Ever since I started playing with more than two synthesizers I started lacking the second pair of hands. Modern synthesizers are all interconnected with MIDI, self-triggered and easily programmable even in live situations, to run complicated sequences and arpeggios, so playing few instruments at once is not a problem. The real problem is that letting all the machines go in an auto mode as they are, only modulating eg. the filter or resonance of a specific part, from time to time.... shortly speaking having only two hands is a big limitation when you have to control a dozen of knobs and another dozen of buttons. If you do not keep your hands over one instrument, it is very hard to get the full potential out of it, hence the music might be not as full as you know it could be. Contrary to belief, even playing dark techno, which bases on short, automated industrial sounds and glitches, needs a lot of modulation and additions eg. of sudden filter movements or reverbs.
I have been often joining some live, electronic jams in Warsaw or watched local forums to look for partners to collaborate - yes, the mocked wanna collab, bro? - yet I never found a right person even to try to ask for it. To my surprise, a lot of participants of jams or forums were people not really knowing what they are doing, or people more interested in sound synthesis as a process, as a technique of creating sounds and sound sculptures, rather than creating a band to play live. If anybody was interested, they were either having a new baby or they were right in their life-changing business career turning point, whatever. Guys who had time and talent did not know jack about music, some even not able to name keys on the keyboard. What is an octave? A car model?
Dreams come true sometimes when you really want it, I suppose. I have met a lovely girl who is also a very good cook, so I showed her yesterday how to cook techno. I should mention that she is a professional musician, a cellist, and as everyone who has been educated in music, she has gone through hundreds of hours of piano and composition lessons. I could not believe how accurate and great companion she is, how easily she could add new sounds, somehow knowing exactly how to bite it.
I guess I found a co-pilot for my techno shuttle.
The techno movement, as a club scene, started in warehouses. That's how the abbreviation house got its way into music culture. Soon after that came techno. As if from psychedelic feelings a futuristic statement was born. Techno then was apparently very different from what is considered to be now. If you are old enough to see the beginning of electronic music history, you know that it is different and far more complex.
Since the process of making music in my case is similar to how pioneers recorded (hardware synthesizers recorded on some device, in my case, it is a two-track software program, without further coloring & mastering), with a lot of influence from jazz, funk, modern classical and film music, not from electronic music, I tend to put a lot of feelings, more specific content, rather than focusing on automatisation - more breaks + more melody.
"It's all techno" and "What is techno after all?". Why so many types of techno exist? Word "techno" no longer serves as a description of strange sounds, structured rhythms, and futuristic landscapes combined with characteristic 4 on the floor beat. The slight differences between genres of this specific electronic music tell us only how very different this music is, and electronic music in general. It is understood often by the context of the party or philosophy of a club, by the personality of the crowd. "This club gives me this feeling, I like it, therefore I like this music too". Listeners often categorize it by the aesthetics of the event and place, not the music itself. This is all because electronic music is far too complex, it is too big, for everybody to understand it. If you open a catalog in a music store labeled eg. ambient you will find a large number of different styles and genres within each genre - a space within.
"Genre, we might say, is a set of conventional and highly organized constraints on the production and interpretation of meaning"
John Frow, Genre, 2005.
Every day some musician drifts from this non-abstract quality of certain electronic musical genre, inspired by modern social relations and even typical consumer's decisions. This is why, in my opinion, sticking genre labels to electronic music are only a tool for marketing purpose, which can help the audience to expect a certain type of party, of overall aesthetic experience, music comes with the package. It might bring large expectations from the side of the audience as well. Like word - minimal. It comes from minimalism and it can mean very different things if we speak about ambient or techno music, very different expectations.
Can techno music get the more proper context? Mean something again. Or is it only a color?
The goal is, of course, to come up with new sounds that haven't been heard before. I run stuff through as many plug-ins and as much hardware as possible.
Francis Preve, The art of extreme noise, Keyboard Magazine 29/9, 2003.
Some musicians are experiencing this strange frustration on the origin of sounds they use in music creation process. I am talking about stock patches which are considered almost a taboo. If you go to a local electronic live jam and tell everyone you are going to use the presets only, you will get ostracized and tagged as an uncreative noob. This approach is full of bullshit.
Take into consideration a characteristic 808 or 909 bass/kick drum sound. It is so classic that it became a golden standard of every four on the floor, and not only, electronic music. Or a sawtooth wave lead synth with high resonance. Or a sine wave deep chord with delay effect. These sounds are used in so many electronic compositions, yet we do not call them stock.
We are experiencing now a very interesting process during which, in a very short time, electronic sounds, considered to be unlimited, have reached a certain moment during which they are crystallizing as a distinguished structure, which will be now polished for next couple of, not centuries, like in case of classical instrument, but dozens of years. There will be new eras and new happy mistakes which will lead to modification of certain instruments and invention of new structures, new sounds. Think about new interfaces which will be used in the future... For classical music, these were the skilled carpenters, luthiers, and skilled musicians. In case of electronic music, these are engineers and kids from your neighborhood.
The majority of my time (dozens of minutes) I spent in front of synthesizers is focused on creating sounds. My own personal sound. Which is, as a matter of fact, created from those standard stock sounds, which are so characteristic and well known, that you can distinguish them and name them specifically. A quick idea and few minutes of ad libitum. I am wondering if it is not a waste of time.
Since starting with hardware electronic music in April 2016, I always had that problem that whenever I played, sooner or later I'd drift towards the melody, which moved the groove into a deep, funky, tech-housee style. I am a pianist, so playing on a piano keyboard never meant using keys as switches. It is a piano key, a hidden hammer system which sounds in so many different ways, depending on how you finger it. Most of all - it creates a well-known sound, with hundreds of references, which lead to ...melodies. Well, in my case, at least.
Finally, a week ago I started creating patches based on white noise, pink noise, square or saw-tooth waves bent and layered with different PCM sounds etc. Especially with the drum section on the JD-Xi - the keyboard is no longer a classic key-bed instrument, but a pad, full of black and white switches which trigger dark and crazy beep and blop sounds. Same with Minibrute - I changed it into an analog dark noise machine, with brute factor and resonance set high - squeeeeeeeeeeeekchrszzzzzshhhhhhh.... Finaly it worked. A D-minor piece started drifting into noisy and windy dark scenery.
Techno music has its traits - triolas, drum fills, noises, deep bass drive and multiple kick drums. Keeping the beats clear and simple is what matters. The more you focus on creating sophisticated rhythms, the more it drifts from techno to something else. Dark techno is, by it all means, a variation of ambient music - a repetitive, drone sound which changes, like in Steve Reich's Music for 18 musicians, ...every 300 tacts ;) The same beat goes on, but the accent, filter or timbre gradually changes. You shouldn't move around the knobs and keys too hastily. Give the instrument's sound its own life. Let it lead you to the trance..............
I got sick, I am legally staying at home for another week. Since my fever is low now, I returned to cooking hot patches and composing bits and pieces.
Knowing till when the sick-leave is, I made some arrangements. This is the best workflow - you count days till sick leave is over, then plan maximum a piece a day, per every 3-4 days, then a 1-2 day break to reset. After few days, you just wake up, peel a sound of a raw sawtooth wave, PCM and with fresh LFO & filter combination, with such a ready sound-palette - you just go for it. Nothing to add, nothing to take away. Without preparations, pure improvisation, to see, where the sounds you just created, will and are capable to take you.