“It’s a great instrument. There is a whole world out there that is available through some microtonal instigation, and Misha is great for that.”
Electronic music composer and sound alchemist Lisa Bella Donna is known for her long-form, experimental soundscapes, consistently pushing the boundaries of what is possible in modular synthesis — both with her musical ideas and compositional toolkits. Bella Donna is constantly at work and one of the more prolific electronic artists of our time, having released six albums in 2022 alone. Eventide’s Misha — an interval-based instrument and sequencer for Eurorack — is among the more recent tools in her in her creative arsenal.
Bella Donna is very familiar with the Eventide brand having used its products over the course of her creative career: “I’ve been using Eventide products for 30 years,” she says. “I’ve recorded countless sessions with a Pair of H910 Harmonizers, 1745 Clockworks Delay, PS-101 Phasers, and then the H3000 intelligent harmony machines were brilliant.” As someone who has moved fluidly with technology of the times, she has routinely adapted her creative toolkit and has had Misha installed in her system since it came out in May of 2021.
Leveraging Misha’s microtonal joy
Since it’s been in her case, Bella Donna has used Misha on several of her 2022 releases including Photophobia and the more recent Travelogue. “It’s a truly remarkable device, especially for someone like me who is into music that is a little outside of the box,” she says. On Photophobia, she used a pair of classic Moog 960 sequencers as ‘logic devices’ to trigger Misha, before sending CV out of her Misha to a Moog Mavis and Mother32. “Very often, I take sequential gates and have the sequencers be a little more contrapuntal from each other,” she says. “When I’m doing this with Misha, I can do polyphonic stuff that is totally unique — the sky is the limit.”
One of the things she loves most about Misha is its ability to create and utilize both traditional and non-traditional tunings. “There is a whole world out there that is available through some microtonal instigation, and Misha can help you access all of that,” she says. “Some of Wendy Carlos’ work was done by lifting some of the semi-tones out of the western scale while she was playing classical repertoire — that is one reason it sounded so authentic, because of the way that she applied these tunings. Everything does not have to be based off of 440 tuning.” Bella Donna says that a hidden power lies in unconventional tunings, and this is something one can leverage using Misha with little to no effort.
Opening creative options for music creators
”One of my favorite things about Misha is that it is an antidote for anybody with writer’s block,” she says. “Just get that thing out and experiment. The next thing you know, you are pulling up things you wouldn’t have thought about on a keyboard.” For Bella Donna, who is often composing new albums while she is touring, it’s important to have powerful — and portable — technology available at her beck and call whenever creativity strikes.
“When I first got the device, I put it in my folding ATA case and took it out on the road immediately,” she recalls. “Initially I didn’t have time to go in depth, but Misha’s intuitive interface allowed me to quickly get my feet wet so I could start using it and implementing it in my live sets.”
During the early part of 2022, Bella Donna began composing her Travelogue LP, which captures several long-form sonic photographs of the artist’s recent travels across the United States. Two of the tracks on that album, “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “Soon It Will Become”, were recorded using Misha: “In these cases I didn’t use it in an atonal sense, but I had it tuned to different scales used it in a more momentary situation. Interfacing Misha with a clock divider, looping envelopes as a clock source, and a sequential switch.” she explains. “Misha sounds totally different than other sequencer — it is hard to describe but very easy to hear. You are able to manipulate all these chord voicings and chord shapes — it’s like using three separate synthesizers, it’s remarkable.”
An inviting user interface
Speaking of its user interface, Bella Donna says that Misha adds a few helpings of ‘playful’ into the mix: “It is an unintimidating and playful way to dig into a sophisticated device that can play outside of the western norm,” she says. “It is a beautiful instrument design and I love the straightforwardness of the UI.” Having flexibility over Misha’s CV and gate/trigger outputs gives her a lot of control over routing in her set up, too: “I like the XYZ pattern you can create by taking those gate and trigger outs to other utilities. This allows you to get a really big sound using only three voices, for instance.”
While many often speak about the ‘good old days’ of vintage gear, Bella Donna believes we are in the middle of a musical equipment renaissance right now: “I think we are living in the best of times,” she concludes. “Think about it: all the tools are available right now to create whatever your heart desires. All of the classic stuff is back, and if you want Eurorack and digital control within Eurorack, the sky is the limit with newer tools like Misha. We are living in amazing times and these tools give us an opportunity to create lasting artistic impressions, no matter culture or genre of music. That’s what music is.”