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Who we are: Adam

Name: Adam Lange-Pearson

Job title: Chief Plumber

What’s your backstory? What did you do before NE?

I lived most of my childhood in Northeastern North Dakota. Devils Lake, a small town with biting cold winters 100 miles from the nearest city, provided a warm and supportive community for my musical development. Everyone in my family is a classically trained musician, and after a childhood playing with legos under my Mom’s grand piano and watching my Dad’s choir rehearsals, it’s now often easier for me to make music than to talk. I wasn’t super-talented at everything music, though - I got a C in college piano proficiency and my elementary school band teacher talked me into quitting the clarinet.

The cello was different and I played it obsessively (instead of doing homework). At some point in high school, I began cello lessons in Winnipeg, Manitoba - a 4-hour drive up, a 2-hour lesson, and then a 4-hour drive back, every two weeks. Eventually, my parents and a number of other people put enough money together to send me to Interlochen Arts Academy, a high school in Michigan, and that eventually led me to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. During the years at Eastman, I did a fair amount of teaching and performing, was on the sub-list of two professional orchestras, and spent most of my free time preparing for competitions and auditions.

Not long after finishing graduate school, I started feeling symptoms of arthritis. I quickly knew I needed to do something about that, but it took a year of long walks and soul-searching to decide to set music aside and to start a career as a computer engineer. A driving force for me has always been to do something creative and to do that with other people, and of course that can happen in many paths in life. Time and reflection helped me realize that if I went deep enough into a different domain such as science and engineering, I would find the same beauty and elegance that I’ve known in music since childhood. That thought (and impending body-doom) was enough self-permission to start school all over again at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). For some reason, it didn’t matter that my only background in the new domain was some programming in middle school and a few high school math classes. I also had to learn to type and remember how to do long division.

The switch turned out just fine. My wife and I moved to Minnesota, where I was a programmer for a long string of cool projects at IBM for more than two decades.

During that time, music came back. The amazing Mayo Clinic diagnosed my condition as psoriatic arthritis, and they’ve helped me keep it at bay so that I can still play music. A friend at work talked me into conducting the regional youth orchestra, SEMYO, which became a wonderful, central part of my life for 17 years. I also played cello in a rock band for a short bit, where we had constant fun playing while people danced, sang, and generally had a loud good time.

How long have you been at NE?

I’ve been at NE since March, 2021. A month before, I noticed a forum post that said NE was looking for an experienced programmer with a background in music. Life changed radically after that.

What do you do at NE?

I write and review a lot of code, and I go down rabbit holes in both code and conversation. In the cracks of time, I’m laughing over the latest banter on our internal Slack channels.

What’s your day-to-day like?

I’m typically one of the first to show up online in the morning (I’m in an earlier time zone), and I try to use that time to do programming. There’s a lot of software work to do, so most days are pretty much all just that. I do video chats with my NE colleagues when time allows, to just pick their brain and learn something. I usually meet with Stephen daily.

What do you do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my family or explore something musical. Of course, our house and garden always needs attention, and sometimes I even do that. I feel most at home outside in nature, doing things like hiking, canoeing, birding, and photography. I like sunsets, talking to neighbors, watching Colbert with my wife, and being a lap for our cat, Elmer.

What’s your favorite NE module that you’ve worked on?

The products I’ve been working on are all pre-beta, so I can’t talk about them yet :) When I was in elementary school, I asked a famous cellist, Leslie Parnas, what his favorite piece of music was - he smiled and said that it’s whatever he’s playing at the time. I try to keep that in mind in everything I do.

What’s your favorite module in your system?

Who’s your favorite child?

What’s your favorite limb?

I like modules that respond like an acoustic instrument, where subtle movements give an immediate, complex change in timbre and articulation. To name a few that I’ve used, I find that in Rings, Manis Iteritas, Ruina Versio, DPO, and Morphagene.

Well-executed tools and problem solvers actually give me the most enjoyment, though. The fancy modules above are awesome, but basic modulators and utilities let you draw out your own unique musical character from the rack. I’ve barely scratched the surface here. In my experience, they include offset/attenuators, Maths, Quantus Pax, and anything Joranalogue.

What’s your favorite patch technique?

I like to mix and chain CV, to make a timbre sound intentional but human (i.e., perfect mixed with imperfect?). For example, I might add a small amount of Wogglebug audio-rate output or E352 filtered pink noise to a complex LFO pattern, and try it on almost any FM, AM, or FX CV input.

Desert island module?

All of them! At its best, I view a modular instrument like a close-knit family rather than a set of rugged individuals. I don’t think Morphagene would survive on a desert island, but it would in a skiff with other actors (along with a source of electricity).

What was your first synthesizer, modular or otherwise?

Electronic instruments were beyond my financial reach when I was growing up, especially with a cello to pay for. My first synth experience was an underwhelming, extremely simple digital oscillator, which I built in engineering school on a small motorola micro. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I touched a non-acoustic instrument.

What’s your favorite non-modular instrument?

Voice.

Really, I like anything that makes sound. Oboe, marimba, stick on a stone, field-recorded night peepers, anything.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? Favorite bands? Songs?

I’ve lived intensely with music for so long and in so many ways that my relationship with it is probably different than it is for many folks. (see favorite albums, below, for enduring favorites)

After I retired from conducting, I felt like I wanted to know more deeply how people experienced the music that they love. That began a roughly deliberate exploration of every genre I could find online, where I’d listen to only one style for maybe 3 weeks. It’s easy to do in the age of Spotify. For example, I’ve listened to weeks of House music from various origins, followed by only top 100 country/western, followed by only Quality Control hiphop. It’s been great!

I also spend a lot of time not listening to recordings, so I can work through musical thoughts tooling around in my head.

What’s a module you want that doesn’t exist yet?

I’d love something for CV modulation and control that makes it easy to quickly improvise changes in dynamics, articulation, pitch, rhythm, and timbre, all at the same time. As easy as it is with my cello bow.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek

Favorite pizza toppings?

Black olives

What album could you not stop listening to when you were in high school?

Wendy Carlos, Switched on Bach (every day for months)

Brahms 4th symphony (every day for months)

Bach 3rd orchestral suite, 2nd mvmt

Frank Martin, Mass for Double Chorus (every day for months)

Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli

What would your younger self think about what you do now?

Well, first, I prefer to believe that I’m still my younger self :) The kid from North Dakota would look at Now in totally amazed disbelief. He would be inspired to get through all of the hoops of life, knowing what was ahead.

Favorite NE memory?

When Kris noticed that I used “you” and “NE” when I talked in team meetings, and reminded me that I could say “us” and “we”.

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