Electronic music has a lot of connotations - it means different things in different contexts, but above all, it applies to a commercial, popular music industry products. This is usually the first contact an average listener has - radio songs by Kraftwerk, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga etc. Sometimes the first experience comes while watching movies like Shining, Clockwork Orange, Bladerunner, Stranger Things etc.
Electronic music is often connected with a spacious and abstract ambient or/and noisy experimental scene. The majority of crowd might be scared right off with the event having "experimental electronic music" in its name, but this is an effect of certain way musical culture brought us up. It used to mean (often still does) music, compositions made in contrary to everything we know and we are used to. However, experimentalism nowadays is a practice of not making music totally against all known rules but in relation to what the music is today. This quote from a book by B. Piekut refers to the situation found in recent 2008:
(...) experimentalism is not a metaphysical essence but a series of unusual practices whose strangeness stands out in relation to whatever the mainstream happens to be.
- Piekut Benjamin, New York Experimentalism 1964.
Experimentalism is now someone making electronic music in a way that was not served before. For me, the 100% live acts are a new, very demanding thing for any music. While performing live acts, music comprehension evolves, the performer educates the listeners to understand the music in a new way: "This is not a record, this is a musical piece I created now. Each and single note, even if pre-programmed on a sequencer, is elastic - it can be taken out, modified, delayed, whatever I want to do with it." Listeners can see a connection eg. between a movement of a hand pressing keys and chords being played - you see the music creation process. All in all, there is nothing revolutionary in the music itself. Live music is similar often on a sonic level, but it is far more different from a regular DJ performance. However, the turntablists, DJs those who create new songs by scratching and combining eg. three different records at one time, are a crossover between a regular DJ performance and live music.
The difference is subtle - but above all, any DJ, whatever he does, can always play a record and leave the stage for few moments, pick up the mobile, chat with friends etc. The song will play, rolls and parts will be heard, as obviously it is a pre-made record. While a live synthesizer performer.... if you leave the stage for few moments, during this time nothing will change - it will be a constant loop set a moment before leaving the stage. While playing live on hardware, talking over the phone cuts one hand out, talking with friends can be confusing when you are in between a long chord with one hand and trying to perfectly trigger the kick drum with the other. Just to give you an idea on how demanding it is.
Synthesizers used to be considered as sophisticated university labs equipment. Now anybody can buy a decent digital or analog synth, small looper effect pedal, and voilla - with enough skills you can become an ambient live act musician. Those who do not play any instrument, draw music on computers.
In the times, when making live electronic music is a possibility any musician can have, we enter a new pioneer stage - the evolution of electronic music into fine art through live experiments happening in real-time. We can now gather a group of synth players on one stage. They won't need a whole stage for their large modular synthesizers, huge and heavy post 80's synthesizers etc. The music industry is making every small and portable, yet limited, but overcoming those limitations is a new style of using those instruments, which might evolve into your own sound signature or stage signature.
This brings a new experience to crowds in clubs, cafeterias or concert halls. My good friend recently said that live performance electronic music will never have that "thing", that the pre-recorded, mixed and mastered in a professional studio vinyl recording has. Maybe if you listen to it on a mobile speaker at home, this statement might be right. But it is far different. A good comparison is a theater play recorded on a movie and live theater performance. The first one is pre-made, combined with fantastic visual and post processing done by a computer and dozens of technicians, while the theater performance is pre-planned and any visual, vocal etc. any special effect is a real-time struggle with your own possibilities. If well made, it gives a far stronger experience for the audience, as they are part of it. DJacts for drug fueled audience can take it real high too, but live acts can hold a deeper sense of katharsis, when the performance is as perfect as the DJset ...and then you realize that everything that is done here is made live, in real time, you are part of it, it is happening in front of you... /insert a sound of jaw dropping on the floor/.
A photo made during a soundcheck on 14th May 2017 at Kwadratowa club.
I must admit, that even though I have been an active pianist for more than 10 years, I have always humbly accepted the weight and size of my transportation kits. There was always enough room on stage or the floor. When I started playing techno music in underground clubs, picnics, galleries etc. I started to realize that bringing an 88 key synthesizer with a whole set of additional instruments is impossible to fit in many DJ booths, especially when DJ's are playing there too and need the whole deck space for themselves. There is a smaller and lighter version of my Juno DS with 61 synth keys, weighing only 5,2kg (my current version of Juno DS weights 17kg). That was my target - to have the two Juno sisters under one roof.
Quite recently I started looking around those mini key synthesizers like Microkorg, Novation ...and then I bumped into Roland's JD-Xi. It is considered to be a decade late reply to ever popular Microkorg. Because it looks like a shining little "toy" and most demos were not so impressive (focused on EDM mostly) I never focused much on it. Never judge the book by it's cover. Just by accident, I found out, that this little beast has a four track sequencer - which basically means that you can play 4 sounds at one time - two digital sounds, one for drums and the fourth - an analog monophonic engine. Juno DS has 8, JD-Xi has only 4, but it weighs 2,2kg and has around 50cm length! Less carriage, less space but almost the same possibilities.
My musical muscles are growing almost every day. I try to practice very often, on average, it is 2h daily. If you work on regular basis and also you are not a lifeless nerd, then 2 hours is really a lot. Of course, if you are sincere. Practice does not mean just exercising some difficult part of the song, but rather taking your time developing a sound, taking chances in odd beats, making terrible mistakes, taking the pain of controlling numerous filters and sequencers- because failing is a nutrition for progress. There is one good quote for synthesizer many of the genres of electronic music creation process - "there are no mistakes, just happy little incidents". In this case, the incident does not have a pejorative sense. It is a step out which can lead you to a great trip. You decide.
I pretty much regret spending €55 on Korg Monotron Delay, as it has terrible audio sockets and it generates a ridiculous amount of noise when you hear it on the proper studio equipment. As I could not take any proper synthesizer with me on holidays, I took the smallish Monostron. Only a few days ago, I decided to try it out as a delay effect with my software & freeware android synths. The results are great - on one application I set an arpeggiator running, then I switch to another application to play chords & leads, then everything goes to the delay and it sounds really great. I imagine you could play a 30 minute ambient set with this two tools.
I played for around 5 hrs in the train, in a six person compartment, with all this stuff on my knees, as the picture shows it. I was wondering if someone might mistake all the cables and devices on my knees for some kind of bomb attack preparations... and no one asked me anything about it. Only one grunge kid shouted from the corridor while passing our compartment: "Hey man, that's a nice toy you have there". Toys'r'us.
Fooling around during the first day of summer holidays! Two weeks off. I will miss my synthesizers.
Heavy indeed. Imagine the faces of people in the public transport I often use. Apart from speakers and mixer, I can travel in a bus, however, I must get a smaller version of Juno DS, haha - the 88 key version I have, weights 20 kilograms., while the 61 key one ...5,6.