Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trance and Tangerine Dream

To anyone who reads my posts, its not secret that I like Tangerine Dream and for that matter, Klaus Shulze. I also have to admit however, that it took me a while to decide to buy a Tangerine Dream album because when on my first listen, I heard a sequencer, I was turned off. It reminded me to much of the mindless dance music that I hear. OK, I know that is harsh and I have no problem with people writting music so people can dance. I think its a great thing but I am not sure that even dance music fans hold it up as high art. Not that Tangerine Dream is either but clearly, much more thought it put into their music.

So trying to be open minded, something that I admit is musically a problem for me at times, I listened to some trance. What I found was that most songs began pretty well and reflected some talent with a synthesizer but then soon introduced the same thump thump beat that dominated most dance music. It reminds me of a horrible idea "hooked on classics" years ago that took classical music and put a dance beat behind it, hideous!

I found myself wondering if these artists just got away from the dance beat what they might do because to be honest, what they are doing is not that different than the sequencer tracks on Tangerine Dream of Klaus Shulze albums. I myself am even thinking about venturing into more rhythmic music but I will surely not use the cliched dance beat.

Just picked of a Moog MIDI MuRF. A fascinating beast. With a few sequencers from the Radius inside my Korg M3, I night be able to create some interesting sequencers. At an MP 201 pedal and lots of room for Tangerine style evolution. Perhaps if I write something I like I can just add a cliched dance thump thump drum track out there and try to market it. Then again, perhaps not.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sound and Sight

I would seem to me, that in the world of synthesis, there is a strong connection between sound and sight. First, many of the synthesizers that have done very well are visually pleasing. The Minimoog and it's latter incarnation in the Voyager for example, allows the music an to clearly connect the abstract idea of a synthesizer patch to the visual cues of knobs. While not effecting function, I have to admit that even for myself, I like the wood of of a Voyager or Moogerfooger and the back lighting (mine is blue).

Synths that have not done as well are the Yamaha CS-80. Sure, Vangelis liked it not nearly as many were sold because in my mind, it was a cluttered layout and identifying what each control did, was not natural or easy. I have the softsynth version but have never liked it all that much. Interestingly enough, Alesis has somewhat repeated this in the Andromeda. Complexity does not always make for great music.

If the eye sees to much, it gets confused and it effects the unity of the music and the musician. The two work together.

So when I saw this little toy they callthe Tenori with it's myriad of flashing lights that remind one more of a video game than a musical instrument or sequencer, I was intrigued. I saw the bouncing ball mode (as I will call it, see the web site and you will know what I am talking about) and I thought right away, polyrhythms. What a great way to represent polyrhythms, balls bouncing up and down at different lengths.

I think what the Tenori does really well is allow the musician to see music moving in time, but it lacks the stuff of a serious instrument. It's sound set makes it seem like an arcade game and a toy. It has a weak set of effects as well and while able to use different scales, I did not see anything that made scales more visually pleasing. There are some hexagonal controllers that I think are fantastic for that. To bad no one could find a way to combine the temporal aspects of the tenori with the tonal/scalar aspects of hexagonal controllers.

Bottom line, $1000 for a toy is beyond my extravagance level. I have been on the market for a step sequencer but this is not it. The Orb also does not work for me because while the circular design is a nice gimmick, I see it as only that. A rather weak step sequencer with a gimmick. Genoqs makes some nice stuff and has some really power but its visually hidden and costly to boot, even more than the Tenori (by multiples). Plus, you need a computer for it and for me, this is a downside. I like self contained units.

In the end, I like the idea of Tenori but I find it's execution a bit weak and as I have alluded to, toy like. However, I think the direction that Tenori is going in, the idea of combining sound and sight is a good one and as I have said, has a long history of sauces.

I hope to see more from this company when they decide to make musical instruments and not toys. Not to be harsh, but that is calling it as I see it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tis the Season

Well, all the leaves seem to have fallen from the trees and narrowly avoided a major snow storm here which ended up as rain. Winter is such a dreary time of year and this time of the year with Christmas soon approaching is also a bit stressful. It is also the season for bashing Christians who apparently have now become responsible for all the woes of the world. Well, it's either us or George Bush, take you pick. I frankly blame the polar bears for everything including global warming for breathing to much, or is that humans, I forgot. I'll send Al and E-Mail. After all, he invented the Internet.

Politics aside, I do hope to spread a bit of Christmas joy this year and say Merry Christmas to as many people as I can.

So let it be said:

Merry Christmas!

There, it's done and now the PC police can come to get me.

On the musical front I am taking some time and considerable financial investment to take my hardware and turn it into a single powerful instrument. I need lots of cable, a few new gadgets (Switchbland and Moog MP 201) and time. The MP 201 is arriving tomorrow and I am back to my pseudo studio on Monday and Tuesday so I am hoping to start programming it with some presets I can use.

With the exception of using a patchbay, I am hoping to automate almost ever thing so at the hit of a footpedal, all my audio will re routed and MIDI routed. I will call this a meta preset of sorts.

I am also looking down the road at either a Macbook Pro or a Neko. There is a small Neko that I like and it might fit well with the studio. I might leave open some outs on the switchblade to be routed to an interface for the Mac and hopefully, be able to integrate MMC for use with the Korg M3 sequencer and Ableton Live. If I can add my plugins, I will have a very powerful studio and be able to hopefully start making a lot more music using both hardware and software.

Anyway, that's the plan. Whatever your personal faith, I do wish everyone a Merry Christmas and yes, I know that it's not PC but It's something good that I want to share and is that a bad thing? Well, I won't be checking with the ACLU on that one, they and all the PC nazis out there get coal in their stalking this year.

So once again, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Timbre Productions

I just wanted to introduce my small band of readers to a friend,

While we have not met, Allen and I have know each others for years now across the vast reaches of cyberspace and our love for sound, music, Absynth and a strange little additive synthesizer called Cube both of which Allen and I don't use much anymore although we both continue to love Absynth. I myself have the proud title of "Ex-Member" on the Cube web site which is a story for another day and to fully appreciate it a very long one although some of my posts here may have alluded to it.

Here is his web site:

I warn you that both Allen's music and for that matter mine is experimental so it's not going to sound like Beyonce if that is the type of thing that you like. Although I suspect that those who follow this blog probably don't but you never know:

You might also read or join the Absynth Group. It's a group I have posted to for years and is a rarely lively group including product developers and sound designers and some colorful characters. It fades in and out from time to time but if you listen closely enough you can pick up some interesting ideas even if you don't own Absynth:

Why not join, its free.

If you read the latest posts you will find what I think is some interesting dialogue between me and Allen in "Questions, Questions".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Klause Schultz Timewind and Electronic Music

I just recently listened to "Timewind" by Klaus Schultz.

My first comments are simply this, in a word, outstanding.

This is a fine work of what I would call real "electronic music". I make that distinction because almost all music these days use some sort of keyboard. Those of you who may have read my other posts might now that my first experience of listening to electronic music was with Morton Subotnick's "Sidewinder" which I still consider to this day an excellent electronic musical work and reminiscent of the early electronic works of those like Karheintz Stockhausen and so many others that defined a unique period of experimentation. Many did not understand early electronic music and I synthesizer makers like Moog moved in from the experimental side and made it more accessible with instruments the the Mini Moog and the plethora of other synth makers that blossomed at this time. Electronic instruments like the Melotron and the the Minimoog and the later Prophet 5 defined an era of synthesizers moving from the experimental labs of universities that blended music, science and technology to the popular song playing on the radio.

So I lament the fact that if I go to a record store these days or even peruse the categories of Amazon for music, I find it difficult to find what category to look for the music that I know I like but has fallen beyond the boundaries that are definable in the world of pop music for perhaps the
most simple reason that its not pop music.

In my listening of his music, I don't see Schultz and the few others like him fit the pop designation, or in his latter work, the techno or trance designation. I find it amusing that some call him the father of techno. I have read interviews where its very clear that Shultze is his own man and he is not trying to fit his music into a genre or for that matter create one of his own. I find much of his music and that of Tangerine Dream gems in what is often a trash heap of music designed for mass consumption.

Music has always been defined in the past by instruments which by virtue of how they were played had limited scope. What amazes me is that with the advent of instrument with so much incredible potential, they end up being little more than a high tech hurdy gurdy or player piano. I listen to Shultze and I hear sounds that fascinate me. I find myself wondering, wow, how did he get that sound. That is what electronic music should be. In the same way, I have watched videos of emerging artists like Tara Busch using Moogerfoogers like instrument and again, I find myself interested in the way she is using them. This is what electronic music should be not music that sounds like it comes from a cookie cutter approach and cookie cutter sounds and techniques.

It's why when I hear anything with a thump, thump, thump in the background I almost immediately discount it. For people who like this, why buy records. Just get a drum machine and you can make you own .