Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fitting in with the Crowd

Anyone who has read my blogs probably knows that I am a big Tangerine Dream fan or at least of late. I am also a fan of Pink Floyd but after listening to a substantial sampling of their music and also time spam, I can see a distinctive pattern in both, the desire to fit in with the crowd. It's always an adventure in a record store to find Tangerine Dream that is often thrown in with New Age for lack of something better to call it although Tangerine Dream certainly had a New Age phase. but I would not call "Zeit", for sake of example, New Age.

Most genres define music and often have roots that are far more interesting that the latter forms of music that have become cliched and restrictive for the artist. Led Zeppelin for example started as a blues band with some other stuff thrown in. They were rather unique in their time but this type of music sometimes just called hard rock became metal. Zeppelin was creative often taking old blues riffs and transforming them. Metal bands seem content to just turn up high gain amps to 11 so that any signs of bad guitar playing get drowned out in a sea of distortion and then call it metal. Screaming as well is an obligatory element. That's so not so great vocal talents can sound like their hip.

The same with dance music. I am far from being a Madonna fan but if you listen to some of her early music you can find some interesting bass lines. Now I sometimes wonder if all the dance music is coming from a few drum marching settings.

So now beyond jazz and classical I try to listen to innovation. For Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd this was their early period for they tried to sound like everyone else. I listen to new artists as well because some of them have the courage to sound like, well, themselves, and not some musical cliche.

I know my music will probably never be popular and its only a hobby (sort of) but it's me. Do I take inspiration from others? Sure. I like certain sounds and try to copy the technique but never really exactly the sound because I want the sound to be mine. I don't' try to fit into any genre although I use the term "experimental" just so it fits into some category that is itself hard to define.

So sure, I will never make the big bucks playing cover music but my music is real, it come from my own creativity take it or leave it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you.

"Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you." These were the words of Alexander Graham Bell as he made something remarkable for his time, the first telephone. While I have not visited his laboratories, I was amazed one day to have the benefit of learning from a historian under the clothing of a small museum curator in Edison New Jersey. The museum contained many of Edison's inventions including early recording devices, amplifiers, lighbulbs and what even might be considered the first Bose Wave system (or at least a waveguide).

Amd then I think how far we have come and how much we are still stuck. Our telephones have become more sophisticated, many needing no wires at all, our records (once 78s) are now CDs etched with laser light. Some things, have remained relatively unchanged however. The electric light bulb is still close to the original and many other things have not really changed all that much.

MIDI 1.0 was a revolution in music technology in it's time. In 1983, it's first incarnation was published and much like the telephone, MIDI ins and out and thrus started to show up on keyboards until it seems that just about everything that can make a sound has a MIDI interface. At first, the standard was made simply to let keyboards speak to one another something that was already happening with several brand specific standards already.

When MIDI first came out, it worked well. Even a big stack of keyboards could speak to one another. But with an almost explosion these days of all sort of controllers, computer DAWs that can choke MIDI with CC messages and notes, not to mention the world of digital audio with its own standards and the modular synth revolution, the world of Music has gotten a bit more complicated.

I have a wonderful little book about the Telharmonium. It talks about the hope that of wiring a telharmium performance into the rooms of a hotel or even beyond. Futurist minds influenced music and technology and the hope of distributing music in new ways found a ready vehicle in the Telharmonium. Truth was that the thing was a beast. It literally weighed tons. It was impractical in the extreme and yet, it inspired minds to think bold thoughts and new dreams. I imagine, it was like that when Watson heard Graham Bell's words coming over a wire and Edison made his wonderful recording machines and light bulbs.

So lately, I have heard of new paradigms. Here are a few:


This one networks digital audio. Expensive and clearly only for large venues but...

Then there is Open Sound Control:

Products like Jazz Mutant's Lemur, Native Instrument Reaktor and Max/MSP all use this.

and more towards the DIY world, on a much smaller scale, is the Arduino, small, cheap but capable of connecting things in new ways:

So what made me think of all these things? My synths and foogers. I want to connect them and I would love to have a computer control all of it and sequence everything like some gigantic Telharmonium spinning its wheels and gears and making beautiful music.

A last innovation and while I have found it in limited ways, I would love to have something more sophisticated. Think of plugging everything into a box run by computer software. Digital audio, something that would replace MIDI, audio and control voltages. Then think VCS3 or, ARP 2500 modulation matrices write large with computer GUI and sequencer (with automation of everything). That's my vision of the future. Some may say it can't be done but then again, when Watson heard Graham bell asking him into the next room, I don't think he ever expected to be able to call anywhere in the world with a small computer that fits into his pocket.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Impressions of Tangerine Dream's Zeit

In a word, outstanding. This is real electronic music. Something designed to transform you mind into another sonic world. I have listed to Rubycon, Phaedra, Socerer and Zeit and Zeit stands out as the most courageous of the works I have heard of Tangerine Dream. I think even Tangerine dream at times tries to find some happy medium between experimenting and trying to market to a more mainstream group of listeners. This is music worthy of being placed in with the more serious, classical, art music side of electronic music.

A short note here to make it clear, as I have in the past, that I am opposed to drugs in any form which the liner note mentions. I understand that a certain ignorant segment of society that feels that need to take drugs to expand their mind. Zeit will take the mind to new places without any drugs at all! Zeit creates an atmosphere, like curtains or rain, Zeit creates textures which morph and blend and come together in this wonderful collage of sounds.

I want to learn more about Zeit. I wish there was more out there because this album first came out in 72 and these sounds are outstanding. No doubt a Moog modular would have been a big part of it but I would love to produce some of these sounds. Many sounds I hear in electronic music are cliched. I can identify who someone created them. These sounds are organic and delightfully electronic. They definitely take the mind to another place.

More later. I have listened to this album about 3 times now and I am not even close to hearing it enough. It gets 11 from me.