Ramp Waves (2023) for Vintage EMS Synthi Synthesiser

Composition for vintage EMS Synthi AKS, Farnell function generator and Eurorack modular synthesis.

A ramp wave is an alternative name for a sawtooth wave, one of the archetypal harmonic-rich waveforms which form the building blocks of ‘classic’ subtractive (i.e. oscillator-filter-based), analogue-style synthesis. This piece, using, amongst other devices, a vintage EMS Synthi AKS analogue semi-modular synthesiser from c.1973, is inspired by the linear and non-linear nature of outputs from detuned and interfering analogue oscillators. The distinctive Vernier oscillator dials of the Synthi are not merely a decorative feature, but allow for graduated and clearly specified microtonal pitch ranges, making it particularly suitable for drone music.

In an age of long shadows of non-linearity and tipping points, I have found myself returning to the decomposing solids of drones, from the uneven steps of harmonic series microtonality to interfering frequency complexes conjuring phantoms and fractures. Harmonics of historic crises meet risk assessments; Recognise, Asses,
Minimise, and Prepare. An experiment’s wave-cycle, another fraction (in)complete

Ramp Waves, commissioned by Northern Lights project, was premiered at the Rathmullan Music Project (RAMP) festival, Co. Donegal, July 8th 2023, and has since been featured at Belfast International Arts Festival (October 13th 2023), UCC Radical Futures conference (8th May, 2024), and New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, June 18th, 2024.