A system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole, [1] or a set of things – people, cells, molecules or whatever – interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time. [2] By these definitions examples could include multiple highways connected into a road network, a group of interacting bodies under the influence of related forces, or a patched modular synthesizer that output music. For a system to be called a system it must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose. [3]

At what point does a system become a complex one? Is it the sheer number of elements and interconnections, or is there something else to it? What is a complex system? According to professor of complexity, Melanie Mitchel it is
a system that exhibits nontrivial emergent and self-organizing behaviors.[4] It is a system where organized behavior arises without external control or leadership – it is self-organizing. It is a system where simple rules produce hard to predict complex outcome - it exhibits emergent behavior. Mitchel provides some common properties of complex systems such as ant colonies, neurons, and stock-buyers. They are large networks of individual components that exhibit complex collective behavior. They produce and use information and signals from both their internal and external environments. They adapt - change their behavior to improve their chances of survival or success through learning or evolutionary processes.[5]

We are complex systems – our own bodies are magnificent examples of integrated, interconnected, self-maintaining complexity. Every person we encounter, every organization, every animal, garden, tree, and forest is a complex system. – Donella Meadows [6]


Languages are systems in which linguistic elements interact in the function of communication. However, Meadows asserts that words and sentences out of necessity must come only one at a time in linear, logical order, other systems can unfold all at once. [7] They are connected not just in one direction, but in many directions simultaneously, they are non-linear, the change at their output is not proportional to the change of the input, 1+12. Again, simple rules produce hard to predict outcome - emergence occurs when a system exhibits properties that its elements did not have on their own prior to interacting, a something else than the sum of parts emerges.

[1] Merriam-Webster Online, s.v. "system,"  accessed February 2, 2022,

[2] Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: a primer (London: Earthscan, 2009), 2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Melanie Mitchel, Complexity: A Guided Tour (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Meadows, Thinking in Systems, 3.

[7] Meadows, Thinking in Systems, 5.

Dancing with systems

In Dancing with systems, an extract from the last unfinished book by Donella Meadows, she states that self-organizing, non-linear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way.[1] She goes on to describe that the future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them! - Donella Meadows [2]


Meadows lists and explains how this dance can relate to intellectual work, to management, to government, to getting along with people. – to living in a world of systems. What follows are extracts from the list, points that has been of importance to this project - to generate visual and sounding art by designing systems.


[1] Donella Meadows, "Dancing with Systems," in Systems: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed.Edward A. Shanken (London: Whitechapel Gallery 2015), 57-61.

[2] Ibid, 51.

A generative approach


Generative art refers to any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art. – Philip Galanter [1]


Generative art is by Galanter’s definition not a specific strain of art or art movement, nor any one technique or expression. It is any method or process of generating art where a system has been given partial or total control over the output.[2] Regarding Generative music Brian Eno provides an explanation by contrasting the generative approach to classical forms: “Classical music, like classical architecture, like many other classical forms, specifies an entity in advance and then builds it. Generative music doesn't do that, it specifies a set of rules and then lets them make the thing”. [3] Rules might not be the most interesting choice of words in relation to an artistic process, but they do help to describe the characteristics of a generative approach. Instead of giving explicit instructions for every step of a process towards a fixed goal, you design networks out of rules, or constraints, and let the system figure out how to actually apply the rules. Such a rule could be something along the lines of; every fourth bar, choose any new note in the C minor scale, or for every beat alter the tempo faster or slower by 10 to 30 precent. As stated elsewhere in this exposition, the nature of the output lies in the design of the network. If we accept this statement, it means the range of the output effectively lies within the ruleset.


The variety of a system is the total range of its output. In regards to making variety the substance of the music Brian Eno refers to cybernetician Stafford Beer: ”Instead of trying to specify it in full detail, you specify it somewhat. You then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go".[4] This ride on the dynamics, this dance with the system, is where the generative approach shines to me. My ideas of a finished piece often come in the form of a mood or a hunch, rather than in specifics. The specifying somewhat aspect, and the focus shift from the end piece towards the design of constraints, is a bottom-up perspective that matches my blurry artistic visions. Having the output grow out of the ruleset, giving up some control to the system, allows me to stay in the abstract nature of my ideas and present them as is. As visual artist Richard Paul Lohse, who made use of generative techniques, puts it:

The machine and the expression are developed at the same time, the method represents itself, it is the picture. - Richard Paul Lohse [5]

Viewing the method as the picture, connections can be made to minimalist composer Steve Reich’s writings on process music. He states that he is interested in a compositional process and a sounding music that are one and the same thing. [6]  But whilst Reich approach is to set up a controlled process and let it run by itself, gradually revealing the process, I am interested in interacting and improvising with the process set up. From my point of view, you may alter the speed of a tape machine while its running, you may become a part of the process by adding a note or rerouting the network manually, the process is a process, the system is happening all at once. You may design and redesign at any given time. Whilst Reich views the concepts of improvisation and musical processes as mutually exclusive [7], there is to me no need in making the line that sharp. Even though you make more or less controlled decisions as the process is unfolding the focus can still be it, the process itself.


[1] Philip Galanter, "What is Generative Art? Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory(New York University, 2003).

[2] Ibid.

[3]  Brian Eno, ”Generative Music”, In Motion Magazine, July 7, 1996, accessed January 12, 2022,

[4] Brian Eno, "Generating Variety in the Arts", in Systems: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed. Edward A, Shanken (London: Whitechapel Gallery 2015), 168.

[5] Galanter, "What is Generative Art?"

[6] Steve Reich, "Music as a Gradual Process," in Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox et al. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 432.

[7] Ibid, 433.

The modular synthesizer

In 1959 whilst working on organs for the Estey Organ Co electronic engineer Harald Bode set out to make:
“A New Tool for the Exploration of Unknown Electronic Music Instrument Performances”.[1] The one-off solution was called the Audio System Synthesizer, a modular device where the signal could be linked freely between modules using cables. In combining ring modulators, filters, reverb generators and other functions found as separate devices (often test equipment) in electronic music studios at the time into a single unit, whilst keeping the freedom of patching the chain as the user saw fit, he created the first modular synthesizer. [2] Inspired by Bode’s system Bob Moog started to work on the Moog Modular in 1963 (later even licensing designs from Bode for the system), and roughly at the same time Donald Buchla was awarded a grant from San Francisco Tape Music Center to devise an instrument that would eliminate the need to cut and splice tape loops to create electronic music.[3] Out of this triangle of developments, where Moog and Buchla have arguably been most famed, a history of the modular synth starts to form. Systems different in details and aesthetics, similar in modularity and voltage control. The latter referring to the fact that they were not only collections of modules that could be patched together more or less freely, but collections of functions that in turn could be controlled with signals (control voltages) from other modules.[4]

Bode writes about the user of his Audio System Synthesizer as a composer-programmer [5], a fitting term when adding synth designer Serge Tcherepin to the historic developments. With his Serge modular synthesizers (1972) he introduced the concept of patch-programming, a design-approach that electronic composer and synthesist Richard Scott describe as a collection of quite simple functions that through modulation, cross-modulation, and feedback could be used to design all the basic synthesizer functions. Scott notes that unlike Buchla and Moog, Serge made no distinction between control functions, audio sources, modifiers and their various algorithmic functions, a decision that made possible for combining functions into complex and unpredictable networks.[6]


The contemporary modular system is a toolbox of possibilities and functions that, as a whole, offer the composer multiple possibilities for control, sonic creation, programming, performance and composition. – Richard Scott [7]

Today the modular synthesizer market is a diverse landscape, especially when including the modular software environments available such as MAX, Reaktor, and the two Eurorack variants VCV Rack and Softube Modular. In hardware it is precisely the Eurorack standard that offers the most widely accessible options for modular synthesis. Introduced by Dieter Doepfer in 1995 the format unified and specified certain technical constraints which made it possible for other manufacturers to adopt to the same specifics. [8] It was however a slow start from the Doepfer A-100 to what the format has become today, from being only three manufacturers in 2004 to 18 in 2010, to 175 in 2015. [9] The exponential growth has meant that there today are 11749 modules to choose from according to the database ModularGrid,[10] a list that includes options from Moog, Serge (licensed through manufacturer Random Source) and as of recently Buchla (via Tip Top audio). 

[1] ”'The Sound Processor' or 'Audio System Synthesizer', Harald Bode, USA, 1959,” 120years, accessed November 25, 2021,

[2] Richard Scott, “Portfolio of Original Compositions (PhD diss, University of Manchester, 2020).

[3] “8 of the most important modular synthesizers in music history,” Fact magazine, accessed November 25, 2021,

[4] Scott, “Portfolio of Original Compositions.”

[5] ”'The Sound Processor' or 'Audio System Synthesizer', Harald Bode, USA, 1959,” 120years, accessed November 25, 2021,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Scott, Portfolio of Original Compositions.

[8] Clinton D. Lanier Jr & C. Scott Rader "Synthesizers: an exploration into the iconicity of marketplace icons," Consumption Markets & Culture 24:6(2021): 607, DOI:10.1080/10253866.2020.1713113 

[9] Mat Dalgleish, ”The Modular Synthesizer Divided, The Keyboard and its Discontents,” eContact 17.4, (2016),

[10] “ModularGrid”, accessed December 3, 2021,

A modular mindset


When we patch, we build eco-systems, where the twist of a single knob can change the entire landscape. As pleasing to the ear as it may be, to focus on the sound alone — the rasp of a resonant Moog filter or the organic damping of a Buchla Low Pass Gate — is to miss the point of the modular synthesizer. – Navs[1]


What is the point? I believe it to be different for everyone, it is embedded in the format: modular, not fixed but modular. Until I embarked on this research path I belive I missed my point. I tried to write music on my modular system by entering notes into a sequencer much like I was used to writing midi notes into my DAW, and then turn to sound design, and then attempt to arrange the fragments into a compositon, and then get stuck in the unconnectedness. A linear fashion that did not get me where I felt I needed to go. The sounds I designed where in all honesty no different from the sounds I designed on my other synthesizers, so what was the point?


If you come from the world of analog synths, don’t make the mistake of trying to replicate a classic synth architecture with two VCOs, a mixer, a filter, 2 ADSRs, etc. You’ll end up with a monosynth not very pleasant to use, and you won’t be in the right mindset to “unlearn” what you know about synthesis. Emilé Gillet [2]


Unlearnt, and relearnt: you combine functions into networks - networks that generate something. Consequently, the nature of that something lay in the design of the network. The following might be stating the obvious at this point, but it took me a while to get here: to compose using a modular synthesizer is to design a network. To perform on a modular synthesizer is to become a part of that network. A composition can happen at any connection point in that network. If anywhere specific, the point is found along the patch cables.

The patch is both the description of the system and the vector of its communication: without patch cables there is no interaction and no sound - Matthias Puech.[3]

Without patch cables there is no score, no instrument, no performance, no system. Puech goes on to describe that a modular synthesizer fuctions as a closed world, an idealised, distilled ecosystem of communication in which each unit is musically void until it starts interacting with its peers [4]. What has helped me form a modular mindset is the fact that I am allowed to be as musically void as my peers, the actants in the network, the modules in the system. When physical and virtual connections between functions are made, new mental connections can emerge alongside a music I could not completly imagine or plan - a something else than the sum of the parts emerges.

[1] Navs, “Basic Electricity, an Appeal for a Greater Understanding of Rudimentary Modular Functions,” eContact,17.4, (2016).

[2] ”Interview with Emilé Gillet (Mutable Instruments),” Keith McMillen, last modified September 2, 2015,

[3] Mattias Puech, “Of Emergance” in Spectres III: Ghosts in The Machine, ed. François Bonnet et al. (Paris: Shelter Press, 2021), 89. 

[4] ibid.

Networks for listening


Members of the electronic network ensembles The League of Automatic Music Composers and The Hub, Tim Perkis and John Bischoff state that the idea of using electronic systems themselves as musical actors, as opposed to merely tools, stem from composers such as David Tudor and Gordon Mumma.[1] They note that Tudor suggested the primary job of a musical composer/performer during performance was to listen, rather than to specify and create every sound that happens in a performance. Referring to Tudor’s view they write: “His style of music asks of us, whether playing the role of composer, performer, or audience member, to attend to a sonic representation of the behavior of an autonomous network; the interest of the work lies in nothing more than perceiving and enjoying that system's complex behavior.” [2] Tudor’s approach of stringing together cheap electronic components into complex networks gave rise to a music sometimes hard to listen to: an extremely distorted, noisy music of abrasively electronic sounds that did not attempt to satisfy any conventional musical expectations. It possessed an inhuman “otherness” as Perkis explains it.[3]


It is calling on us to use our inherent ability to analyze an acoustic scene as a way of getting
a view into the workings of a complex system of some kind. It's asking for a new kind of listening, some hybrid of aesthetic attention and natural perception, a way of listening adequate for parsing the sonic traces that make up this music. – Tim Perkis
(on David Tudor)


No matter if the aesthetics of the music are noisy, smooth, atonal, or tonal, no matter what elements the network is comprised of; if it is designed to include non-linearities, listening will be at the core. Of course, you can choose to let the process of interaction flow and behave as it behaves; however, if you are interested in engaging with the network, it will be a choice that calls for listening. One might even call the musical network an instrument for listening. Regarding modular synthesizers as tools for listening Richard Scott addresses that you have to go beyond your own ideas to work with them, you cannot limit yourself to what you think you want to hear or what you think you want to do, there is always so many capabilities and possibilities that are being thrown at you. [4] Even a solo performance will always at least be a duet, a conversation. Perkis points out that as in conversations, each participant doesn't know what the partner will say next, and therefore doesn't even know what himself will say in response. One is always responding to what actually happens, which is not always what one expects.[5] An instrument for listening, that calls for openness, for your surrender. What does a composer do? According to Morton Feldman a composer sets up a situation, sets it in motion, and observe - listen. [6]

[1] Tim Perkis & John Bischoff, ”The League of Automatic Music Composers 1978-1983,” 2007,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Tim Perkis, "Complexity and Emergence in the American Experimental Music Tradition," in Art and Complexity, ed. John Casti et al. (Santa Fe: JAI Press, 2003), 7.

[4] Richard Scott, Irregular Transmissions #5: Seven Fundamental Concepts on Modular Synthesis (2021, June) [online video]. Retrievied from:

[5] Perkis, "Complexity and Emergence in the American Experimental Music Tradition," 10

[6] Ibid.


Apart from being a synthesis method carried out by separate modules providing different functions, modular synthesis relies heavily and freely on modulation. In a broad musical sense modulation often refers to the change from one tonality to another, i.e., a motion from one set of values to another set of values. On a modular synthesizer these actions tend to be motions one automate, rather than being actions one physically make. The gradual passing from one state to another can be that of a structural change of key (macro modulation), or it can be a minute timbral movement in a singular voice (micro modulation), or any other motion imagined or emerged. From the patch-programming perspective (making no distinction between what signal is what signal) the function of any one signal can become a question of velocity - the rate suggests the function. Periodic waveforms (oscillating signals) provide an example. (Click on images to start/stop the sound)




Micro modulations





Macro modulations

Steps in video

1. Oscillating signal (1)

2. Oscillating signal (2) modulating the timbre of oscillating signal (1)

3. Oscillating signal (2) being used as a clock for a sequence of randomly generated notes

4. The sequence changing the pitch of oscillating signal (1)

5. The sequence modulating the rate of oscillating signal (2)

6. The rate of oscillating signal (2) divided by 8 – opening or closing ‘a gate’ to new random pitches every 8 beat

The video is a basic example of macro modulation, in this case achieving  fluctuating melodic/rhythmic structure in one voice by a kind of cross-modulation/feedback - this by having a clocked sequence of voltages modulate the clock which drives its tempo. The last step, the divided gate, adds a level of  regularity, a breathing of sorts between a fixed and unfixed state. This technique can be extended in many directions, over more voices and modulators, that all can be in conversation with each other. For an evolved take on a network using similar ideas of combined micro and macro modulation in one voice, see the Krell patch by Todd Barton

Core voltage

In the paper It’s Not an Instrument, It’s an Ensemble Joseph Hyde goes into detail about his approach piecing together an 8-voice multi-timbral Eurorack system. In discussing the structure and quirks of the individual voices he notes:
I’ve realized that I’ve not been aiming at an instrument at all, but rather an ensemble. Rather than a single instrument, I see it as eight…” [1] Richard Scott builds upon the idea of an ensemble approach and provides the concept of core voltage i.e., that any count of voices can be derived from a single stream of information.[2] A single stream of information that can be duplicated, divided, split, flipped, modulated or altered into an ensemble of events.

You can have one core voltage, but it’s having a different effect and different amounts of effect on all these different voices, and the voices themselves as audio could also be cross-modulating each other. You quickly have an ensemble of events, where you are in some way the conductor and in some way not. – Richard Scott [3]

As a performer you are left with the opportunity to engage with the ensemble to any degree possible or desired, to become a part of the network by conducting relationships between events. The key to the concept being the fact that any change manually made or modulated in the core voltage alters the whole ensemble. By introducing cross-modulation or feedback on a macro level the patch can start to exhibit emergent qualities, not just in a single voice but in the whole flow of voltages, the whole system in conversation.

This early entry in my video journal represents my baby steps towards understadning the concept of core voltage. The patch does not exhibit emergent behaviour. But it utilizes a randomly generated looping sequence at the core, that in turn gets spread out over three differently tuned voices. The looping sequence gets transposed (modulated) by another sequencer that I "play" by changing values live. To me the performance is more of an exercise in top-down control and linearity than a generative self-organizing patch that has the ability to grow into something else. As stated, it was my baby steps towards something entagled, steps towards a bottom-up experience where my manual interventions are equal to any other function in the system, a modulation source, rather than the dictating force.

[1] Joseph Hyde, ”It’s not an instrument, it’s an ensemble: A Parallel Approach To Modular Synthesizer Design,” eContact 17.4, (2016).

[2] Richard Scott, Irregular Transmissions #5: Seven Fundamental Concepts on Modular Synthesis (2021, June) [online video]. Retrieved from:

[3] Richard Scott, Irregular Transmissions #6: More Fundamental Modular Ideas (2021, June) [online video]. Retrieved from:

Sine wave oscillating

1. A square wave oscillating at 220Hz


Sine (1) frequency modulated by sine (2)

2. A square wave oscillating at 2,67Hz


Sine (1) frequency modulated by sine (2) + frequency modulated by sine (1)

3. A square wave oscillating at 2,67Hz, clocking a sequence of 8 notes. (becoming a control function)


Sine (1) frequency modulated by sine (2) + frequency modulated by sine (1) + both frequency modulated by the combined outcome


The images above represent the output of a network with two Simplex noise operators in a feedback loop inside TouchDesigner. Simplex noise is an evolved form of Perlin noise, an algorithm, or a procedural texture developed by Ken Perlin in 1983 to give an impression of randomness: “It needed to have a variation that looked random, and yet it needed to be controllable, so it could be used to design various looks.” [1] It is a pseudo-random noise function that is often used in computer graphics to make visual elements appear more natural, for instance it is often used in video games to generate landscapes and terrain. The fact that it is an algorithm rather than an image-based texture, allows it to be scaled and altered in many ways. Perlin explains noise as a seasoning to make things irregular and more interesting, he also notes that the fact that noise does not repeat makes it useful in a similar way that a paint brush is useful when painting:


You use a particular paint brush because the bristles have a particular statistical quality - because of the size and spacing and stiffness of the bristles. You don't know, or want to know, about the arrangement of each particular bristle. In effect, oil painters used a controlled random process (centuries before John Cage made such a big deal about it) - Ken Perlin [2]


American composer John Cage began to use chance operations in his compositions during the 1950s, leaving decisions in the score, and later decisions in performance up to chance, for example by employing coin tosses, or consulting the I-Ching (the Chinese book of changes).[3]  One of his ambitions with indeterminacy was to place himself in the role of listener and discoverer rather than creator, and to move towards viewing compositions as processes rather than objects. He notes that his own piece Music of Changes (1951), although composed indeterminately, did not afford the performer the ability to perform from her own center, but from the center of the work as written, it was still an object.[4]


As hinted by Perlin, randomness has been used as a compositional tool for centuries, both in the visual- and the sounding arts. In overview Aleatoric music can be described as a music whose composition and/or performance is to a greater or lesser extent undetermined by the composer, and while this can be made to be true for almost all music, the term is usually restricted to music in which the composer has made a deliberate withdrawal of control. [5] European composers Stockhausen and Boulez also had their go at employing aleatoric techniques during the 50s and 60s, often not as a way of writing the actual music, but as a way to give performers some flexibility to choose between alternative routes, e.g. different pre-written parts, or alternative tempos during performance. A generalization made of early aleatoric music in Europe is that it was a matter of choice rather than chance.[6] However, composer Iannis Xenakis made use of chance by turning to stochastic processes, the laws of probability, to compose most of his music. Probability is the branch of mathematics putting numbers to how likely an event is to occur, adding percentages to the heads and tails of a coin toss for instance. Stochastic music can be seen as a fully composed music, where chance only enters the compositional process, not the performance. It often relies on computer-calculated random distribution, which can be applied to pitches, or any other compositional parameter you would like to distribute over a range. [7]  


Building modular synth patches and TouchDesigner networks is a real-time activity, meaning that calculations of any kind often are left to the computer, or modules inside the network to carry out as it unfolds. Donald Buchla describes that the design choices behind the Buchla modules 265 and 266, or The Source of Uncertainty as they are often reffered to, was to aid the composer:

The predictabilities could be highly defined, or you could have a sequence of totally random numbers. We had voltage control of the randomness and of the rate of change. In this way you could make patterns that were of more interest than patterns that are totally random. Donald Buchla [8]


Even though I have not used the Buchla 266, I often use Eurorack modules that were partly inspired by it, such as the Turing Machine by Music Thing Modular. What I do feel is that my compositions are aided by controllable randomness, or pseudo-randomness, it is at the core of all the sounding and all the visual work presented in this exposition. It is sometimes the clay, the core voltage, the raw material. It is sometimes a helping hand, sometimes the decisionmaker. In the context of generative networks, it is a function among other functions. It can be indeterminant, noisy, stochastic, and highly controlled all at the same time. The amount of control can itself be as probabilistic as the rest of the network.


I do relate to Cage's ambition of becoming a listener and seeing a composition as a process rather than an object, and I do think some level of indeterminacy helps. I believe it echoes in Brian Eno’s thoughts about a generative approach, to let go of some control to the system is a rethinking of one's own position as a creator: “You stop thinking of yourself as me, the controller, you the audience, and you start thinking of all of us as the audience, all of us as people enjoying the garden together, gardener included.”[9] Noise can be a seasoning, and it can be it, the seed that grows into a work of art. It can be both, at the same time.

[1] ”Making noise”, Ken Perlin, accessed April 20, 2022,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Groove Music Online, s,v. "Aleatory,” by Paul Griffiths, accessed April 15, 2022,

[4] John Cage, "Composition as a Process: Indeterminacy," in Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox et al. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 259.

[5] Groove Music Online, s,v. "Aleatory,” by Paul Griffiths, accessed April 15, 2022,

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Oxford Companion to musics,v. "Stochastic music," by Paul Griffiths, accessed April 10, 2022,

[8] Donald Buchla ,"Don Buchla: Buchla 100 Series", Eigenwelt, accessed January 12, 2022

[9] "Composers as Gardeners - Brian Eno," Edge, last modified Oktober 11, 2011 



TouchDesigner is a visual development platform designed by the Canadian company Derivative. In 2000 they embarked on a mission to make a spin off from the visual effects software’s Prisms and Houdini. The goal was to create a real-time 2D and 3D interactive animation product, suitable for authoring any form of interactive art, media, or visualization. [1] It is a tool for artists, performers and researchers that allows for working with generative and recorded media by connecting visual building blocks into networks.[2] The workflow was partially inspired by the idea of the patchable modular synthesizers, but instead of physical modules you wire together operators on screen to instantly generate a picture. [3]


We see the operators in TouchDesigner almost like the elements of the periodic table. Every element in the periodic table does something different and there is no commonality, and they are combined to make molecules, and the molecules are the powerful things that form life. – Greg Hermanovic [4] 


The open-ended design approach and the real-time capabilities made possible by computer graphics cards (GPUs) opens for the creation of live visuals in an improvisational manner, for instance by connecting audio and control signals from a modular synthesizer to instantly drive (modulate) 2D or 3D animations. Both internal and external control signals are handled by the operator family CHOPs, or channel operators. The family includes audio oscillators, noise for creating semi-random patterns, MIDI in and out, time based on and off signals, and a long list of other functions that can be procedurally patched in chains. In essence CHOPs process channel data and connect the results to any other part of TouchDesigner.[5] No matter if you use CHOPs, TOPs, SOPs or any other operator family the workflow is of a certain character - a combining of functions into networks.






[1] "About Derivative," Derivative, accessed Mars 16, 2022,

[2] "About TouchDesigner," The Node Institute. accessed Mars 16, 2022,

[3], Psst Interview #28 – Greg Hermanovic (2018, June) [online video]. Retrived from:

[4] Ibid.

[5] "CHOP," Derivative, last modified April 10 2022,


1 Background     

The Network     

3 Mellanrum    

4 Swimmers    

5 Reference List    

6 Appendix: The Journal