The Phonogene is a digital re-visioning and elaboration of the tape recorder as musical instrument (Firmware Engineered by Flemming Christensen, Gotharman). It takes it’s name from a little known, one of a kind instrument used by composer Pierre Schaeffer. While it is not an emulation, it does share the primitive, tactile nature of it’s namesake, and expands upon the original concepts. It is informed by the worlds of Musique Concrète (where speed and direction variation were combined with creative tape splicing to pioneer new sounds) and Microsound (where computers allow for sound to be divided into pieces smaller then 1/10 of a second, and manipulated like sub-atomic particles). Having voltage control over every parameter, it is most successful as a digital audio buffer for the modular synthesist.
The Phonogene is comprised of a pair of tool-sets which work well together. Tape Music Tools allow for sounds to be recorded on the fly, layered using the internal Sound On Sound function, manually cut into pieces using the SPLICE function, and re-organized with the ORGANIZE control. Once it is Spliced up, it is possible to create nearly infinite variations of the original loop by modulating the ORGANIZE parameter, and VARI-SPEED allows for the speed and direction of playback to be controlled continuously with one control signal. GENE-SIZE, GENE-SHIFT and SLIDE make up the Microsound Tools. GENE-SIZE divides the audio buffer into progressively smaller pieces called Genes (aka particles, grains, granules). A clock signal applied to GENE-SHIFT will step through those pieces in chronological order, while a control signal (such as the Wogglebug Smooth CV) applied to SLIDE, moves through those pieces in a nonlinear fashion. Using SLIDE, random access of the audio buffer is possible. Obviously, functions such as VARI-SPEED and ORGANIZE are useful for Microsound as well, which is why these functions were grouped into one module. The end result is a sampler/ looper/ audio buffer that is able to exist within a modular synthesizer system, and offer a vast amount of real-time sound manipulation in a fast and tactile way.
There is often the expectation that “bad sounds” such as clicks, pops, distortions, wrong notes, phase in-accuracies and otherwise, should be impossible with modern musical instruments. Many designers are making instruments which are fool-proof, and which guarantee some specific musical result, thus making it easy to create the same music, over and over again. The Phonogene does NOT use this approach. In fact, we have made it very possible to make the “bad sounds” and “mistakes” that have led to some of the greatest moments in musical history (and of course, some of the worst!). With the Phonogene, it is possible to Splice sounds in such a way that you will hear sharp contrasts, clicks and pops. This is the physics of sound! It is possible to slow down a recording to point of complete decimation, so that all that remains is trail of digital artifacts. Such are the limitations of digital sound (at the moment). It is possible to render the source material completely unintelligible, to cut busted loops, to distort digitally, to obscure, to regenerate to the point of almost no signal integrity. This is the nature of the Phonogene. If you seek the perfect looping tool, in the most contemporary sense of the word, then please look elsewhere. If you desire to explore the realm of modular, digital sample manipulation and microsound, welcome!
This module is 20HP and consumes 70mA worth of current.