Modular synthesizers, experimental music

If you are not a newcomer to the world of modular synthesizers, you may have noticed the rapid expansion of new makers and modules the last few years. In the pioneering years modulars were obscure, little known instruments, and the musicians who used these instruments were, to a large extent, interested in musical experimentation.

What is experimental music, anyway? Nyman's book from the early 70's is perhaps still the best attempt to answer that question. When the music making involves any kind of experimentation, it may mean simply that the creator is trying something that is new to him or her, no matter how entrenched a path the exploration follows. That also explains why a lot of music labeled as experimental does not necessarily sound radically new, or totally unfamiliar, to an experienced listener.

Today there is a lot of variety in the music made with modulars. If there is a general trend it may be that the modular is often used as a solo instrument, as a one-man orchestra, instead of as a part of a group. It doesn't have to be that way, and there are exceptions. Another apparent trend is that the modular is typically recorded in one session, and the recording is used as is or with minor editing. Again, there are exceptions, but the modular clearly invites to a direct and spontaneous form of music making.

For some listening, representative of the variety of music made with modulars, check out the radio:

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