Feb 05 2022

New Collaborative Acoustic Ambient Album: Raw Materials

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After completing Songs of Intuition and Ignorance in July of 2021, I wanted to do something completely different. Songs was primarily a solitary process, with the exception of significant contributions by Kenny Blacklock on Particle Accelerator. I was working alone, stuck with my own habits and inclinations, necessitated by the global pandemic that raged on. I’ve always been interested in abstraction, and I pushed myself to write lyrics that were both abstract and evocative.

For my next project, I wanted to do something more expansive, less inward-looking. I wanted to create a kind of wordless sonic beauty I’d find comforting. To that end, I decided to collaborate more significantly. I knew many artists who were wood-shedding and recording at home. I began to compile a list of my ‘dream team,’ artists who are both adventurous and excellent. The plan was to request an unprocessed improvisation of an acoustic instrument in the key of Fm. These recordings would then become the raw materials for an ambient composition.

The previously-mentioned Kenny Blacklock was first because we’d worked together on a number of projects, and he’s almost always up for anything. He’s a part of the Northern California music scene, primarily known as a fiddler, but he’s a composer, producer, educator, and experimenter. He delivered several tracks of violin and, listening to them, I was enraptured. (This happened again and again, as more and more tracks came in.)

Next was flute. I’d originally asked my long-time Norwegian friend Ketil Vestrum Einarsen, who’s played or led some of my favorite bands. Sadly, he was unable to participate. Next, Emily Hay, who was an important part of the Los Angeles avant garde scene in the 80s, playing in U-Totem and Motor Totemist Guild. Since then, she’s had a long and storied career as an improviser, vocalist, and good egg. I’d been a stupid fan-boy of hers for years, and she was super gracious when I asked her but, sadly, she was unable to participate either. Finally, I remembered Ellen Burr. She’d worked with several people I know, both as an improviser but, also, with deep roots in classical and modern composed music. Her CV is insane. I reached out, explained what I was doing, and she agreed. The track she delivered was gorgeous, and I listened to it obsessively.

I’d met Jeff Kaiser at a looping festival in Long Beach. I remember watching him at that performance, operating software he’d written himself that made his trumpet bounce around the room doing somersaults and jumping jacks. At that time he was teaching in San Diego but, subsequently, relocated to the University of Central Missouri, where he runs a fantastic music technology program. Dr Kaiser has worked with jazz and avant garde luminaries in the LA music scene, has written scholarly texts, operated a record label, and didn’t laugh at me when I asked him for a track. He delivered an improvisation on flugelhorn. Again, I sat and listened to his recording repeatedly, and I remember the feeling of holding my breath in reverence.

I knew I wanted acoustic guitar, and guitarists are everywhere, but it didn’t take me long to realize that Angelo Metz was my first choice. I’ve seen him perform in countless different contexts, playing acoustic and electric guitar. He’s probably best known for playing Brazilian music, but he’s a classically trained artist who has complete command of his instruments. Plus, he’s an electronic music experimenter. Dr Metz was gracious and submitted a recording that, again, became an endless loop in my headphones.

Several years ago I’d become enamored of Scandinavian progressive rock, and was subsequently afforded the opportunity to interview a number of important artists. Strangely, many of the projects I most loved were, in some way, connected to Mattias Olsson. Olsson is perhaps best known as the drummer of Änglagård, but he he is constantly busy recording and producing a steady flow of great artists, working on his own projects, and playing on countless others. His Roth-händle studio is packed with all sorts of instruments but, in the hope he’d say ‘yes,’ I asked for glockenspiel, which is fairly easy to set up. He came through with a gorgeous track.

I knew I wanted bass, and Tom Peters is a local musician who performs with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, and is on the faculty of the Bob Cole Conservatory. He’s also a wonderful composer, creating scores for silent films. He’s a live looper, too. His achingly beautiful album, Lamentations, absolutely captivated me. When I asked if he’d participate, he was amazingly gracious, and sent me four (4) different tracks. These tracks ended up opening and closing Part 1, and breathed a kind of magical intensity into the work.

I didn’t really know Katie Porter, but she’d been working with some people I know, and I’d been following her career with some interest. She’s a clarinetist, but specializes in bass clarinet, and seems to focus primarily on new music, improvisation, and experimental performance. I’d noticed that she had been in Germany for a concert series, and returned for a festival in the desert, so I just sent her a Facebook message out of the blue, explaining who I was and what I was doing. She had been booked for a recording session, and graciously provided me with a beautiful track, which ended up being really important to the culmination of all three parts.

Gigi ‘Gee’ Rabe is known as “LA’s Accordion Diva,” and that’s fantastic. She’s a graduate of CSULB’s music program, and plays absolutely every musical style. I’ve heard her play Klezmer, folk, rock, jazz, and classical pieces. She’s not, however, an experimental artist. I met her, briefly, way back in the 80s, and have been a fan ever since. Like so many musicians, she’d been cut off from her performance work due to the pandemic. When I asked her to participate, I got the feeling that she didn’t quite ‘get’ what I was doing, but she recorded an improvisation that, upon first listen, sent goosebumps up and down my whole body. The track starts out somewhat playfully but, tentatively, it works its way into a really beautiful and tender place, which I used several times in all three parts. It and Kenny’s violin form a lovely duet.

I met Charles Sharp in the mid 90s, when he and I both worked at the local jazz radio station on campus, KLON (now KKJZ 88.1). Even then his knowledge of music, all music, was shockingly encyclopedic, but he had a special interest in avant garde American music. Now, he co-hosts a KXLU program focused on improvised music, and is on the faculty of CSU Fullerton. Dr Sharp, like Dr Kaiser, is known for extended instrumental techniques. Like Tom, he frequently performed live scores for silent movies, as part of the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble. He graciously agreed to record an improvisation with alto saxophone, which was both beautiful and interesting.

I had the good fortune to meet Daniel Smith in 2016, when he was first launching The Infinite Stage, which presents “innovative and experimental classical music experiences.” Dr Smith is a masterful cellist, deeply rooted in composed music from many periods. With the violin and bass in hand, I knew that I wanted cello to complete the string section. I explained what I was looking for and, using his cel phone, recorded some really lovely passages.

Once I had all the raw materials in hand, I loaded them all into my computer and began chopping them up into chunks. This was partly because some phrases didn’t fit the key, and partly to focus on passages that felt really strong to me. I intentionally did not listen to multiple instruments simultaneously. I had a reference ‘chord’ that played as I made the cuts. Once I had all the segments, some a single note and some quite long, I loaded them all onto my 2017 iPad Pro. I’ve been using this iPad for live performance since 2017, and decided that the tools available to me on that platform would help me to craft interesting and beautiful sonic transformations. I used a series of processes, including time-stretching, granular synthesis, modulation and delay effects to create the pieces that would end up in part one. I wanted to create abstractions that were not identifiable as the instruments used to create the sounds, but still have their sonic DNA. Once I’d processed all the parts, I began to assemble them into Part 1.

As I said, I was really enamored of the raw materials I was given. I wanted to create a piece that would showcase the artistry of the musicians, and the beautiful sounds of their instruments. Using the chopped up bits, I assembled Part 3, adding just a bit of delay and reverb.

For Part 2, I took Part 3, which was just under 2 minutes long, and time-stretched it to just over 20 minutes. I added a bit of delay and reverb but, other than that, it really is the same as Part 3, but much, much, much slower.

I was deeply moved by the generosity of the participating artists, and how graciously they gave of their talent and artistry, not knowing at all what the end result would be. We stepped off the precipice together, virtually, and I am eternally grateful for their courage and kindness.

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Aug 24 2021

Songs of Intuition and Ignorance

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Thanks to some inspiration from a Hop-Frog colleague, Eric Baughn, I began writing and recording songs in January of 2021. It was, at least in part, an extension of the massive Covid music creation process that started back in March of 2020, when I was furloughed. Eric had suggested collaborating on an album of songs, but was drawn to work on other projects, so I just kind of started, and went on from there. The first song, Particle Accelerator, was based on words I’d written more than 20 years ago. I rediscovered them and felt inspired to create a musical setting for them. During that process, Petaluma-based musician Kenny Blacklock heard it and asked for stems, which I gladly sent him. He returned a bunch of tracks, some of which ended up in the final mix. His contributions included acoustic guitar, piano bass, and tape strings.

I tried to give each song a unique musical setting, with it’s own logic and feeling. Structurally, some are fairly traditional, and some are quite experimental. Anyway, they’re all currently collected on BandCamp. Check them out if you wish to.

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Jan 27 2021

The February Challenge [FAWM 2020]

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Thanks to some online music groups, I discovered an annual effort where musicians record 10 to 15 songs during the month of February, with the intention of releasing them as an ‘album.’ After some careful thought in January of 2020, I decided to join in. It was my second time doing it. The first, in 2016, was insane. For some reason, I decided to compose and record 1 new original music track every day. (I didn’t quite make it, and only got to 26.)

For this 2nd time, I kept my ambitions reigned in, and ended up with just 17 new tracks. Some were live performances, created using my iPad Pro. Some were highly composed pieces. Some were experimental and abstract. Many were created on my PC using Cubase and a variety of free and in-built virtual synths and effects.

Below, you will find a player that has all 17 tracks in alphabetical order. Below that, you’ll find individual players for each track. Also, you can download a playlist of all the tracks. It should open in your favorite music player.

You can also view the site where the challenge originated.




Here are the individual tracks, with brief descriptions:

      Blink And Miss It
An exciting, up-beat instrumental piece with acoustic instruments. Produced in Korg Gadget, running on an iPad Pro.


      Duet Tuet
Produced on the iPad Pro, this track an imaginary duet between two fake flutes that twist and interweave in an intricate and beautiful way.
Here’s a tune to dance to, maybe. Created in Korg Gadget on my iPad Pro.
      Graciousness In Shallow Shadows
Mysterious oscillations eminate from beneath the shallow shadows. Holding my breath, the hand of death passes by. Lights from sightless eyes shine in the narrow way, we stay inside the shuddered room, a womb for our fears. Created, I’m pretty sure, in Cubase on my PC, using various free VST synths and effects.
      I Dare You
A RAWQ song, with me singing (badly.) Get out your lighters!

I Dare You
Copyright by Sander Roscoe Wolff
02212020 20:08

A calculation in the mind
begins the count down
The sand is falling, grain by grain,
onto the sticky ground.

Perambulators rumble by
transporting hopes and schemes
They and I begin to cry
and tremble ‘midst our screams.

He who cannot speak, cannot lie.
Look me in the eye.
He who cannot speak, cannot lie.
Silent, you and I.

Laugh, go ahead, I dare you.
Turn to face the light.
Speak, go ahead, I dare you.
You are in the right.

A percolation in the ground
disturbs the ebb and flow
The sky is falling, do or die,
upon the earth, below.

      Imperiled Vectors
This is a tribute, homage, or rip-off of one of my favorite and little-known tracks by King Crimson. It evokes, in a small way, the feeling of the track that inspired it. It was produced on my iPad Pro. The lead ‘guitar’ was created with GeoShred.
      Leap Of Faith
An experiment with a complex set of delays, recorded live, using a variety of samples and synths. Produced on my iPad Pro.
      Plus One
Another experiment, this time with piano, delays, reversed audio, and a mess of other effects. I think this was created in Cubase on my PC, but I’m not entirely sure.
      Psychotic Break
Here’s a dance number for people having mental breakdowns. I’m pretty sure this one was done in Cubase, on the PC.
      Slow Waters
Fake guitars, delays, preverb, and whatnot. A live performance on the iPad Pro, featuring GeoShred.
      Swing From The Hip
An upbeat, but strange, musical exploration with acoustic-ish instruments. Created in Cubase. I quite like this one.
      This Is My Final Answer
Chance encounters with budding flowers, dancing showers us with petals. Metal tines ring, I sing this tired tune. Created on the iPad Pro.
      Thistle Bone Time
This one is pretty wack, but I like it. I think it might have been created in Korg Gadget.
      Time Police
Sometimes I just love to play guitar, and create many layers of parts. I quite like how this turned out.
      Within Hibiscus Crysalis
She holds her breath like a wreath, beneath the blossom’s glory. It glistens, listening to the call of forgotten voices. Choices, now made, begin to fade away. Live performance on the iPad Pro, featuring GeoShred and a whole bunch of delays.
      Within The Between
An electronic journey of sonic impulses. Evocative and strangely beautiful. Created in Cubase on PC with a variety of in-built and free virtual instruments.
      Zebulon Fricassee
My idea of an electronic minuet. I can imagine people in fancy Elizabethan costumes prancing about to this. Created on iPad Pro in Korg Gadget.

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Mar 15 2018

The February Challenge – [FAWM 2018]

Thanks to some online music groups, I discovered an annual effort where musicians record 10 to 15 songs during the month of February, with the intention of releasing them as an ‘album.’ After some careful thought in January, I decided to join in, but with a slightly modified vision. I decided to compose and record 1 new original music track every day. Before I started I knew that I’d work ‘inside the box.’ Everything would be created in Cubase (on my PC) or in Korg Gadget (iPad) using software synthesizers and mostly original sounds.

There was another challenge that is reflected in some of the tracks. It is the ‘A Synth – A Song’ challenge, where all parts in a track are created using just one synth. The idea, of course, is to push the capabilities of the synth AND one’s own programming skills to create something interesting.

Some of these are completely realized recordings, and others are sketches. Overall, I’m fairly happy with what I created. I didn’t end up meeting my challenge. I really only recorded 26 tracks. Also, I’m still working on one that I started in toward the end of the challenge. That will be a full fledged song, played with some ‘real’ instruments, and will have me singing.

Below, you will find a player that has all 26 tracks (and one alternate version) in alphabetical order. Below that, you’ll find individual players for each track. Also, you can download a playlist of all the tracks. It should open in your favorite music player.

You can also view the site where the challenge originated.





      Three To Win
Produced in Cubase using a variety of virtual synths.


Produced in Cubase, this track has an ever shifting time signature, which gives it a floaty sort of feel. All of the synth patches were created by me, using a variety of inbuilt and free VST instruments.
      In Seine Rapids
Here’s a tune to dance to as you skip and stroll along the river Seine. Watch your step, though, as it is in 7/8.
      Walking in Central Park
This is a simple song that evokes a feeling of nostalgia… Created using one Steinberg VST, HAlion, in Cubase.
      A Non-Gender Specific Object Being Consumed by Fire
Another track created in Cubase, using just one synth: the free Eclipsis VST.
Music to make sleeping children dream of ghostly apparitions. This track was created entirely on the iPad, using Korg Gadget.
      Circular Thinking
Produced in Cubase using just one synth, the free VST, Eclipsis.
      A Broken Vessel
Produced entirely in Cubase, using just one synth, the free VST, Matrix 6000.
      Double Jointed
Here’s a dance number for people with two left feet.
      Changmai Escape
Produced entirely on iPad, using just one synth: Korg Gadget’s Changmai.
      Sweeping The Steppes
This is a recording of a live looping performance on the iPad using just one synth, Wolfgang Palm’s amazing Wavemapper inside Michael Tyson’s AudioBus3 and using his LoopyHD for Frippertronics style looping. All sounds were created by me in Wavemapper, using samples that I recorded. No editing or effects were added after the fact.
      The Empty Mirror
This song was produced on the iPad, using Korg Gadget, and inspired the following lyrics:

“The empty mirror reflects a sadness I cannot see. It politely refuses to let me be.
It asks me to look but nothing is there. It’s hidden the last of me.”

      Dust Devils
An imagined landscape of reds and browns, with swirling winds and plucked strings.
      Love Is (For Shari)
This is an allegorical piece, telling the story of how love brought me out of chaos and into peace and joy. It was composed on Valentine’s Day, for my beloved wife, life partner, and friend. It was produced entirely on the iPad using Korg Gadget.
      Above The Kermadec Trench
As one moves lower, into the deep, the last glimmers of light from the surface begin to fade, and darkness becomes blinding.
This is a musical thought experiment using a systems-based composition technique. No effects, other than reverb on the master mix, were used. No dynamics were manipulated. This track was created using Cubase, and one synth, am early virtual analog synths made by Steinberg. Best heard on speakers.
      Baracha Nada
This one is is kinda groovy in a vaguely latin way, when the band has had one too many to drink, perhaps.
      Point Fermin Fog
A spin-off of the systems-based approach of Discadance, with a much more relaxed, languid feel and a bit more variety in the tones.

It inspired a brief poem:

The horn howls like Ginsberg,
cold as the light-knife cuts through
the darkness.
A cloud blanket softens the night,
dampens the forgotten spirits
that haunt Angel’s Gate,
forever waiting for imagined
I ache for that softness,
breathe it in,
but the edge remains.

      Sistema Sac Actun
This is a recording of a live performance, made entirely on the iPad, using Korg Module and Loopy HD running in Audiobus 3.
      The Flemish Cap
The Flemish Cap is an underwater ocean area East of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It is best known because of the collapse of previously abundant sea life due to over-fishing by EU member states in the 1990s.
      Kaddish A Requiem for Humanity
The creation of this track proved to be surprising. A friend was discussing the value of watching the footage of the evacuation and rescue that took place in Florida after the recent shooting. I found myself responding rather passionately and, immediately after, recording tonight’s track. Here’s what I wrote.

When I was 12, my Hebrew School showed all of the students at least three big reels of 16mm Nazi death camp footage. Most of it was filmed by the Nazis before the liberation. It had no sound. It was just silent b/w moving images of horrors that, as a child, I could not previously imagine.

There’s a part of me that feels injured by that experience. There’s another part of me that cherishes it. I think we can too easily look away from the horrors of the world and, in doing so, believe that we are disconnected from them.

As we know, though, safety is an illusion. We know that none of us are immune from the pain and suffering that others feel. We are not separate from each other. Your pain is my pain, and we need to see the truth so we can understand the problem and work together toward a new paradigm.

Gun control is one small part of the problem. We’ve allowed ourselves to isolate the others, those who make us uncomfortable, when we should be reaching out to them and bringing them closer. We have a systemic cultural problem, and there is no easy fix for it.

BTW, ‘Kaddish’ is the Jewish prayer of remembrance for the dead.


May His great name be exalted and sanctified in the world which He created according to His will! May He establish His kingdom and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon! And say, Amen. May His great name be blessed for ever, and to all eternity! Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, above and beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world! And say, Amen.

      The Great Wall
This piece was created in Cubase using one synth, the free VST, Sonigen Modular.


What’s so great about a wall?
What is their beef, those Mongol hoards?
With beards and swards
Sweeping the steppes
With dissonant chords.
Why do they install
This monumental wall?

Strong fences make good neighbors
but the hooves and neighs of foaming steeds
bear no quarter but those hung and drawn.

These effortless sketches stretch South and West,
but I’ve forgotten all the rest.

      Bang Header
This tune is really just an excuse for a tune, rather formulaic and sad, except that I like it, kinda. It was fun creating the beat, and I quite like some of the patches. Some are stock and others more custom.


Head your bang, your bang diddy bang bang.
Head your thang, your thang diddy thang thang.

Here’s another fun odd time signature for all the counters out there. Also, this track used just one synth for all of the sounds, the free VST Sonigen Modular. The track was created in Cubase. The title refers to one of my favorite musicians.
      Whitney Winds
This is a recording of a Frippertronics-style live looping iPad performance using an app called Yonac Steel Guitar.
      Disco Fever
Dance, everybody! Everybody dance!
A song about the struggle to embrace love. Recorded in Cubase with virtual drums and organ, real guitar courtesy of the Sandblaster, the Industrial Guitars Indy Rail lap steel, and my Japanese Fender Fretless Jazz bass with custom humbucking Seymour Duncan pickups and Aguilar preamp.


by Sander Roscoe Wolff

I’m not too bad. I’m not too good.
I’ve not done all the things I should.
This road is rocky. I stumble and fall.
I can’t get up, so I just crawl.

The darkness calls. It knows my name.
My forgotten goodness is hidden by shame.
I look to the depths and decide to go.
But you tell me one thing that I did not know.

You say, “You’re worthy. Worthy of my love.”
You say, “You’re worthy. Worthy of my love.”

Your words, they shake me. I start to cry.
I feel unready to live or die.
I turn to leave but I’m caught by surprise.
I see the truth in your blue eyes.

I said, “I’m worthy. Worthy of your love.”
I said, “I’m worthy. Worthy of your love.”

Some days are dark, and some are sad.
Now, through it all, my heart is glad.
Some days are dark, and some are sad.
Now through it all, my heart is glad.

I said, “I’m worthy. Worthy of my love.”
I said, “I’m worthy. Worthy of my love.”

      Walking in Central Park (One Synth)
– This track uses the same note information as the original, but is realized entirely with one synth, Arturia’s Moog Modular VST in Cubase. Some of the sounds are stock patches, some were tweaked, and some completely original.

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Sep 29 2016

Long Beach Culture Radio

Published by under Uncategorized


I was exploring an ancient archive buried deep on an old hard drive and discovered a bunch of music files from 2000, when my friends and I were exploring various ways to support the local music scene. One way we found was to run an automated streaming radio station, which continued for about a year. Here’s what I found:




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Sep 23 2016

Music For Frank Moore Documentary

Published by under Instrumental,Music,Studio

Some months ago my friend and musical ally Robert Douglas (aka Carl Off) was asked to contribute music to a documentary project about American performance artist Frank Moore. His circumstances wouldn’t allow his participation, so he connected me to the producers, Linda Mac and Mikee LaBash. Carl and I had collaborated, previously, in the improvisational studio and performance duo known as Ain Soph Aur, and he’d tasked me with creating music for From The Heart of Brahma, a film he made about Prumsodun Ok, a queer Cambodian American dancer who’d drawn upon traditional Khmer dance to create new, inclusive, narratives.

The Let Me Be Frank documentary morphed, rather quickly, from a feature film into a series of shorter pieces based on Moore’s book, Art of the Shaman. Since Moore had been born with cerebral palsy, he was unable to speak, so many wonderful fellow artists, collaborators and friends were asked to read sections of the book. My job was to create musical beds beneath these readings. Most ended up being very ambient, though some were more rhythmic.

It has been a really enjoyable and collaborative process.

To watch the episodes (currently 4, so far, with many more planned), visit frankadelic.com or Vimeo. You can also read the text the series is based on, and explore a vast collection of Frank’s other work on eroplay.com.

Here is a playlist of some of the tracks I created for the project:


For those who are interested, here are some very scant production notes about the tracks:

Affected Infected – Voice
A New Free Love – Trombone
A Tribal Body – Cambodian Buddhist Monks, etc
Back Brain – Live Looping Synth & Guitar
Death Tickets – Electric Guitar
Destructive Games – Acoustic Grand Piano
Elementary Acts – Acoustic Guitar
Feedback Cycle – Imagined Psychoactive Ritual
Flesh Pleasure Creatures – Jazz Odyssey
Inside The Ritual – Rock Odyssey
Into The Volcano – Toe Tapper
Jump In – Jazz Odyssey
Magical Action – Recorders, Ocarina, Cat
The Braided Path – Guitar Suite
The End of Evolution – Guitar Suite
The Holy Obvious – Piano
This Hidden Yoke – Trombone
Trance Myths – Kalimba

Listen to the music I created for From The Heart of Brahma:


      Brahma Suite

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Aug 25 2015

Found: 80’s Synth Pieces Created at Long Beach City College

In the early 80s, I spent quite a bit of time in the Synth Lab at Long Beach City College. It was a fairly small room, packed with two Moog 15 racks, a 35 rack, a sequencer, and a keyboard. There were also two Oberheim 4 voice synthesizers, an Apple 2e system with an AlphaSyntauri digital synthesis system which I grew quite fond of. In the lab, there was also a Mini Moog, a drum machine of some sort, an 8-track 1″ reel to reel, a 1/4″ stereo reel to reel, a mixing desk, and a rack with a spring reverb unit mounted in it. I believe there was also an Arp String Ensemble in the studio, too, which is used on one of the tracks.

None of these devices were capable of storing or recalling preset sounds. Every sound had to be created from scratch. Also, this was pre-MIDI, and we had no time code system. All tracks were recorded one at a time, track by track, played by hand on a keyboard. (There’s one exception that I’ll address in a moment.)


      Afanasevo Steppe
– This track was recorded, most probably, using the SEM based Oberheim 4-voice synths. It is clearly an attempt by me to be musical.

– This track was recorded, I believe, exclusively with the AlphaSyntauri computer-based synth and is probably the most abstract of the four recordings.

      Edifice Falls
– This track features voice (me), lots of modulated voice (Moog modular), the Oberheim 4-voice, and the Arp String Ensemble.

– Without even the slightest bit of embarrassment, I’ll confess to enjoying a bit of chaos and dissonance. This rather frenetic track was primarily created with the Oberheim 4-Voice synths, I believe.

      Not Sputtered Hot Horn
At the time, and perhaps still, this was one of my favorite creations. It was created, I believe, entirely with the AlphaSyntauri, which lends it a rather charming edge. Based on a rather simple set of 4 note clusters (without nuts).

      Ether Binge
– This track was found on a different tape, at a different time, but I thought I’d include it here because it was also created in the LBCC Synth Lab. My good friend Rychard Cooper, now ensconced in academia at CSULB, and I went on a bit of a synth bender, and created this rather wild and wooley tracks. In addition to using nearly all the patch cords for the Moog modular systems, it also features the AlphaSyntauri, tape loops, Frippertronics, recordings of ash trays, bathroom ambiance, and just about everything else we could throw in there. The recording is the result of hours of experimentation captured on 8 track, then mixed to stereo, then mixed to cassette.

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Aug 19 2013

A Good Day (A brief allegorical story about the pleasures of smoking)

Published by under Prose

A Good Day

by Sander Roscoe Wolff

The alarm blared painfully as the sun cut through the window shutters and sliced into my eyelids. The sun always managed to do that. I rolled over and blindly reached for my pack of Marlboros that I always leave on my night table, next to the overflowing ash tray. A warm feeling flowed through me as my hand closed around it. With my eyes still closed, I popped the flip-top, expecting the sweet scent of tobacco to waft up toward my waiting nose.


I slid my fingers inside the pack and felt around.


My heart was racing now, beating madly inside my chest. I was out of cigarettes! I felt beads of sweat pop out of my forehead as the implications of this discovery slammed into my fevered brain. No cigarettes before opening my eyes. Fresh air in my lungs first thing in the morning instead of warm smoke gently stoking my body into consciousness. Shower, breakfast, driving to work without a cigarette. My mind raced. I had a half hour to shower, dress, eat and drive to work. I could brush my teeth and use extra deodorant, skip the shower and food, stop at the 7-11 on the way to work and still have time to knock in a couple of nails before I walked through the door. I raced through my obligatory tasks and jumped into my pick-up truck, turned the key and nothing. No click. No roar of pistons.


I jumped out and ran to the back of my house, opened the garage and jumped onto my Sears Free Spirit 10 speed bike. This was ok. I took the shortcut onto Atherton and, as I was approaching the driveway into the Arco station on Bellflower, a Fiat cut me off and I went slamming into it. I had the strange sensation of time slowing down as I flew through the air. I could see the exact spot where my head would smack against the asphalt.

I lay there, bleeding and delirious, with endorphins numbing the pain when an old man leaned over me, asking if I was injured. My lips worked, trying to form the words, but no sound came out. He put his ear against my lips and I managed to gasp “Cigarette!” He smiled knowingly, pulled out a pack of Marlboro flip-tops and took one out. He lit it and held it to my lips as I inhaled deeply. I knew then that it was going to be a good day.

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Aug 19 2013

The Poet (A parable)

Published by under Prose

The Poet

by Sander Roscoe Wolff

Once upon a time there was a young woman who didn’t know what to do with herself. She tried many things to pass the time, but nothing seemed to hold her interest for very long.

She learned to dance and was quite good, but all that twirling and jumping about seemed rather silly. She found a singing teacher who helped to develop her voice, and she was wonderful. Children, old people and even animals would pause from their daily labors to listen to her sing. Singing, though, didn’t interest her because all the songs were old and talked about things she didn’t understand.

Continuing her quest to pass the time, she found a master painter who taught her all the subtleties of his craft, from pencil, pen and ink and water colors to the rich hues of the oils. She learned how to stretch canvas, build frames, even mix her own colors, but after a while she tired of painting fruit and trees, so she abandoned painting.

Then, one autumn, a poet came to her village. She couldn’t say if he was young or old because, although he had a youthful countenance, his face seemed weathered with experience. His eyes were a clear blue and they seemed to catch and reflect the light in strange ways. His light brown hair was streaked blond from the sun, and his well made clothes were just slightly worn. His voice was rich and deep, but with a soft tenderness that made all who heard it draw near. She was especially fascinated by his hands, which, while rough in appearance, were as soft as calf skin.

To further her quest, she asked the poet to teach her his craft. Laughing, he explained that poetry was an art, and like all good art, required a mastery of the basic tools before one could lay claim to the title of Poet. He agreed to teacher the things there were to learn, and she proved herself a most able student. She learned about rhyme in time, the bark and bite caught in consonants, the flowing breeze of easy words, the carefully structured selections of words that become what we know of as meter.

Mastery of these skills proved difficult for the young woman, not because of a weakness in her intellect or vocabulary, but because she had no idea what-so-ever of what she should write about. She wrote “Behold the hare with floppy ears, They’ve served him well these many years.” She knew that it was lousy! One day, during her lesson, she stood up and screamed at the poet, telling him that it was all a waste of time.

He rose, grasped her by the shoulders and gave her a kiss on the mouth. At first she resisted, but only slightly, and then something opened up inside her. It was as if she had been asleep her whole boring life and suddenly woke up! Her arms came up, her slender fingers running through his hair, pulling him closer to her. The kiss went on and on, and as her fingers caressed his face, she could feel him pulling her into him, not against him but into him, into his soul, into his heart. Finally, their lips parted. She could feel her heart pounding, could see the love in his eyes. He pulled back slightly, telling her that she had completed her lesson for the day.

As she made her way home, her heart and mind were filled with wondrous, glorious feelings. The air tasted sweet, the greens and browns of earth and leaf seemed more vibrant and the stirrings of the wind in the trees sounded like a chorus. Her step became lighter and, without warning, she broke into an effortless dance of joy. Suddenly, as her body moved to a secret music, she began to sing. Her voice and dance carried her home.

Over the next few days, her joy turned into anticipation. She thought again and again about the kiss, about the warmth of his moist lips against hers, about the light and look of his eyes, the sensation of being drawn into him. She began to paint that moment, first with small tentative strokes, then with bold ones with bold colors, not striving for realism but for passionate emotion. Days later, when it was finished, it was time for her to return to him for her next lesson.

As she walked the path to his home, she imagined what he would teach her next. She clutched her painting to her breast, picturing his expression when he unwrapped the gift. As she approached the house, she could almost smell his scent of leather and soap. Slowing her pace, her heart beating madly, she finally lay her hand on the door and pushed it open.

Inside, the room was bare. No quills, no bottles of ink, no books bound in leather, no smoking pipe by the chair. Empty. She dropped her painting and ran to the stable. His fine horse was gone too. Her hopes and dreams, her flights of fancy, all shattered.

It was then that she became a poet.

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Dec 10 2012

Nord Micro Modular Patch Demo

I’ve been fascinated by modular synthesis ever since I discovered what it was. Back in the mid 80s I had the good fortune to have nearly unlimited access to a massive Moog 35, two Moog 15 racks, a Moog sequencer, and a keyboard. These massive racks contained discreet purpose built modules that shared a common power source but, other than that, were completely independent of each other. One connected them with a series of 1/4″ audio plugs, sort of like one of those old fashioned telephone switchboards. While you were limited to the modules and patch cords on hand, there was a nearly limitless set of connection possibilities, some of which were never intended by the designers.

Without delving too deeply into synthesis, I’ll explain the four main tools: VCO, VCA, VCF, and Envelope Generator.

A voltage controlled oscillator creates the sound one hears. It usually can create a number of different wave forms, each with a specific and distinctive timbre. The pitch of the tone is controlled by knobs for gross and fine tuning, but can also be controlled by a voltage (+/- 5v, for example). The keyboard connects to the input of the oscillator and sends a specific voltage for each note that is depressed. It is also possible to send the signal of another VCO, or even an Envelope Generator, to the VCO to alter the pitch.

A voltage controlled amplifier is a simple tool to control the amplitude of a sound. As the voltage drops, the loudness decreases, and visa versa. Often, the VCA is modulated with a VCO to create an effect similar to a tremolo on a guitar amplifier. It can also be controlled by the EG.

The voltage controlled filter helps to shape the tone or timbre. It can do this by removing or boosting specific frequencies, or sets of frequencies, from the sound. Because the filter is voltage controlled, the amount of filtering and set of frequencies can be modulated independently, creating, for example, a ‘wah wah’ sound.

The envelope generator was not intended to directly affect the sound created by an oscillator but, rather, to produce a control voltage that can be used to alter the way other modules behave. The typical EG has four controls: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. These relate to how many acoustic instruments produce sounds. For example, if you pluck a violin string, the sound starts immediately. The attack is short, and sharp. If you bow it, though, the sound grows gradually. With a plucked note, there is no sustain, so the sound decays quickly and the string soon is back to rest. With a bowed string, though, the sound can sustain indefinitely and, when you stop bowing, the sound fades out. The EG helps to create these kinds of dynamics artificially, when triggered by pressing a note on the keyboard, or through other means.

One last thing about EG: If you listen carefully to a plucked note, you will notice a few other things. 1st, the pitch goes slightly sharp for just a moment, because the player is pulling on the string. Also, the set of frequencies, the harmonic content or timbre of the sound, changes very quickly, from bright to dull. One can use the EG to control both the VCO and the VCF to simulate these variations, and create amazingly realistic sounds. That, though, has never been my interest.

Clavia is a Swedish company that was at the forefront of Virtual Analog Synthesis. VAS uses computer processing to create models of electronic circuits. Their Modular synths are similar to the massive Moog synth, above, but benefit from having a larger set of modules, and the hardware being about the same size as a paperback book. The modules are laid out and connected on one’s computer, then transferred to the unit for performance. Not only can it be used to create sounds, but also to process or effect sounds, something I intend to explore further in the future.

In preparation for an upcoming performance I spent about a month creating patches from scratch and, in some cases, heavily modifying existing patches. I used a Korg Kaossilator Pro as the primary controller for the Nord Micro Modular. This device sends midi note and controller info to the Nord, much like a keyboard, but instead it uses a touch screen with assignable key and scale settings. Although the number of control signals, via midi, is vast, I chose no more than three for each patch, because that’s how many the Pro can manage easily.

Here are some screen shots of the patches, audio demos for each, and a brief description of the other controls. [Note: The controls are as follows: y=up and down movement on the touch controller; 93=a slider next to the touch screen; 94=a knob above the slider. Each is assignable to a single, or many, parameters in each patch.]

Hear 4-8-16. Control: y=Filter, 93=Bits, 94=OD

Hear Diso Deep Mod. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Phaser Depth, 94=Clip

Hear Diso Harm.

Hear Fat Triangle. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Chorus, 94=A/R

Hear Fat Triangle 2. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Chorus, 94=ModSpeed

Hear Filt Seq. Control: Y=Filter, 93=FReso, 94=Speed

Hear Orbitron. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Bits

Hear Pedal Steel Strum, and a slightly different version. Control: Y=Filter, 93=Speed/A/R, 94=Detune

Hear Space Race. Control: Y=Filter, 93=OD, 94=ModSpeed

Hear Spitty Grit. Control: 93=A/D

Hear Sweepy Time, and a slightly different version. Control: Y=Filter, 93=OD/CH, 94=ModSpeed/FM

Hear VocoLead Control: y=Filter, 93=Octave, 94=Vibrato

You can also hear a rather thoughtlessly constructed demo that features about two thirds of these patches.

Please feel free to ask me any pertinent questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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