Hello! Today I’m proud to announce my 22nd module, Psychopump - taking your beats straight to Hades. It is available from the VCV library.
The big idea of Psychopump is simple: send gates to any of its 8 channels, it outputs the corresponding CV preset.
Why you would want to use it is more complex: it doesn’t pair well with everything. It was initially created to conserve CPU when using PSI OP, a fun FM drum module capable of a wide range of sounds, and like many oscillators, too CPU-hungry to use one separate instance per drum sound.
But Psychopump is not just about saving CPU, and not only about percussion: it can do much more.
It can route your incoming gates to two different outputs, and make them longer or shorter, with mute and solo controls. The triggered presets can have a random offset applied to them on trigger, which can be used both for chaotic modulation, and for subdued analog-like variations concealing the machine gun sound of drum modules. 64 knobs is a lot, so you can use the Label buttons to give names to channels and output: those names will show up on the LCD.
There are also two sample and hold inputs per channel, which can also have a random offset applied, and a V/Oct input, which can be quantized to an arbitrary scale, as provided by my QQQQ module.
Finally, Psychopump can operate polyphonically! You can make it use only 3 rotating channels to conserve the voices of CPU-hungry plugins, or go fully polyphonic.
As usual, my module has a very detailed and beginner-friendly manual, that I encourage you to read.
Future of the collection
I think of my modules - especially the more esoteric ones, such as Arcane or Modulus Salomonis Regis - as an extension of my work as an artist. Those modules are meant to be challenging but inspiring to use, and to formalize in software ideas I had about aleatoric and procedural music.
When you add one of those modules to your rack, I wish to give you the experience of asking a session musician to do her thing, rather than creating an unopinionated tool.
In much the same way that Roger Linn, Don Buchla, Robert Moog, Serge Tcherepnin, and many more did, I put my name and signature on my humble little hacks. However, I feel that my work is much closer to that of Toshio Iwai, a musical installation artist best known for the Tenori-on, and the 2005 Nintendo DS musical interactive toy Electroplankton, it’s closer in spirit to the silly and grandiose creations by Look Mum No Computer. Even my more utilitarian modules try convey a sense of joy and playfulness, while also remaining concerned with practical concerns such as CPU usage, usability, accessibility to colorblind users, etc.
Since my first release in December 2019, it has been very rewarding to see my skills progress over the span of 21 modules and one album: learning C++ from scratch, learning more about synthesizer design and music theory, about project management and API design, about collaborating on Github, about refactoring away the technical debt in a growing codebase, about working with SVG files both in Inkscape and via direct text editing, about Vue.js frameworks (as part of my documentation), and about my own practice as an artist.
But by far, the most rewarding thing has been to see my friends use my instruments to record music, or to simply play with them. They’re a fun but rowdy bunch. Pretty much all of them are some variant of mid-20’s communist transgender bisexual furry multimedia artist gamer who vapes, and pretty much none of them feel inclined to participate in the official VCV communities. As for myself, I’m only half of those descriptors, so I probably fit in better.
A few hours ago, I added the following to the README of my plugin:
Aria Salvatrice is the name I go by as a person. Distributed forks of my code should not make my name part of their title. The VCV project, and software libraries that distribute my code, should not distribute a fork maintained by a different person under my name withouut my explicit permission. To do so would impersonate me.
Distributed forks of my code should mention I’m the original author, but shouldn’t use my name in a way that can be construed as implying my authorship of their fork, or my endorsement of their fork.
While the VCV project’s policy allows taking over inactive plugins in its library, including those that are named after their author, I am requesting for its ethics guidelines protecting the brand names of companies to be extended to my own name as a human. I am also requesting the same out of any other project distributing my software: it is a long-standing tradition of free open-source software that forks should go by a different name, if only to avoid user confusion.
If you are faithfully porting my code to a fork of VCV Rack, are compiling binaries for another platform, or are otherwise distributing my modules as I designed them, but need to apply trivial compatibility patches to make my software work on your platform, you should keep the name, and the signature. The deciding factor is whether you are distributing my software as I designed it. If you alter it, you should rebrand it.
The name of the individual modules in my collection does not have to be changed. Whether to keep the name of the modules the same, change them, or name them a variation of the original name, is left to the forker’s discrection.
Git forks of my code on sites such as github, created for example to experiment with my code, forks that are not directly distributed to end users but only seen by an audience of developers, are obviously not considered distributed forks, and are thus exempt from this request, as it is obvious to the intended audience that this is a fork, and no impersonation is intended.
As I said: in much the same way that Roger Linn, Don Buchla, Robert Moog, Serge Tcherepnin, and many more did, I put my name and signature on my humble little hacks.
Nobody would be allowed to release to the library a module implying the endorsement of Linn, Buchla, Moog, or Serge. Using their work is fair game, just not the name.
When I asked about whether my humble name and funny signature would be afforded the same protection, I expected to be immediately reassured that they would be. Instead, I faced condescension about my choice of license, and suggestions that if I do not explicitly forbid it, the VCV project absolutely reserves the right to give stewardship of my own name, by which I go by in every aspect of my life as an artist, to someone else, but that I am silly for thinking the VCV project would act without fairness.
I was told:
If you feel strongly about it, don’t rely on my “hypothetical policies” that don’t exist, just cover your own bases. I helped you write a statement to add to your license, so take it or leave it.
Well, honestly, 15 hours later, I still feel sick to my stomach about it.
It’s not just about this incident - it’s about a pattern of condescending, rude, legalistic interactions with the leadership of the VCV project. The rudeness and condescension I observed, I will remark, were almost never directed towards me, but nonetheless, they happened in public spaces, so I witnessed it.
Obviously, it is not practical to ask for the leadership to enforce its code of conduct on itself, unless the leadership is constituted of a sufficient amount of people.
Having to deal with this social environment is extremely draining. My hobby project should affect my well-being positively, not negatively. I was hoping to join the cool and quickly growing art scene my VCV-using friends seemed to embody. Instead I found myself joining the social environment of the Linux Kernel Mailing List. I’m not paid enough to deal with that kinda vibe.
“Take it or leave it”? In my life, whenever someone has dared to walk away from a toxic situation, I have always done it, on the spot. Sometimes, walking away entailed a great personal cost, but in the long run, I never regretted doing that. This time there is no personal cost: I had no unfinished modules in the oven, only ideas.
I have no shortages of artistic interests, and there are no shortages of scenes where an amateurish labor of love would be enthusiastically welcomed, so I have no reason to provide it to an organization that treats me like an easily replaced nuisance.
And I have no doubts I will be easily replaced, probably by someone who is much more experienced in C++ programming than me. My code works, it’s no masterpiece but it’s understandable and commented, and the rules about changing my brand are simple.
I am absolutely eager to resume my work where I’m suspending it today, should it be able to prosper in a friendlier, less commercial and bureaucratic, more inclusive and artistic social environment, whether the code is based on the VCV codebase and Eurorack metaphor, or something different.
The Arcane server is on autopilot: I will keep it running for as long as my Azure scripts continue to work. The code of the server is open-source, it’s very tiny coffeescript hack. The URL is of the server is hardcoded in the module, but trivial to change.
For my well-being, I will avoid logging in to the forums for a while, whether I’m considered persona non grata or not after my statement. VCV Rack will remain a tool in my musical arsenal, but much like my friends, I will operate it from a safe distance from the organization that develops it.
If you wish to contact me, you can use social media and discord messages if you have me on them, and otherwise, my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I enjoyed my interactions with other developers and users this year, and it pains me greatly to make this decision. I hope to meet some of you again in whatever my next creative endeavor will be.