This site is dedicated to everyone interested in Serge Modular Music Synthesizers
all the esoteric interests served by the World Wide Web, this may be one
of the most esoteric yet. I mean, after all, while has been a great
reSergence of interest in analog machines to produce electronic music,
digital is still in many ways more convenient, and these days by far more
"The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated" - Mark Twain
It's easy to expound on the advantages of analog over digital or vice versa, but what it boils down to is personal preference.
And there's two main areas: how it sounds and how it works.
Digital synthesizers can do some very sophisticated tricks, and once you've cooked up a sound, you know it will play back perfectly time after time. Pull it out of the road case, set it up, presto! It's all correct and in tune.
you're left with two choices: go with the factory presets (cute for
a while but ultimately boring) or navigate through the LCD menus with
manual in hand to create new timbres (tedious and not much fun.
Also, since the human ear 'gets' the sound pretty quickly, ultimately
boring,and you're back to square one. I mean, how many times
do you want to listen to the same sample of the blown coke bottle?)
So back to the original question, why analog? They have a unique sound that varies from one manufacturer to another. Building new sounds is fun. Patching gives instant feedback (if not instant gratification), and is loaded with the pleasure of twisting smooth knobs and plugging sturdy patchcords. There is never any question of processing power, it always happens in real time. You can go deliberately for effects, or spend hours patching, looking for a magical serendipitousWOW sound. Once the sound is built you can keep tweaking it during play with dozens of knobs, the timbres and tempos becoming wonderful silly putty.
You will never have to make a desperate midnight run for more RAM, the right SCSI cable, or diskettes. Taking an analog machine on the road can be pretty horrid (which is why they died out in the 80's), but careful planning can alleviate a lot of the trouble.
On a Serge, audio signals, control voltages, and trigger signals are fairly interchangeable and the system uses only one kind of patch cord. Audio signals can be accepted by trigger inputs, control voltage generators can be used for audio. Use control voltage mixers for audio, or run your sequencer at audio rates for wild, squealy, rippy noises.
Many Serge modules can be internally patched. What's that mean? The modules themselves can be patch-programmed to do different things. For example, patching the GATE output to the TRIGGER input of a Dual Transient Generator turns the DTG into a voltage-controlled clock, LFO, or audio oscillator.
Which leads us to the extreme flexibility of the designs. You have to do a lot of thinking and experimenting on these things to really appreciate them. For someone used to the more conventional approaches out there, this can be a little intimidating.
Serge modules have a very high density of functionality. Every square inch of panel space is useful. You can put a pretty impressive system together in one or two suitcase-size boxes.
Serges are handbuilt to customer specification, and by handbuilt I mean that they're put together by people who have spent years mastering the build process. I've heard people complain about the price of modules versus the cost of parts, and why should an oscillator cost 'X' when the parts cost 'Y'. But the truth is, the nice juicy modules use a lot of discrete components, some laboriously hand-matched. Once the components are assembled, the module has to be calibrated, burned-in, and checked. A lot of skilled labor is involved, and expensive test gear.
One of the nicest moments in the acquisition process was talking to Roxanne, one of their master builders. I'd just received the system and called Rex to tell him I received it OK, and he put me on the phone with Roxanne so I could tell her what a great job she did. This is one person who truly enjoys what she does.
Don Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin resisted the idea of making user's manuals for their systems. This was not out of laziness, but rather to propagate the wizard's way of learning by experimenting. They did not want either to prejudice or spoon-feed their customers into a complacent relationship with their instruments. This challenging unorthodox view makes the instruments that much more interesting and rewarding to use. In this spirit, this web site's purpose is to provide more information for current and prospective owners, not to establish an orthodoxy.