Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

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Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by antonriehl » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:26 pm

So, in a relatively recent video, Suzanne Ciani says that one of the issues she has with Eurorack is that there isn't enough feedback from the system to be useful for live performance. Is there anyone who has experience with this, and can maybe elaborate on what she means? And, is there any way to fix this? Is this an inherent issue with this format (maybe because it's cheaper/smaller?), or is this something that can be fixed with more modules?


Video should be cued to the correct spot around 21:20…

If I missed any other conversations on this, please point me in the right direction!

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by ObsoleteModular » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:35 pm

Interesting. I suppose she'd at least be referring to any modules that demand a lot of menu diving but that's hardly all of Euroack. I see her point about the audience being able to understand what she's doing but plenty of traditional analog modules are hardly transparent.

She has a point in so far as push start and walk away isn't much of a performance but that's true of any platform and not necessarily typical of Eurorack.
Last edited by ObsoleteModular on Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by mulder » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:47 pm

Maybe in addition to menus she means normalized functions in semi-modulars? with a lot of modules being based on 4u systems of the past, I don't know exactly what she means. maybe she doesn't like mutable instruments.

" .. the kids all having eurorack .. "

Do they? $4000 for an outfitted starter rack seems about right which is a lot for a kid to have

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by mritenburg » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:50 pm

antonriehl wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:26 pm
Is there anyone who has experience with this, and can maybe elaborate on what she means?
I’m not taking a position on whether or not she is right or wrong, but rather what her comments likely mean.

Don Buchla was primarily an interface and usability designer. His “day job” included designing interfaces for NASA. When he designed Buchla modules he designed the panels first. He used color coding of jacks, color coding of cables, coloring coding of knobs (in 200e), panel graphics, LEDs, and displays all to provide immediate feedback on what is happening with a patch. As Suzanne is a long-time Buchla user, she is used to the Buchla eco-system and, in her opinion, finds great utility is the visual feedback provided by a Buchla modular, and conversely has not found the same utility in eurorack.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by Moerder » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:51 pm

hmm..kind of a strange statement to make (people wanting to know what's going on) while she has 3 tablets in front of her plus a bunch of modular. not performing live myself but there are plenty of people out there who do, and do so successfully, and not just the press play type of live either. more and more eurorack modules are geared towards performance as well. she dreamt of analog coming back and performances being put on, but then negates that exactly that is happening right now because it's not happening on buchla? I do enjoy some of her music now and then, she's a legend etc. etc., but these statements make me want to socially distance myself further :P in terms of the 'missing feedback', again I can only shake my head when modules are getting more complex, perhaps include more visual output (for the performer), and it's not like people are coming up to her during a show to press a button. to me that would be interactive. just sitting there listening to the grand dame noodling away might be a pleasant experience, but not necessarily interactive. pretty sure there's a video courtesy of mylarmelodies where he handed out little flash card type things beforehand and people actually came up during the show to hand them in. they'd say something like 'wiggle lfo' or 'ratchet blips' (making these up) and he'd incorporate it into his performance. THAT is interaction, all euro..

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by zengomi » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:56 pm

I've chatted with her. Such a lovely person.

Took away something memorable from her comments to the assembled: 'Optimise your options'.

Professionally, she's thrown her lot in with a particular format, and she hypes it relentlessly. She loves her tools. She should, just as we all should relish the ones we chose.

Artistically, she doesn't lure me to go Buchla.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by antonriehl » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:57 pm

mritenburg wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:50 pm
I’m not taking a position on whether or not she is right or wrong, but rather what her comments likely mean.

Don Buchla was primarily an interface and usability designer. His “day job” included designing interfaces for NASA. When he designed Buchla modules he designed the panels first. He used color coding of jacks, color coding of cables, coloring coding of knobs (in 200e), panel graphics, LEDs, and displays all to provide immediate feedback on what is happening with a patch. As Suzanne is a long-time Buchla user, she is used to the Buchla eco-system and, in her opinion, finds great utility is the visual feedback provided by a Buchla modular, and conversely has not found the same utility in eurorack.
This is a good point! Thanks for that. I wonder if this is due to size, and having so many options and design aesthetics (each company has a different philosophy). But, it still makes me wonder if there are ways to address some of this with more performance oriented modules? I know some people color code their cabling, but I don't always find that useful myself...
mulder wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:47 pm
Do they? $4000 for an outfitted starter rack seems about right which is a lot for a kid to have
There are certainly a lot more people on this forum with Eurorack than with full Buchla systems... ;)
ObsoleteModular wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:35 pm
I suppose she'd at least be referring to any modules that demand a lot of menu diving but that's hardly all of Euroack. I see her point about the audience being able to understand what she's doing but plenty of traditional analog modules are hardly transparent.

She has a point in so far as push start and walk away isn't much of a performance but that's true of any platform and not necessarily typical of Eurorack.
I definitely could see issues with menu diving, but you can see her doing some menu diving on her preset manager on the Buchla as well, so I'm not totally convinced it's that alone.
I do envy those large step sequencers though/MARF etc. Sometimes not having vertical space for that feels limiting. But, I don't personally feel like I ever start something and then walk away. It's constant tweaking. Does anyone know if she has talked about this in other places?

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by Richard deHove » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:57 pm

The audience not being able to see what's going on with electronic performances has *always* been the issue. It was the issue in the 80s and led to things like the guitar-synth hybrids and the 101 with strap and handle. But there's no way to make knob-twiddling as physically dynamic as drumming, or as exciting as the sweeping flamboyant moves and mobility available to guitarists. Lately you have some performers using the "hot knobs" technique but I think that just looks comical. Here's one famous attempt to be interesting - but even then (as someone recently highlighted) he's playing chords on a mono synth:


Some electronic performers get over this by directly involving the audience. Kraftwerk for decades has given little electronic devices into the audience to play. I saw them do this last century during their Computerworld tour. I think T. Raumschmiere also has some gizmos like this although he overcomes things just being being an incredibly active frontman. Starting at 23m is funny - he has his gizmo but also interacts with his laptop and mouse :)


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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by antonriehl » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:59 pm

Moerder wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:51 pm
she dreamt of analog coming back and performances being put on, but then negates that exactly that is happening right now because it's not happening on buchla?
To be fair, I cut to the video right after she said that having people playing all of these instruments is a dream... so I think she's happy with the progress. I'm trying to take this as constructive criticism, and see what we can do to learn from her, since she's at this for a while now...

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by daphnid » Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:02 pm

I don't hear her clearly calling out eurorack, she says the explosion of eurorack has been a dream for her and then a few sentences later says "a lot of the machines" don't have feedback etc. These seem like independent clauses to me and she goes on to say, loosely quoted: that you can just hit play and play back a recording, like she's referring to an Octratrack or something and says modular, not 4u or 5u, allows for things traditional keyboards etc. don't.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by antonriehl » Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:04 pm

daphnid wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:02 pm
I don't hear her clearly calling out eurorack, she says the explosion of eurorack has been a dream for her and then a few sentences later says "a lot of the machines" don't have feedback etc. These seem like independent clauses to me and she goes on to say, loosely quoted: that you can just hit play and play back a recording, like she's referring to an Octratrack or something and says modular, not 4u or 5u, allows for things traditional keyboards etc. don't.
Oh! Interesting. There is a cut in the video right at that sentence... Maybe it was edited this way on purpose... Good catch!

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by mritenburg » Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:12 pm

antonriehl wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:57 pm
But, it still makes me wonder if there are ways to address some of this with more performance oriented modules? I know some people color code their cabling, but I don't always find that useful myself...
My personal opinion is that the best feedback for what is going on in a patch is what is coming out of your speakers. I think anyone who has been using modular for a while develops an intuitive sense of their particular collection of modules and only need their ears to tell them what is going on in a patch.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by umma gumma » Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:18 pm

yes the OP is out of context, she is not criticizing eurorack at all...

nice clickbait thread title, though?

she goes on to talk about "a lot of the machines" and audience having no feedback about what is going on

I got the impression she was talking about modern live shows in general, where people are playing/mixing pre-recorded tracks

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by DSC » Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:30 pm

4:25
Quadraphonic is the natural domain.
...movement is an essential part.

5:00
The use of randomness...

5:48
...Generates the space as you generate the music...

I like some of her points. I respect the fact that she really understands her 'instrument'. I recently posted on my blog a similar point of view where I basically asked 'when does your eurorack feel like an instrument?'
http://millionmachinemarch.com/2019/05/ ... nstrument/

Funny for me, I too understand 'quadraphonic' better. SO much so where I am working on a quadraphonic setup to show off the Quad Octiginta II that I built into this portable system. Having the ability to move the sound between four speakers around a room, auditions the space, as well as the sound and can be intense. If you can control the 'spatial dynamic' you will get people's attention. Not 'surround' sound as interpreted by Dolby. YOUR sound pushed around the entire room space!!!

Image

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by soggybag » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:38 pm

She’s right, especially from the perspective of someone who spent decades using an integrated system designed by single person with a strong sense of how things should work. She’s using the Apple of synths.

The rest of us like modules from different makers, and combine them together, and each of those makers produces something in their own vision of what using a modular should be. Eurorack is like using PC.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by authorless » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:44 pm

As has already been mentioned, I don't think she was talking about eurorack specifically. And Don Buchla designed his modules panel-first with live performance in mind.

To me, as someone who predominately plays live through improvisation, I do not want any modules that get in my way while performing. Different modes, cryptic button presses, wacky panel graphics, wacky names for fairly standard inputs and outputs, illegibility in low light, menus are things that can get in my way. I am sure I can think of others too.

In eurorack I would say it has nothing to do with the size of the modules. I does have a bit to do with the novelty of the format and the constant chasing of the "latest greatest" module. More modules, for my paradigm, will not fix it, better designed interfaces will.
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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by trickness » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:58 pm

I have tremendous respect for her and what a trailblazer she was and everything that she’s done in her career and for synthesis in general. That said, I’ve seen her live, I’ve listened to her recent recording with Kaitlyn Aurilia Smith, And watched a ton of performance videos shot over the past few years on YouTube. And with all due respect to her, they all kind of sound the same. The material is completely interchangeable and kind of characterless. She’s certainly entitled at this point to do anything she likes And doesn’t owe anybody anything, but one wonders if she changed up her tools a bit whether her music would be a little bit less benign. I think the stuff that Cortini for example is doing on the Buchla and the other gear he uses is infinitely more interesting and varied, even if it all still sounds like him.

I guess I’m saying that if she’s looking for a lot of feedback from her gear, It’s not tremendously evident in the final performance. Maybe it’s not intended to be. But I don’t think that’s an inherent failing of the eurorack format.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by antonriehl » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:23 pm

umma gumma wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:18 pm
yes the OP is out of context, she is not criticizing eurorack at all...

nice clickbait thread title, though?

she goes on to talk about "a lot of the machines" and audience having no feedback about what is going on

I got the impression she was talking about modern live shows in general, where people are playing/mixing pre-recorded tracks
I acquiesce that the title is a little clickbaity (but hopefully comically so...), but every time I watch that clip, I feel like she wants to show the "young kids" who are playing Eurorack how people used to play modular instruments. "The kids have analog systems, and I want to show them how we played back then". I'd like to be able to play the instruments in ways she does. I feel like she's giving us a little piece of advice there. I do think the editing is a little ambiguous, and that she could be talking about several different things, so apologies if it feels like I intentionally took that out of context. I'm definitely looking for advice on how to be better at this...
DSC wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 6:30 pm
I like some of her points. I respect the fact that she really understands her 'instrument'. I recently posted on my blog a similar point of view where I basically asked 'when does your eurorack feel like an instrument?'
http://millionmachinemarch.com/2019/05/ ... nstrument/

Funny for me, I too understand 'quadraphonic' better. SO much so where I am working on a quadraphonic setup to show off the Quad Octiginta II that I built into this portable system. Having the ability to move the sound between four speakers around a room, auditions the space, as well as the sound and can be intense. If you can control the 'spatial dynamic' you will get people's attention. Not 'surround' sound as interpreted by Dolby. YOUR sound pushed around the entire room space!!!
Thanks for this blog post! I haven't quite gotten to the DIY realm yet, (at least nothing like this...).
I am very intrigued by quad though, and have been for the better part of 20 years. I remember when I heard the original version of Dark Side of the Moon in quad (not the bad 5.1 version), and spent a lot of time playing around in that space for a while. I've seen a few good options on how to get to quad in Eurorack, but it's not totally clear to me that it's a "simple" process.
authorless wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:44 pm
More modules, for my paradigm, will not fix it, better designed interfaces will.
I think this is what I wanted to know about. Not necessarily "more" modules, but what makes for a good interface. I've never taken my gear for performance specifically, and feel like there is a weird performance anxiety I feel even when preparing to record something in my studio.
trickness wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:58 pm
I think the stuff that Cortini for example is doing on the Buchla and the other gear he uses is infinitely more interesting and varied, even if it all still sounds like him.
I could see this. I've had the pleasure of working with raw tracks from Cortini on some projects and think what he does is amazing. I also like how open he is about his process!
Personal taste aside, I do find it interesting what the legends in this area have done.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by starthief » Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:04 pm

zengomi wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:56 pm
Professionally, she's thrown her lot in with a particular format, and she hypes it relentlessly. She loves her tools. She should, just as we all should relish the ones we chose.

Artistically, she doesn't lure me to go Buchla.
Exactly this.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by DSC » Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:16 pm

antonriehl wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:23 pm
I've never taken my gear for performance specifically, and feel like there is a weird performance anxiety I feel even when preparing to record something in my studio.
The anxiety will 'go away' with enough practice, time and lots of fine tuning :tu:
You will actually enjoy all the happy accidents, as opposed to worry about them.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by authorless » Tue Apr 28, 2020 10:17 pm

antonriehl wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:23 pm
authorless wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:44 pm
More modules, for my paradigm, will not fix it, better designed interfaces will.
I think this is what I wanted to know about. Not necessarily "more" modules, but what makes for a good interface. I've never taken my gear for performance specifically, and feel like there is a weird performance anxiety I feel even when preparing to record something in my studio.
Not having to think about it, not having to pause and double check. It should be logical and intuitive, knobs should be reasonably near their associated jacks. It should be easily readable. Things like that.
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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by Hirsbro » Wed Apr 29, 2020 1:43 am

soggybag wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:38 pm
She’s right, especially from the perspective of someone who spent decades using an integrated system designed by single person with a strong sense of how things should work. She’s using the Apple of synths.

The rest of us like modules from different makers, and combine them together, and each of those makers produces something in their own vision of what using a modular should be. Eurorack is like using PC.
Could not agree more :tu:

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by cafe-de-la-jungle » Wed Apr 29, 2020 2:11 am

For what is worth, I think that Eurorack is fantastic with its variety of modules, rebirth of some old designs and some totally new inspiring stuff.
As per interface, it also matters what resonate with you. Some people want immediacy and clear layouts, but some people like to dive into modules, or even write some code. That is great with the euro! Won`t find it anywhere else. IMHO it does not matter if Suzanne like it or not, it matters if you do :)
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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by advrsry » Wed Apr 29, 2020 5:00 am

Ridiculous title really.

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Re: Why Suzanne Ciani hates Eurorack? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my performance modules)

Post by Fog Door » Wed Apr 29, 2020 5:46 am

Ridiculous title really.
Yes, it is. I think everybody who knows about her can understand why SC would not choose to use Eurorack but to suggest she hates it is groundless. OP would make a terrific journalist ;)

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