Theseus is a platform for designing modular electronic instruments for musical and visual composition. Building on the Eurorack analog synthesizer standard, the platform uses 3.5mm patch cables to interconnect modules. However, unlike the Eurorack standard, Theseus is entirely digital and produces MIDI/OSC control messages rather than audio signals. This simplification in fidelity greatly reduces the cost and complexity of the electronic circuits, making patch cable composition systems more accessible to artists. Fourteen modules were designed to demonstrate the potential of such a platform.
Life Oranges is the main trigger and gate signal generator for Theseus. The module produces five square waves. The topmost controller determines a main frequency. The remaining four channels produce signals at varying divided rates of the main frequency. The value of the divisor is set by a corresponding rotary controller. Divided signals are crucial in developing rhythmic patterns, syncing modules, and offsetting sequences. Life Oranges work well with the Muxquencer, Boolean Logic Matrix, and Mandalatron modules.
Don’t Care Now
Don't Care Now is a three channel square wave generato with the option for frequency modulation input. The switch located on each channel toggles between coarse and fine frequency adjustments. The graphic design of Don’t Care Now is meant to convey a sense of modulated percussive frequencies.
Wavefriends takes the outputs from each of the four channels from Friendshaper and pairs them. These paired signals will be averaged or multiplied together to create a summed waveform as an output. The final rotary controller determines the ratio of how much either waveform is present in the mathematical operation performed. This can be used to create interesting waveforms or as a mixing tool to smoothly transition between two waveforms.
Ripple Me Timbers
Ripple Me Timbers is another of the more complex modules found in Theseus. It records incoming waveforms and then allows the user to playback the recorded information at a reduced speed. In this instance, slower speeds are determined by a divided frequency rate. Four channels are available for playing the waveform back at altered speeds. This process effectively creates rhythmic harmonics of the input signal. An offset controller on each channel allows the user to set the starting point of each sample in relation to the original signal.
The Muxquencer is a union of the functionalities of a step sequencer and a multiplexer. In this case, four selection inputs are used to select a step and route its value to the output. In addition, this module allows access to permutations of the selection inputs. Blue LEDs indicate the original binary selection while green represents a permutation of the selection pins. This allows the same information to create two entirely different pattern sets. The permutation controller is also voltage controllable; meaning feedback from the Muxquencer's values can be used to alter its own pattern.
Mandalatron is a four channel ten step sequencer. Each channel possesses the same values set by the ten central rotary controllers, but with isolated clocks and sequence lengths. When the clock input of a channel is triggered, the sequence will advance by one step and reset to the first step at the point designated by the sequence length controller. This arrangement and iteration of channels allows for complex harmonic rhythms to be created easily. It was designed with pitch output in mind, but these voltages can be used to modulate other variables such as note length and velocity to great effect.
Fire Emblem, a 2003 Gameboy Advance Game from Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, features a collection of heavily armored warriors engaging in combat to save their world from the forces of evil. Cut scenes between combat events are utilized to progress the story. Up to four characters are presented on screen from the chest up with text bubbles appearing above whoever is currently speaking. During these scenes, characters will blink intermittently. These blinking events are the driving force behind the Eyes modules.
Lowfo is a four channel low frequency oscillator. Each channel is capable of producing square, triangle, ramp, sawtooth, and random waveforms. The frequencies of the oscillators are determined firstly by a rotary controller and secondly by a modulation input. Waveforms are selectable by a small pushbutton located directly above the LED bank. The leftmost and rightmost oscillators can have their signals reset by an external trigger signal located near the top of the module.
World Clock is a simulation of birth rates. Data points from the United Nations Children's Fund's 2013 report on annual number of births were used to calculate the frequency at which births occur in a variety of places across the planet. Essentially, LED flashes indicate live births in simplified real-time for the year 2013.
Neat TV is the only utility module found in the collection. It acts as a standard oscilloscope by receiving waveforms and producing a graphic visualization. Neat TV supports two voltage inputs each with a bypassed output and individual refresh control rates. Future programs for the module may include abstract and aesthetic pattern visualization generated from incoming signals.
Boolean Logic Matrix
The Boolean Logic Matrix accepts gate signals on each of its axes. A logic operation at the XY coordinates of the inputs is performed and a processed signal output. The Logic Matrix offers AND, OR, NOR, NAND, XOR, XNOR, and NOT logic functions with the last pertaining exclusively to inputs on the X axis.
The module is driven by a master clock. With each trigger signal it receives an onboard counter increases by one. Sixteen frequencies, each a division of the current counter value, run in the background. These channels are accessed and routed to each output using three inputs. The first receives a voltage that determines which of the ten output positions to select. The second input determines what divided frequency to assign to that output. Lastly, a latch input locks the selected divided frequency to the selected output channel.
Missing No. is the strange mutable module of the collection. Its graphic design is deliberately vague. Inputs and outputs are not easily identifiable either. The module's greatest strength lies in this abstraction for it can be reprogrammed to perform any task that requires up to 15 input/output jacks and 12 LEDs. It uses both literal and random routing systems to generate outputs/