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Modulo: Documenting Ottawa’s connection to modular synthesizers

By Diane Bond on October 20, 2012

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A few days ago, local film maker Travis Boisvenue released a teaser for his latest collaborative project, Modulo. Produced by Ryan Paul Gibson, the short documentary focuses on the people of Ottawa who dig modular synthesizers in a major way, as well as the brains behind Muff Wiggler – an online forum that provides a space for discussion about all things synth.

I learned about the project from Travis on Wednesday during Experimental Music night at Pressed Cafe. I will admit, the world of experimental and noise music is relatively new for me, and I am looking forward to seeing Modulo once it’s complete. I sent Travis and Ryan a few questions via email so they could elaborate a little on their film.

Apt613: What is Modulo about?

Travis Boisvenue: Basically, Modulo is a collection of profiles of modular synthesizer players and fanatics in Ottawa, and it will touch on some of the city’s little-known history in the development of the synthesizer.

Apt613: How did you find out about Muff Wiggler?

Ryan Paul Gibson: I found out about it through my friend Arturo [Brisindi], who we interviewed. The long story is long, so the short story is that Arturo has been passionate about analogue synth for years. We talked about his hobby in-depth one night and he mentioned how Muff Wiggler is the global bible for synth die-hards. And it’s run by an Ottawa native.

Apt613: What is the Ottawa connection that you discovered about the development of modular synthesizers?

TB: Hugh LeCaine invented a very early synthesizer while researching for the NRC. Hopefully the set piece of the documentary will be centred around this, but I don’t know how much more we should say about it for now.

RPG: Yup. I’m excited for that one.

Apt613: Who are the people behind the modular synthesizer community in Ottawa? 

TB: I think what we’ve discovered is that there isn’t really a “community”. Just a small collection of people with a synthesizer habit. They don’t necessarily all collate or socialize (or even know about each other), but each person is bound by a hobby, and they all share the same impulses.

RPG: I agree with Travis. The fact that these people love synth, the “grandfather” of synth (Lecaine) lived in Ottawa, and the most popular synth website is run from Ottawa – is all coincidental. That’s what I find most interesting. Until recently they have operated in silos – just slightly aware of the ties that bind.

Apt613: What stage are you two at right now, in terms of producing the documentary? When can we expect to see the final version?

TB: I’m in the early editing stages. Ryan is still nailing down some subjects and locations. Hopefully we’ll reveal the final video in a couple months, but to borrow a phrase, “It’s done when it’s done”.

RPG: Ha! The life of part-time film makers! The challenge is scheduling around everyone. But as Travis so eloquently put it, ideally in a few months.