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Welcome to the official website of Grainshifter. This particular section of the website will be designated as a space where we can further explore ideas related to sound synthesis. Sound synthesis, in its many forms, is central to the mission statement of Grainshifter. Electronic music has a rich history of experimental ingenuity. The tools used to generate electronic sounds are often developed alongside their creative application, such as in the case of the collaborative efforts of Bob Moog and composer Wendy Carlos, which led to the refinement of the Moog synthesizer and the release of the seminal album Switched on Bach. The studio provides a laboratory, a musical playground of sorts, where novel techniques can be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness. We hope that our musical and engineering pursuits will be mutually beneficial.
One of the biggest progressions in the history of sound synthesis has been the shift from analog to digital. However, it's really more of an ebb and flow. In recent times, analog gear has once again gained increasing popularity. The Prophet 12 by Dave Smith Instruments, for example, has done great sales. People seem to resonate with that vintage sound provided by many analog hardware synths from years past. That's not to say that digital synths lack sonic character. However, many digital synths (namely virtual analogs) simply seek to emulate their analog forefathers. The real beauty in the digital realm is flexibility. One could conceivably come up with new forms of sound synthesis that cannot be realized in physical systems such as real world instruments or even analog circuits. Your imagination is the only real limit. There are a plethora of unique forms of digital synthesis such as wavetable, physical modeling, vector, and granular synthesis (also known as grain synthesis, which is where we got our band name :).
Then, there is the hybrid realm where analog and digital meet. The most common type of hybrid synth is one which incorporates microprocessors which control the analog circuitry. Most "analog" synths these days contain digitally controlled oscillators (DCOs) as opposed to voltage controlled oscillators (VCOs). This is in large part due to the fact that MIDI is a digital code, and thus, its much easier to interface with the oscillator section if they speak the same language (100110... you get the point). The integration of digital control into analog synthesizers has had a huge impact on electronic music. However, its not the only way to go. A recent new release from Moog Music is the Theremini, which is effectively a analog controlled digital synthesizer. Wait, wtf?! Yes, you read that right. The Theremini, like most traditional theremins, is based on a pair of analog heterodyning oscillators, which are controlled by the proximity of the player's hands to the antennas of the instrument. The beat frequency (difference between the analog oscillators) drives a wavetable synthesis engine that is based on the Animoog ipad app. So one can use hand gestures (an analog source) to get a different level of expression out of digital wavetables. It's a pretty amazing idea and its really cool to see Moog Music continue their long history of innovation after the passing of Bob Moog and transitioning into the digital realm. Check out this video of an early prototype:
I've already preordered one of these and am eagerly anticipating its release. It's just one of the many examples of the continual hybridization of analog and digital components. My point in all this is that the whole concept of "analog vs digital" is outdated. The way of the future is to contemplate how both aspects can play a part in the development of next generation electronic instruments.