Psst! Watch Phototropism, my new experiment.

VCV Rack sound design/simulation


I’ve been playing with virtual modular synthesisers in VCV Rack and I decided to use them to create audio for my Drzwi animation from roughly a year ago.

Designing sound for it was entertaining and intellectually stimulating for a couple of reasons.

First of all, modular synths are awesome. It is mindblowing to me that these things can create such an incredible variety of sounds and that you can use them as building blocks to essentially create your own instruments. When you stop seeing them as a random mess of wires and you start consciously tweaking and connecting them — this moment is very gratifying. Being able to come up with ideas and build tools to realize them feels great. If you’re interested in learning how to use modular synthesisers, I highly recommend the Learning Synths website from Ableton.

Secondly, VCV Rack is a digital system. Simulating analog electronics. Connected using virtual wires… Let that sink in. Now, think about the fact that some of the modules numerically solve differential equations on the fly to replicate the behaviour of real circuits.

Finally, this approach is interesting to me because of the contrast. On one hand, all this setup is abstract and made up by me. The original animation is abstract as well. On the other hand, both in the video and in the audio I’m trying to simulate and convey aspects of physical reality. I made the animation in code and I adapted my program to take into account velocity and position of all the elements in 3D space. I use this information to send MIDI CC signals from my program to VCV Rack to control 30-something knobs and sliders in the synthesiser. I implemented things like the Doppler effect, different amplitudes for each ear based on position, doors that muffle sound coming from behind them, and so on. I dialed some of these effects down so they are quite subtle, but I believe that combined together they create a convincing feeling of being immersed in something that could be a form of reality.

Music and sound series

Procedural series