Moog has unveiled its new analog synthesizer, the Subharmonicon. The instrument finally arrives on the consumer market after a prototype version was teased during a workshop at Moogfest, the company’s curated music festival, in 2018. To commemorate the occasion, Moog shared a short film, Music as Living Matter, featuring a score by electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani, composed entirely with the Subharmonicon.
The hype is well deserved. The early models used during Moogfest sold for thousands on the second hand market, leaving artists and hobbyists wondering when the instrument would see an official rollout, much like Moog’s Werkstaat.
The latest evolution in Moog’s arsenal of semi-modular analog synths, the Subharmonicon offers a limitless creative portal worthy of the iconic brand. To achieve such an end, the company reached into the past, into the mathematical musical systems of Joseph Schillinger and the ideologies of vintage synths such as the Mixtur-Trautonium and Leon Theremin’s Rhythmicon.
“A long time ago, when I was in college and first met [founder] Bob [Moog], the Rhythmicon came up a couple of times,” Moog senior hardware lead Steve Dunnington said. “One of his other students was into Schillinger…and I’ve always been fascinated by patterns that repeat differently each time…and that’s a thing you can explore [with Subharmonicon]. This instrument was inspired by some of the ideas and musical concepts of Schillinger, such as the idea that by taking a set of pitches and superimposing them on a set of rhythms with a different length will generate rotating musical motives.”
The synth applies “mathematical ratios to tune four Subharmonic Oscillators and control the timing of its four Rhythm Generators.” Integer-derived timing values allow for patterns to blend fluidly and coherently. As with Moog’s Mother-32 and DFAM, the Subharmonicon conforms to the 60HP Eurorack format, featuring aluminum rails, wood-finished sides, and an extensive patchbay. It can also perform as a standalone electronic instrument, ideal for both beginners and those looking to build to their already potent Moog collection.
As Ciani’s score well proves, the Subharmonicon offers an expansive palette of sonic exploration for even the most traveled of synth auteurs. Multidisciplinary artist Scott Kiernan provides visuals for Music As Living Matter, a hallucinatory spectacle that compliments Ciani’s woven patterns.
“What I love about this instrument is that it gives you a more organic and fluid beat pattern that is off the grid,” Ciani said of the Subharmonicon. “It is intuitive and yet full of surprises. Schillinger gives us a very fundamental concept of what music is to a human being that I connect with: Art is a piece of life itself that we make to reflect our experience.”
The synth’s two analog voltage-control oscillators (VCOs) and four subharmonic oscillators combine for a total of six sound sources. The subharmonic tones are mathematically dictated by one of the two VCOs, resulting in two chords that share sonic coherency. The synth allows for onboard quantization, contemporary Equal Temperament settings, the intervals of Just Intonation, or the freedom of zero quantization. The sounds become infinite via the Subharmonicon’s modular patchbay, though no patching is required for use.
The Subharmonicon retails for $699 and is available here. Stream Music as Living Matter and a few brief demos in the YouTube videos below, followed by further audio samples in the Soundcloud player.
Images of the Moog Subharmonicon: