The Monday after the last newsletter went out, two great things happened:

The first one set off a scramble to compose, patch, and rehearse a new 20 minute piece in less than a week. The second has set off a chain of events including composing one to two new pieces, getting an Alias Zone Bandcamp page up (see One More Thing), and planning to release an album. All of these and more are discussed in this month’s newsletter:


  • featured article: How I went about composing, patching, and performing a new 20 minute piece with eight movements (and a coda) in under one week’s time.
  • new videos & posts: A new pair of module videos plus my most recent performance.
  • course updatesI am working on providing subtitles in other languages, and could use some volunteers to see if they are useful or not.
  • Patreon updatesAnother flurry of posts, including several that dive deeper into the creation of A Vision of the Future.
  • upcoming eventsSoundQuest Fest 2021 will be a must-see online event for synthesists.
  • one more thingThe rebirth of Alias Zone – including details of an old album, and thoughts on a new one coming up.

New Videos & Blog Posts

In addition to the official Freq Boutique 045 webcast (with a good collection of other performances with wide stylistic differences), I uploaded to YouTube a version of A Vision of the Future that included my local camera capture (better quality), and a lightly equalized and compressed version of the stereo mix.

I also released a pair of videos on the Mannequins Three Sisters filters, which has quickly become one of my favorites. I actually recorded these a few months ago, but have been holding onto them in hopes Whimsical Raps would produce another batch before the end of last year; unfortunately we’re still waiting on that – so I went ahead and released the videos now.

Modular Courses Updates

Learning Modular Eurorack Expansion Extended

As I mentioned last month, I am working on creating closed captions in English as well as other languages for a couple of my most popular courses. I’m using the artificial intelligence version of the Happy Scribe service. Each movie takes a couple of hours for me to correct; fortunately they have an excellent online editor to do this in. I’m then using AI-based translation to create versions in German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch. I am told that while they are technically correct, a lot of the words special to synthesis and music are not ideal – so I have a few wonderful volunteers double-checking and correcting those translations. (I could still use a volunteer who speaks German…)

Since composing new music for SoundQuest Fest is my highest priority right now, I’m working on captions only about an hour a day – so it’s going to take longer to add them to the online courses site than I had hoped. My apologies to those who may have been looking forward to them; I think it will be worth it in the end.

Patreon Updates

It’s been another busy month over on the Learning Modular Patreon channel. The following new posts are available to all of my Patrons:

+5v and above supporters also received access to:

February will see another beginner-focused deep dive, as well as notes while I am composing pieces for SoundQuest Fest and possibly Modular World (more on that in the next section). Plus whatever crossed my mind and that I have time to write about (for example, I have been doing some timing latency testing with my modular…).

In general, if you want the inside scoop on everything I do related to modular music, please consider subscribing to my Patreon channel as well (with many thanks to those who already have).

Upcoming Events

Electronic music legend Steve Roach plus Serena Gabriel are creating a new, three-day, online version of the original SoundQuest Fest Steve staged in Tucson back in 2010. The lineup is simply amazing, with Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Michael Sterns, Erik Wøllo, Ian Boddy, and others – including yours truly. There will be studio tours, interviews, and other video vignettes along with the performances, scheduled from March 26 through 28.

I will be “playing” a 25-30 minute set on Saturday, March 27. I said “playing” because we’re actually recording all of our performances ahead of time (to make sure there are no streaming problems), so this will my focus during February. I am currently composing two pieces, and will see how they turn out both content- and time-wise before deciding which one(s) will be in SoundQuest Fest. If one of them ends up being 25-30 minutes by itself, I’ll find a home for the other one at Modular World or some other online show in the future.

In a pleasant change from most online concerts in the Covid era (and modular performances in general), SoundQuest is actually paying the artists for performing. After talking to Steve, I’ve decided to forgo my own payment, and instead Learning Modular is one of the co-sponsors of the event so that the other artists can see more income for their efforts.

More details to come! But in the meantime, mark March 26-28 on your calendar.

One More Thing…

After receiving some very nice feedback on the pieces I had been composing over the last few months, I have decided to publicly bring back the Alias Zone performance name I used over 20 years ago – and to release a new album during March, after a break of over 20 years.

To prepare for this, I have created an Alias Zone Bandcamp page, and uploaded the first Alias Zone album – Lucid Dreams – for free/name your price. This album came from a series of improvised live performances I took part in with Richard Bugg’s long-running Cosmic Debris collective. With Richard’s blessing, I culled my personal favorites from the multitrack recordings he made of each performance, edited and overdubbed them, and released them under an “alias.” The album debuted at the top of the relevant college radio charts, and won the AFIM award as best independent electronic/new age album in 2002.

I served as the drummer/percussionist in the ensemble (plus added hand percussion, ambiences, and voices), processing loops played from a Sequential Studio 440 – which I designed in the mid-late 1980s – through the likes of a Korg MS-20, Sherman Filterbank, MAM Warp 9, Roland SVC-350 vocoder, and a collection of delays and reverbs. Richard played processed flute as well as Oberheim Xpander and E-mu Emulator II; the ensemble also featured a rotating cast of Lachlan Westfall on bass, Keith Snyder on keyboards, Richard Zvonar (RIP) on processing and guitar, and spoken word artists Blake Arnold and Timothy Trujillo.

As I try to establish the Alias Zone name as my performing persona, it would be ideal to release an album of my new modular-based material before SoundQuest Fest – so that’s another project I’m working right now. Two of the pieces for it will be based on my live performances of Ash Tree Window and The Dream Catcher. I was also considering including A Vision of the Future, but had a nagging feeling that it didn’t belong with the other two, despite the positive reaction it’s received.

I had a nice long talk with Howard Givens of Spotted Peccary Music, and he helped me focus on the overall feeling and intention of my pieces: Ash Tree Window and The Dream Catcher are more like my visual art, where I try to create an environment, and let the viewer/listener settle into it as they figure out this alternate world. On the other hand, my more spoken-word-dominant pieces like A Vision of the Future (as well as Fear Itself and other earlier modular + words pieces) are more explicit in delivering their message.

Howard also prefers albums to have a cohesive mood or theme, as opposed to being a sampler of different styles an artist can create – and when it comes to listening to electronic music albums, I personally agree. So the current plan is to use one or both of the new pieces I’m composing to flesh out the next album, and maybe do a separate spoken-word-dominant album (working title: A Thousand Words) sometime in the future.

There is a saying that “those who cannot do, teach” – and although I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching modular synthesis over the past several years, there’s been a nagging worry in the back of my head that maybe I could not “do” modular music that was up to my personal standards. So it’s been an interesting journey to see if I can could both “do” and teach – one that’s ongoing.

Be it teaching or doing, I’ll continue to share what I learn along the way. Thank you again for your support.

best regards –