On February 4th, 2024, the Texas A&M Media & Gaming Lab, along with faculty from the School of Performance Visualization and Fine Arts hosted Synthposium, an event which brought together local synthesizer enthusiasts, musicians, engineers and academics to discuss and explore the cultural and technical aspects of the art form.
Director of the Media & Gaming Lab, joey lopez, facilitated the Synthposium and developed its calling through multiple meetings with Media & Gaming Lab members. The finalized ideation procured a one day event at local coffee shop, Tavo Coffee, which would include five presentations and a final performance. Lia Stevenson, a representative of Synthrotek and a genius synthesizer electrical engineer in the making, also flew in from Moscow, Idaho to join us.
The event was successful and well-attended, with roughly 40 participants coming to join in on the fun. Over the course of the event, even patrons of the coffee shop would wander into the space and begin interacting with the equipment, tinkering and playing with the sounds they created.
The presentations themselves were enthralling and informative, with each one being aimed towards beginners and advanced users alike. Each presenter would give a general overview of their work and then give in depth explanations of their processes. Event facilitator, joey lopez, also moderated a Q&A session and asked questions of the presenters to further add to the informative nature of the event.
David Kang & Diego Valle – David Kang presented his video synthesizer along with Diego Valle. Both are students at Texas A&M and media makers. They noted their use of Kang’s analog synthesizer to develop graphics for their “gonzo journalism” project College Station Collage. It was great watching them give a full demonstration of Kang’s custom built synthesizer and vintage composite media production gear. In addition to their presentation, Kang & Diego would provide visuals throughout the Synthposium and would perform with Lia Stevenson and William Conner, Ph.D. at the end of the conference.
Jeremy Zunker – Jeremy Zunker, an electrical engineer from Austin, gave a demonstration of multiple projects he has developed over the years, ranging from a custom designed DJ scratching device to a hardware implementation of beatbyte (on which Professor Morris would later give a demonstration). Jeremy also answered general questions about circuit design and the process of having boards made. He demonstrated this process by showing three versions of a prototype.
Jeff Morris, Ph.D (website) – Jeff Morris Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts. He presented on the software side of synthesizers, giving an in depth workshop on the web based implementation of Bytebeat and Pure Data (PD). Professor Morris’s workshop further broke down the fundamentals of electronic music composition. Audience members thanked Dr. Morris for his workshop and mentioned how it impacted their general understanding of music composition as well as the functions of their equipment.
William Connor, Ph.D. (website) – Will’s presentation was based around his Lovecraftian-themed Monstrous Synthesizer that has been a concept of his for over a decade and which he implemented and built over the last year. Will would later present on the fundamentals of synthesizers by demonstrating his own build and explaining the process of how he designed and implemented his setup. It complemented Professor Morris’ presentation well, venturing into the physical aspect of synthesizers.
Lia Stevenson (website) – Lia Stevenson is a Synthrotek employee and electrical engineering student at the University of Idaho, where she is studying electronics. Her presentation consisted of giving a full walk through of synthesizers, aided with an awesome slide presentation with embedded videos of herself explaining basic terminology and components. She also provided a great condensed history of the synthesizer as well. Her presentation amazed and informed the audience, and she also brought her own synthesizer and discussed a company she is starting based around eurorack components that she is building, one of which was an intricate and exemplary sequencer.
Final Performance – The conclusion of the event was celebrated with a performance by Lia Stevens, William Connor, Kang, and Diego Valle. This final performance was well received by those in attendance and ended the event on a high note.
Special Thanks – We at the Media and Gaming Lab cannot thank everyone enough for their attendance and support. Tavo Coffee was an amazing host, and their customers were kind, curious, and gracious. Victor, of the Vortex, and crew came by and showed support and directly engaged with the presenters. Again, thank you to the community for all the support!
Our goal is to continue holding local synthesizer meet ups and develop a scene for performances and workshops to continue throughout the calendar year.