MATRIXSYNTH: Building a Buchla 248 MARF with Stages, Stages, Stages and Marbles

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Building a Buchla 248 MARF with Stages, Stages, Stages and Marbles

video upload by Cinematic Laboratory

"Sorry about that title. The MARF is short for the Multiple ARbitrary Function generator, a huge Buchla design carrying the model number 248, and is part of the 200 series. It's not easy to compare it with anything, but you could see it as a 16 step 0-CTRL, a Rossum Control Forge and maybe even the 250e circular Dual Arbitrary Function generator (DARF) like Frap Tools USTA. I contacted Todd Barton (thanks so much!) to be able to study a few MARF images. The sliders made me think of Mutable Stages, and the control section reminded me of Marbles. While getting lost on the way, I finally got a patch that sounded similar: 'music that sounds like dancing butterflies'.
The recipe involves variable timing, notes, a quantizer, and a transpose. You may also need a trigger or gate when a segment runs or finishes. There's a lot to explore here, and I don't think you can find a MARF in a single eurorack solution. I tried to approximate it, but I also needed Maths to do envelopes and gate extraction. It took a while to make this video and I wasn't sure about the results until the very end. Then suddenly, it worked.

You'll need a lot of stuff to do it, but there may be smaller solutions. I'll revisit this idea when my Control Forge arrives and I'll be able to combine USTA with the CF.

This is a complex video so I hope it will make a bit of sense. It would have been better to figure all this out and then make a video. But you'd be missing the fun of exploration. There are plenty of useful examples of how 'factory' Stages can be used, but I installed the Qiemem firmware for max flexibility. In the end I only used its 'random segment' feature in this video, but it doesn't play a role in the MARF patch. You can do this with factory Stages but it still requires a chain of 2 or 3. You can use any sequencer with a clock input for this. A DFAM will also help you to cover the time/level sequence.

Installation requires playing a .WAV into the module which can be bit of a drag. I recommend using a eurorack sample player like the BitBox for a high success ratio. Using a phone, PC or pad can be a nightmare. Also, I am not sure if the firmware works on a clone, please comment if you tried it.

I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Even though Stages and Marbles are now discontinued, they're easy to find as fully functional clones. With Eurorack, we have the 'power' to build our own synths, or get inspired by designs which are still amazing and modern after +50 years. I hope it inspires you too."

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