Softwire Synthesis, the company founded by Lance Iden, specializes in constructing analog synthesizers. Iden will be showing off his work (as well as a new, visually engaging artistic gadget) in the Craft Lake City DIY Fest STEM building.
Craft Lake City is important for Iden in terms of exposure, but he also values the opportunity to educate. Given the complicated appearance and high cost of modular synthesizers, many people who are interested in synths have to fantasize or sit in confusion in front of the knobs, wires and switches. Iden’s DIY Fest booth aims to subvert these barriers, offering demonstrations and trials of some of his synthesizers, giving curious minds some informed guidance. “I find that having someone who is able to show and explain the functions of a modular synth greatly speeds up that person’s ability to make the types of sounds that they’re after,” he says, hoping to provide a steppingstone for musicians.
Iden is heavily interested in the mixture of the arts and the STEM world. Outside of the simple merging inherent in building an instrument, Iden notes even more specificity in each part of the process. “To me, combining the integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors and potentiometers into a cohesive circuit is the STEM side, and the merging of those parts on a PCB (printed circuit board) is where the art is.” A printed circuit board is the neat, concise way of connecting and organizing patches, a miniature electronic puzzle. “It’s just like painting a picture,” says Iden. “You start with a blank canvas that mirrors the design of the user interface and then let the paint (the electrical current) flow.”
Making things precise is a must for Iden, not only in design but also in function. “The circuits are designed to have the largest amount of flexibility, range and control. This can often lead to a wide range of sound possibilities that a musician must learn to tame.” Taming the sound accurately describes how easy it is to let these instruments run amok, but Iden’s user- friendly booth allows untrained minds to step into the world of synthesizers. –Connor Lockie