Moog dives into the past for Subharmonicon modular analog synth
Available from today, the Subharmonicon was inspired by a music theorist's mathematical system for musical composition from the 1930s and 40s and by two analog innovations. The modular analog polyphonic synthesizer is said to create "a rich harmonic kaleidoscope that divides into itself until everything that is up becomes down."
Moog says that inspiration for the Subharmonicon came in part from the work of Joseph Schillinger, a composer, music theorist and teacher. And by the Mixtur-Trautonium, a monophonic electronic instrument that was invented by Friedrich Trautwein around 1929 and used subharmonic oscillators to generate tones, and the Rhythmicon, a Léon Theremin and Henry Cowell collaboration completed in 1931 where up to 16 different rhythms could be generated for multiple simultaneous harmonic sounds.
"A long time ago, when I was in college and first met Bob [Moog], the Rhythmicon came up a couple of times," said Moog Music's Senior Hardware Lead, Steve Dunnington. "One of his other students was into Schillinger…and I’ve always been fascinated by patterns that repeat differently each time…and that’s a thing you can explore [with Subharmonicon].
"This instrument was inspired by some of the ideas and musical concepts of Schillinger, such as the idea that by taking a set of pitches and superimposing them on a set of rhythms with a different length will generate rotating musical motives."
The Subharmonicon belongs to the same family of synths that includes the Matriarch, Grandmother, Mother-32 and DFAM, and is constructed using aluminum and wood. It can perform as a standalone instrument or can be interfaced with other members of the semi-modular Moog family, or external Eurorack-compatible hardware.
At your disposal are two voltage-controlled oscillators (VCO), four subharmonic oscillators, two four-step sequencers and four rhythm generators. Mathematical ratios are used to tune the four sub-oscillators, as well as control the timing for the rhythm generators. And as each of the subharmonic tones is derived from one of the VCOs, with the resulting chord shapes reported to be uniquely coherent.
Those chord shapes are brought to life by the polyrhythmic step sequencers, each clocked by any or all of the rhythm generators. Envelope generators, ladder filters and an analog voltage-controlled amplifier can be dialed in to produce "dynamic articulations ranging from lush pads and blurred edges to percussive plosives and ritualistic rhythms." And users don't need to break out the patch cables to use the Subharmonicon, but its cooked-in capabilities can be expanded by doing so.
The Subharmonicon has been in development since 2018, and is now shipping to authorized Moog dealers worldwide. It's priced at US$699. You can hear a bunch of samples on Soundcloud.
Product page: Subharmonicon