the dark interpreter



Permanently sold out.

From the diviner of The Black Death, The Dark Interpreter (Towers Open Fire edition/Cristy 2015) is the ultimate plague-driven, finger sensitive, stand-alone noise processor, granular synthesiser and sound generator, merging digital and analogue processing.

The Dark Interpreter is modelled as a set of leaky, overlapping medieval village spaces within which various plague simulations run, and through which a motley of villagers (grains) wander, steered by electric fingers and touch.

Following the work of Thomas de Quincey, The Dark Interpreter re-casts the contemporary noise instrument as a "dark symbolic mirror", placing control of parameters on the skin, and strapping a psyche/plague village interface to the head. This is modern live coding with no screen, no keyboard and little conscious control.

The Dark Interpreter thus seeks to return all contagious execution to the skin, rewriting the history of technology as a plague which has always attempted to shift that site into the earth itself.


The truth I heard often in sleep from the lips of the Dark Interpreter. Who is he? He is a shadow, reader, but a shadow with whom you must suffer me to make you acquainted.

[Thomas de Quincey. The Dark Interpreter]

The Dark Interpreter operates as contagious sample or village granulator, distortion, and unique sound generator based on a speedy ARM processor allowing for 16 bit sampling at 48KHz, and with a sample memory of around one second (vastly extended by undersampling).

The Dark Interpreter is delivered in three versions, all fully assembled and tested, and features high quality ALPS potentiometers, optional BOSS style 9v power socket (+9v/positive on the outside, negative centre, minimum 300mA) or battery clip, and now full size (6.5mm) Neutrik

JACK input and output sockets. Please note that versions cannot be extended, they are not cross-compatible.

The three versions are:

1-The eldest of the three is named Mater Lachrymarum, Our Lady of Tears.


The simplest Dark Interpreter consisting of one digital base board for solely digital processing and generation. Order with 9v socket (default) and/or battery clip on the back (please specify). Some skin control and entry. Mater Lachrymarum is recommended for complex granular sampling and is particularly suited for vocal re-processing.

2-The second Sister is called Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs.

The second Dark Interpreter consists of one digital/analogue base board (same as the above but fully populated board) with digital processing and generation extended by symmetrical custom filters, distortion, and switchable feedback paths. Order with 9v socket (default) or battery clip on the back (please specify). Some skin control and code entry. Mater Suspiriorum is recommended for harsh noise with relinquished control.

Permanently sold out.

3-But the third Sister […] her name is Mater Tenebrarum,—Our Lady of Darkness.


This two-tiered Interpreter (The Black Stack) extends the Mater Suspiriorum with an algorithmically-designed, gold-plated skin breakout board and skin/EEG amplifier (strap it to the head, stick it in the earth, pull it across the skin, into the body). All signal paths and settings are accessible to the skin for complex hand re-routing, and feedback. Of course the device can be used without any wished skin transfer. Tenebrarum ships with 9v socket (not recommended for safety reasons) and battery clip on the back. Mater Tenebrarum presents the ultimate in harsh noise/granular processing with divined control. Tenebrarum is recommended for experienced dark interpreters.

Permanently sold out.


Note that all modules share the same sampling capabilities, and Tenebrarum shares the same hardware extensions as Suspiriorum (so these can sound the same, and all units can sound like Lachrymarum).

More samples to follow soon - older Diana edition samples also give a general flavour.

Mater Tenebrarum (sounds as for Suspiriorum)

Mater Lachrymarum (sounds as for all with no use of analogue hardware)


The Dark Interpreter 001

Note: This video shows the older Diana edition: ideas of control remain the same.

Tutorial videos

Rough guide

The Dark Interpeter will not always be found sitting inside my dreams, but at times outside, and in open daylight.

The Dark Interpreter is influenced and guided by body capacitance, skin resistance, biological micro-voltages and the fleshy conduction of all signals. These are ways of saying that the Dark Interpreter is completely open. It is not to be considered as a closed and bounded device which is subject to an exterior control "by the body." The Dark Interpreter is an electronic and thus earthy shadow of the body, it is (inside) the body.

The Dark Interpreter is thus not to be controlled. It is an obsidian electronic mirror, the earth and skin itself.

The preliminary working of The Dark Interpreter (reflecting the state of the improviser) should be considered as part of the creation of a unique, skin-sensitive electronic instrument or effects processor. The border between this first stage and the improvisation and playing of the instrument is diffuse, the mirror surface (obsidian) is ill-defined. The Dark Interpreter leads a path for skin, fingers, earth and head.

To define the uses and potential paths of The Dark Interpreter we refer to the five knobs/potentiometers and the finger-board, the gold set of contacts which in the case of Tenebrarum is seperate from the two pronged fangs (for head and earth use).

All three models differ in terms of specific "controls" but general principles of use can be defined referring to the layout of each model below. All models must be played by both fingers and knobs. Of course, once a suitable effect has been divined, the Dark Interpreter will process all incoming audio/generate sound with no handy attention.

Mater Lachrymarum and Mater Suspiriorum


Mater Tenebrarum



In nearly all modes of operation, fingers/skin must be used to steer and influence The Dark Interpreter. In certain cases it may be necessary to touch one finger against the marked V pad if the fingers are too dry and do not seem to trigger operations.

Finger positions Left, Right, Up and Down refer to code and sample movements dependent on mode.

For full details on operation and modes please refer to the manuals below.


Diana edition (before December 18): PDF Manual V0.04

Towers edition (after): PDF Manual V0.05

Hardware and software

The Dark Interpreter is licensed as open hardware and free software with all schematics, software and layouts/notes available at:


Both bare, gold plated PCBs (upper and lower) can be ordered (please enquire as to prices and availability).

Towers firmware:


m [at] 1010.co.uk


This trial is decisive. You are now satisfied that the apparition is but a reflex of yourself; and, in uttering your secret feelings to him, you make this phantom the dark symbolic mirror for reflecting to the daylight what else must be hidden for ever.

Author: root <m@1010.co.uk>

Date: 2015-09-06 10:01:43 BST

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