Number 16

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It pains me to say it, but Number 16 took over two years to build, with an additional year on top of that reserved for planning. Allow me to elaborate. First, let’s take a temporal field trip back to the fall of 2007. I working in Colorado, living in a yurt and beginning to feel the effects of the cold. I was also in the process of booking an east coast tour and most of my gear was in storage in California, since I was somewhat unsure as to which side of the continental divide I would drift towards once my tenure in the wilderness ended. Not having the cash to invest in a rig, or ship mine east in time for tour, I decided to hit the books and teach myself to solder, thinking it would be a skill that could be applied to both my then occupation of solar installation, as well as my academic training in electronic music. I was still green at reading schematics, but I’d gone to college with Peter Blasser, so when the time came to commit to a circuit, I opted for a full Rollz-5 drum machine as my first build, hoping that I’d have something cobbled together by the time I hit the road and wouldn’t have to worry about assembling a rig out of the dregs of my collection that I’d left with my folks in New York when I moved west.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Scrounging components in a small cowboy town was damn near impossible and doing anything that involved fine motor controls in sub-zero temperatures using tools intended for large-scale construction was limiting, to say the least. Not to mention I was broke and living 30 miles off grid without a mailing address, so ordering components was out of the question. Hell, I had a hard enough time getting a library card. Three months later, when I returned to the bay area to defend my thesis, I nabbed a couple components from Mills College’s Intermedia Lab and eventually cobbled together Number 1 for Pau for Christmas in Costa Rica that year. But the notion of a large-scale Rollz still persisted. When I returned to New York to recoup my losses from the Colorado adventure and await the decision ala where Pau would be enrolling via Fulbright Scholarship, I build a couple other synths with the components that were intended for the first build – namely Numbers 2, 3 and 4, but still hadn’t lost sight of my original goal – figuring the funds collected from the sales of these smaller boxes would help pay for the components and provide the practice needed to begin building on a professional level.

In August 2008, a year after leaving the bay for Colorado, we returned and Pau enrolled at SFAI, while I was left to reassemble my life from storage, find a job and do what I can to stay afloat financially as the economy plunged into a nosedive that effectively nixed most creative sound-folks out of gainful employment for the foreseeable future. And as we plunged, I soldered, producing an additional ten or so synths and other devices, investing what little I could into components that I dutifully plugged into a single, lonely sheet of plexiglass propped up in the corner of my office. A year later, gainfully employed, but strapped for time and energy, the sheet was almost complete, with only a few lonely components left to assemble. I’d just finished my run of Number 12‘s and had fallen pretty hard for the design aesthetics afforded by bamboo cutlery trays. Realizing that the largest trays were about half the size of my sheet of components and similar in dimensions to wedges of a Buchla boat, I impulsively hacked a year’s worth of labor in half, and began drilling a template that would accommodate my creation. And by mid-February 2010, Number 16, consisting of 48 patch points controlling 12 oscillators and two filters was ready for deployment and integration, not to mention the inevitable addition of two other similar-sized additions to complement this box in pure boat-fashion.