How I Use the KMI QuNexus

The Keith McMillen QuNexus is a very flexible controller with great software. Even though its main function is a computer USB controller, at which it excels, it also is equally capable in MIDI 5-pin (with the expander) or CV control modes. It will even function as a MIDI-to-CV & CV-to-MIDI converter.

Channel 1 uses keyboard layer

What I’m doing now is using the QuNexus to trigger arpeggiators on separate patches in multimode on  my Waldorf Blofeld. Because of the software included, you can route any controller and any channel to any key or range of keys. In addition you can set the keys to “latch” mode so that you can trigger patches and have them stay running until you press the key again. Generally I route the bottom three or four keys to separate channels, in latch mode, and then assign my sound programs (each of which has an arpeggiator) to those keys, allowing me to trigger them like I would on a sequencer. Then, I route about an octave in the middle of the keyboard for the bassline, which I hold and change while performing. I usually leave around five keys above and below this middle section for other parts, so that I can have multiple melody or rhythm lines running, making sure that their transpose range is assigned properly so it matches the key of the main bassline. If I don’t need a full octave for a bassline, I’ll sometimes assign it to the five keys below the main section, or if I need a number of different arpeggiators or samples, I will assign each of those five keys to separate patches.

all other channels use controller layer. this one is set to latch with a controller assigned to tilt

In one of my more complex tracks, I assign the bottom three keys to a kick, snare, and hihat. With the next four keys, I assign each to a different one-shot sample which I trigger by hand when I want a drum break or want to trigger the vocal sample (to use samples you need the full keyboard version of the Blofeld or LicenseSL). The next section of keys I’ve assigned to a sort of “wub” bass, and the top section is an arpeggiated melody track that lays over the top. For the “wub” bass, I’ve set a modulation slot to vary the speed of the wub sound and then set up the tilt controller so that I can alter it live, and the upper melody section is set up similarly, except tilt acts to raise/lower the pitch of one of the oscillators. It has nine separate programs assigned to this multi, which gives me plenty of variety when trying to make dynamic, live performances.

Of course, the QuNexus is not a sequencer, so it takes practice to trigger the arps exactly on time, and there is even sometimes a bit of a lag in the arp “catching,” but with practice it is doable, and it’s even possible to trigger an arp at a different point in the measure than on the first beat of the measure so that you can creatively alter the rhythm as well, depending on exactly when the arp is triggered in the phrase. In addition, any samples that are set up stop playing as soon as the key is released, so it is easy to say trigger the first part of a sample but not the last part until you hold the key a bit longer.

Head, Hands, and Heart: H³

This is a proposal I wrote for submitting to Unsound Krakow. See more about what inspired this here.

They say that the sooner a smoker has their first cigarette of the day, the more addicted they are, while those who wait until later have a greater handle on their vice. So what does it say about our addictions that so many check their devices before even getting out of bed in the morning? How many smokers keep a pack in the bed with them so that they can grab a few puffs if they wake up in the middle of the night? Do they hold onto their cigarettes throughout the day, carefully cradling them in nearly every conceivable circumstance? This artist believes that our increasing reliance on devices feeds on quietude and rest, something that is increasing every day because of technological advancements and the resulting decline in the need for human labor. Many even consider driving to be an activity that is restful enough to attempt to interact with devices, so the bar to fully engage an audience is set pretty high, and the tendrils extending into the mind’s addiction centers run as deep as anything we’ve ever known.

So how do we combat something that may be more habit-forming than even our most addictive substances? One remedy is activity for which we need to be fully engaged, and the only ones that seemingly meet that standard are primal ones like when we play, eat, make love, or converse with one another. Those moments are “now” moments…ones that require our full attention. That’s one reason why this artist, a Chicago transplant now firmly planted in Krakow, has committed to 100% live electronic music so that every performance is a “now” moment both for the musician and audience, while at the same time shortening the distance between the technology and the art. He’s even taken it further by playing in Krakow’s open areas using only a single synthesizer and controller, which requires him to hand-trigger every sound that is produced, and gives ample opportunity for improvisation, another “now” activity. The artist also participates and contributes to those moments around him by programming facsimiles of the surrounding sounds – like police sirens, church bells, and birdsong – and when their calls appear in his environment, he has a ready response.

When performing like this, one needs to have three things fully engaged: head, hands, and heart, with a goal of inspiring the engagement of those same things in the audience. Head to keep track of everything, hands to translate ideas to action, and heart to forge an emotional connection with the audience. That’s why the artist has responded to the theme “Presence” with a musical project in three parts entitled “Head, Hands, and Heart: H³,” where each part is dedicated to one of the trio. H³ also refers to the name of the most abundant ion in the universe, which exists almost exclusively in the ultra-cool, ultra-slow expanse of interstellar space, and the stillness in which H³ exists is an analogue to the state of being that the music will request from its listeners. It’s not as if people are remarkably different from before we had all this information and entertainment at our fingertips – people still look for the same things, a real connection, a real emotion, things that inspire, and to connect with the now. This artist relishes the opportunity to continue his long-time exploration of genres like ambient and drone, to satisfy those other seekers who search for “presence” through the pure energy of music.