MNKINO Film Fest: Familiar Pavement with Aaron Marx


On August 13 I had the pleasure of performing an original film score to picture at the Landmark Center in St. Paul for MNKINO Film Fest 2015. The event featured more than twenty short films with original scores. Most of the scores were performed to the films by a talented orchestra assembled for the event. I wrote and performed the music for the film Familiar Pavement by Aaron Marx.

Performing my four minutes of electronic to the film in real time was quite challenging. I did not use any time lock, relying on the original BPM and finding a good starting point to get the timing right. What made the timing critical (and a little tricky) was that I had processed the original film audio with filters and reverb so that it sat well within the arrangement. However, once I found a good marker in the film and practiced it several times I was well prepared.

The original score used the DSI Tempest for all the drums and the Elektron Analog Four for bass, pads, and an arpeggio. The melody line was sequenced on the Analog Four control voltage track and played on a Korg Monotribe (if you didn’t know that was possible read this). At the event I added the Moog Sub 37 to the setup so I could harmonize and embellish the melody lines.

The Taming of the CPU Part 2 at Honey


On Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 10pm (in other words, tomorrow) Taming of the CPU is happening at Honey in Minneapolis. I’ll be performing a set of new material using the DSI Tempest, Elektron Analog Four, and Moog Sub 37. This set was only played once before last January. Live coding artist, Mike Hodnick (Kindohm), and Ableton guru, Lucas Melchior (MKR) are also on the bill. All three of us are recipients of the Minnesota Emerging Composers Award (MECA) for electronic music.


Chris LeBlanc will be performing live visuals at the show in response to the musical performances. This time he will be driving projections and a CRT video wall with an LZX modular video synthesizer hooked up to receive audio, MIDI notes, and/or gate clock in order to respond to the rhythms and amplitude of our sets.

Please visit the Facebook Event Page for additional details.

Moog Sub 37 1.10 Firmware Demo Part 2

Now that I have had some more time to experiment with the new Moog Sub 37 1.10 firmware I made a new video that is more in-depth than the last one. In this video demo I show seven new features within the sequencer and arpeggiator sections of the instrument. Although I did edit the video for length, each feature was demonstrated without having to stop the sequence at any point.

First I review how to turn steps on and off while in step edit mode. This is simply done by pressing the step buttons (patch button 1 through 16) while in step edit mode (bank + latch).

Secondly I show how to set the start and end positions of the sequence while it continues to run. This is really great for repeating any number of consecutive steps in the sequence.

Thirdly I show how to create or disable ties between two or more notes on the fly. This is much faster and accurate than the original way of apply ties while the sequencer continues to run.

Fourth I demonstrate how to turn on/off step ratcheting and how to modify the number of ratchets. Ratcheting is an interesting new feature that repeats a step from 1 to 8 times.

For the fifth feature I adjust the swing amount. Having swing as a feature for the sequencer is fantastic, but it can also be applied to the arpeggiator and the LFOs when they are synched to the clock! I haven’t tried this yet, but I love the idea of manipulating the LFO waveshapes this way.

The sixth feature is modulation sequencing that I applied to the filter envelope amount. The mod sequencing can be applied to a huge list of parameters. Unfortunately is it one destination per patch/sequence, but never-the-less a welcome and useful addition.

Finally for the seventh feature I demonstrate how to shift the sequence back or ahead of the first step using bank + arp range (+ or -).

There’s a lot more still in this release that I have yet to explore. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Moog Music and especially Amos Gaynes for making an already great synth greater!

Moog Sub 37 1.10 Firmware Demo

Yesterday I got a note from Moog that the long anticipated 1.10 firmware for the Moog Sub 37, announced in January at NAMM, was now available. Today I scheduled time in my studio to install it and test out some of the new features. This release is significant because the bulk of the updates are new features! In this video I demonstrate step edit mode and quick mapping of modulation destinations.

Each of the sixteen preset buttons can now be used to turn on and off steps while playing a sequence. One problem I found is that you can only turn on or off one step at a time. I imagine this is something that they’ll fix because we do have ten fingers after all. [UPDATE: Pressing two steps at a time is for turning on/off ties.] Other than that it works beautifully! If your sequence is longer than 16 steps the buttons jump to the second, third, and fourth pages automatically as the sequence is playing.

The quick mapping of modulation destinations is a treat. Simply hold down the MOD 1 or MOD 2 DEST button while turning a parameter. I do this in the video at 0:47 applying MOD 1 to OSC 2 frequency. You can also press a button. For example to modulate the filter slope setting press SLOPE while holding one of the MOD buttons. This works for the octave switch knob, pattern switch, pattern range buttons, and so on. Here’s a list of all the new features:

  • Step Edit Mode – Allows visual display and editing of individual sequence steps on preset buttons 1-16, with easy real-time control over rests, ties, and more.
  • Quick Mapping of Programmable Mod Destinations – Simply hold the Mod (1/2) Dest button and turn a parameter knob to assign modulation to that parameter.
  • Skip and Ratchet Steps – Sequences can now include Skipped steps (which can be toggled On and Off on-the-fly) and Ratchet steps (1 to 8 repeats per step).
  • Arpeggiator and Sequencer Swing Control – Adjust the ratio of on-beat vs. off-beat duration from 0% to 100%. Swing can also apply to Synced LFOs.
  • Sequencer Mod Destination – Sequence any one parameter directly, using the per-step Sequence Mod Value (mod wheel position is recorded per-step).
  • Sequencer Mod Only – Use the sequencer purely as a sequenced modulation-generator, without playing a sequence of notes (the keyboard plays normally).
  • CV Mapping – Use the external Pitch CV, Volume CV, and KB Gate inputs to control almost any parameter on the Sub 37. Step Advance and Step1 Reset functions allow you to clock the Sub 37 sequencer using analog gate/trigger signals, and the Gate input can now function as a Sustain pedal input.
  • Variance – Use this parameter to specify a subtle amount of random detuning to the oscillators. (For when perfect tuning is too perfect)

Richard Devine Presentation and Performances

Left to right John Keston, Jon Davis, James Patrick, and Richard Devine (not shown Graham O'Brien) Photo by Dave Eckblad

Last weekend I performed with and attended a workshop from the extraordinary electronic musician and sound designer Richard Devine. His presentation was at Slam Academy (a Minneapolis based school for electronic music and arts where I am also on the faculty roster). Later that same evening Jon Davis, Richard Devine, Graham O’Brien, James Patrick, and I performed a couple of sets at the Dakota Jazz Club (photo by Dave Eckblad). This was quite different from previous performances. Richard brought in eerie ambient textures while I played Rhodes and Moog Sub 37 along with Patrick’s deep house rhythms, O’Briens acoustic drum-n-bass fills, and a solid foundation of bass grooves from Jon Davis. Finally Richard played a solo set at an afterparty back at the Slam Academy.

Richard Devine at the Slam Factory. Photo by John Keston.

It was a pleasure performing with Richard and his presentation beforehand shed light on his detailed knowledge of the history of electronic music. He brought up electronic music pioneers like Morton Subotnick, Tod Dockstader, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He discussed equipment from the legendary ARP 2500 (only one hundred ever made) to the EMS Synthi, and followed it up with modern softsynths of note like the Madrona Labs AALTO. After all that he graciously exposed the contents of his “Current Live Setup” Eurorack in great detail. Thanks to the Slam Academy, the Dakota, James Patrick, Jade Patrick, Richard Devine, Jon Davis, Graham O’Brien, Gregory Taylor, and everyone else involved for a memorable day of learning, playing, and performances.