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The City is Full of Noises: Meet Rick Holt from Frequency Central

Frequency Central's Rick Holt discusses his work in electronic music and what to expect from his Modular Masterclasses

A photo of Rick Holt from Frequency Central smiling. He is standing in front of a screen with "The City is Full of Noises" projected onto it

Following his sell-out success at our pilot event last year, Frequency Central's Rick Holt returns to deliver more modular synth masterclasses as part of The City is Full of Noises 2023. Taking place on Saturday 25 March, these beginner sessions offer an opportunity for would-be modular musicians and those "synth-trested" alike to experiment and play with a selection of musical groove boxes.

Taking place throughout March, The City is Full of Noises is a celebration of electronic music, inspired by Coventry-born pioneer Delia Derbyshire. Ahead of the festival's launch, we asked Rick to tell us a bit more about his work and what to expect from this year's workshops. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Frequency Central?

As a kid I messed around with tape, electronics and later, actual musical instruments. I used to solder together little noisy oscillators, splice up tape to make loops, and record the static found between the stations on old-school radios. Eventually I realised I could do this for a job! Frequency Central grew naturally out of my desire to build a modular synthesiser for my own use.

What attracted you to electronic music and made you decide to start making modular synths?

I grew up listening to strange sci-fi sounds in music, film, and TV. At first, I had no clue what these sounds were or how they were made. Eventually I became aware of these amazing machines called synthesisers. I couldn't afford one, but I could solder....

What inspires you to design and create new modules?

Inspiration can come from many sources. Sometimes it'll be a module I need to fill a specific need, like the Silent Disco module I have designed for The City is Full of Noises workshops. Sometimes I'll come across a particular electronic component that will inspire a module. Sometimes I'll have a good idea in the shower...

How easy is it to pick up and learn to make music with modular synths?

It's important to remember that the first synthesisers didn't have keyboards - sound creation relied on wiggling knobs, flicking switches, pushing sliders, and listening to, and responding to the results. Electronic music can push the boundaries of what music is - if we can hear it, and it provokes an emotional reaction, then surely, it's music.

Rick Holt from Frequency Central leading a modular synth workshop at the Herbert in 2022. There is a group of people gathered around him and a synth on a table in the foreground in front of them.

Can you talk about the workshops you'll be running as part of The City is Full of noises 2023?

This year's theme is Silent Disco. There will be 7 or 8 separate modular systems, each system will have its own headphone output. Participants will be able to explore each system via headphone. Each system will also be hooked up to a multitrack recorder and a PA system, so we'll be able to carve a live soundscape out of the participants' improvisations. We'll also be able to record each modular system individually. There's the possibility to create a permanent record of the event.

Do you have a Favourite electronic music album or track?

Oh, this is too easy; Autobahn by Kraftwerk, 22 minutes, and 30 seconds of aural sculpture, blending electronics, voice, vocoder, and some conventional instrumentation. How did they do that back then? There just wasn't the technology to produce the music they wanted to make, so they designed some of the instruments themselves.....see question 1.!

Rick Holt's Modular Masterclasses take place from 10am - 12pm and 2pm - 4pm on Saturday 25 March as part of The City is Full of Noises 2023. To reserve your spot, please email with your name and preferred time slot and we will do our best to accommodate. Spaces are available on a first come, first served basis.