculpture; the figure already exists in the stone and is waiting to be extracted.

Right. One more glass, then time to put the port away.


I’ve been thinking a lot about this thread since it was first started. I myself am also interested in the benefits and cultivation of fermented food, right now my obsession is home-brewed kombucha, but I’m building my way towards kimchi.

There are two things that I wanted to share that made me think about this conversation. The first is a wonderful video Vox did with one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. It’s about biomimicry, and as someone who is often inspired by natural phenomena or processes in turns of the music I create, I couldn’t help but just get pumped. You can check it here.

The second was another podcast item — an interview with Ken Burns on being a father. He talked about how the idea of reducing anxiety in parenting is letting go of the things you can’t control, and understanding that the chaotic independence of another human combined with what you’ve instilled in them through example at a young age is the true product and greatness of being a father. Parenting has been on my mind a lot at the start of 2018 as my wife and I have begun to talk about starting a family, sorry if it keeps coming up.

If anyone is interested in listening to the Ken Burns interview, I would HIGHLY recommend it here


I recommend this lecture by a very good friend of mine, made at IRCAM (Centre Pompidou) in Paris if you’re into modular synthesis and want to discover a little insight into the human brain process (or vice versa!). A pretty simple yet very exciting lecture that I personally found very inspiring from an artist point of view. Highly recommended.



I’m wondering if making patches for modular synths is akin to the same mental process as programming?


i started this thread a few months ago that is pretty similar:


merged @nuun’s new topic with this existent one – thanks for the heads up @kimchiboy!