"Vulneraries" - 12-string guitar and modular synth

My dad and I have just released the first in a series of albums to benefit National Nurses United (the largest nurses’ union in the US, which fights for better working conditions for nurses themselves, and for universal healthcare, i.e. less precarious living conditions for the rest of us). Since my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer late last year, I’ve spent a bunch of time visiting my parents in upstate(ish) New York, and among other things, this has given my dad and me the chance to work with a setup that I’d sort of half-imagined for a long time, but never really got around to trying out.

Years ago I fitted his twelve-string acoustic guitar with transducers (a mixture of sizes from HiWave and Dayton Audio, for those following the transducer thread) and an electric guitar pickup, so that the signal from the pickup can be amplified and fed back into the body of the guitar, resulting in something that sounds a bit like “regular” electric guitar feedback, but quiet enough to blend in with the unamplified acoustic sound of the guitar. Since I first did that sometime around 2011, we’ve gone through quite a few combinations of guitars, transducers, pickups, and amps, and he’s learned to work well with that simple setup, including which strings & notes naturally tend to jump out more than others, and how to tame the feedback just by dampening the vibrations in various part of the guitar’s body. For these recordings, though, my Eurorack synth is in the feedback loop, which has been a new and VERY productive (one might even say exciting if one weren’t carefully avoiding terrible puns) setup for both of us.

The patches used in these tracks are all different, but at the most basic level, the guitar signal is being fed through Polaris in bandpass mode, and either:

  1. Pressure Points is sequencing the cutoff and amplitude, and is clocked only when the guitar signal is louder than a certain threshold, so that the resonant frequencies are changed as soon as any feedback gets too loud; or
  2. Maths or Tides is sweeping the filter, with the sweep rate modulated by the envelope of the guitar signal, so that the sweep is slowest when the guitar is loudest, and non-resonant frequencies will be more or less skipped over while resonant ones will be dwelled on for a while.

In both cases, the goal is of course to keep the feedback in that ever elusive Interesting range, just between Too Stable and Too Unstable.

Please listen & enjoy! All proceeds from downloads or the CDs go to NNU. Happy to discuss the process/approach/setup more if there’s interest.

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This is beautiful! The feedback swells form a really excellent counterpart to the guitar, especially on a hot day. Cheers!

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Reminds me of some really disparate guitarists I’ve found influential… Nick Drake, Derek Bailey, Lee Ranaldo…

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This is very exciting and inspiring!

I’d love to see some photos to better understand how it is constructed.

A beautiful project and a very worthy cause.

Edit: my wife has had ovarian cancer, and, I just don’t have the words. I’m sending thoughts of hope and health and light and love. This music already says it better than I ever could.

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I’m hearing a lot of woodwinds in the first track somehow. Are there any of those or is it just my brain being “tricked” really well?

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I love the sound and the cause. The transducer feedback has a wonderful woody feel. Fantastic!

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The music is gorgeous and hearing the circumstances of its creation is deeply moving.

Sending supportive vibes to you all…

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Thank you all! :sparkles: :leaves:

@Fedor, those are real clarinets – we cheated (I didn’t meant to mislead anyone, but that would be some pretty impressive physical modeling synthesis…) That’s the only track on this volume with other instruments, though. There are a few other moments on the third track, that kept reminding me of reed organs or flutes while I was mixing it, but everything else is guitar- or synth-generated.

@jasonw22, I feel for you and your family. These things happen so quickly and change so much. I run out of words too when I try to talk about it — probably why my words are mostly about the gear & process. I tend to retreat into fantasy technical sound land, something I’m very wary of, and this project is partly an effort to turn that around into something more positive (“useful”?) and relevant.

We haven’t really taken any photos of the setup yet, and the guitar itself doesn’t look like much because the transducers are mounted inside it; it just looks like an acoustic guitar with a pickup and two endpin jacks where there’d normally be one (out from the pickup, and in to the transducers). There’s this video, though:

(I’m the one ruining my back, lol – I’ve worked out a more ergonomic setup for the living room since then…)

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Wow. This is some of the most inspiring stuff I’ve seen all year.

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I understand the wariness as well as the effort to turn it around. You’re doing it right, I’d say. Living, breathing, and loving. It’s all any of us can do.

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I really enjoyed this on first listen! Cheers. I can confirm it works well in cold weather too. :wink:

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honestly I feel like this is the level of concept, execution, & originality that so many labels are looking for rn. just saying.

this would be so cool to see live

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This is fantastic, inspiring, music.

The background behind this creation is also very moving; my best wishes for you and your family.

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Incredible music that inspiring on so many levels. Thank you!

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Beautiful, I’m really enjoying this!

I’ve had similar ideas about using transducers and resonators as a way of combining electronic and acoustic instruments, and as a way of being able to play stringed instruments along with modular - I have a guitarist/fretted instrument background, and while I’m currently exploring modular as my main instrument I eventually want to become more electro-acoustic. Feeling inspired by your album.

This is a very personal album, thank you for sharing these sounds with us.

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Here’s a little clip I took while setting up for a new piece over the weekend – you can see the little mini amp I’ve been using as a power amp under the table. Been wondering lately about how one of @pulplogic’s driver tiles would work for this. Is the DRVAC discontinued?

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One of the first records we played for our son born last week! A beautiful piece of work! Thanks for sharing!

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Oh wow, this is so good!

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Excellent work! It reminds me of the alternate universe where my feedback sounds good.

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I order a CD almost immediately when I first saw this thread and decided not to listen to it until I could on my stereo. Happy I waited. The music is very evocative, especially at higher volume. Thank you and your family for sharing so much.

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