Monday, May 21, 2012

The Cure to Gear Addiction

I am always amazed at the seemingly never ending parade of the latest, greatest piece of gear, synth or controller on the market. I admit to being a gearaholic myself but perhaps in the end, the best cure is music itself.

One of the best definitions of music that I have heard especially electronic music is by Edgar Varese who defined music as organized sound. In an odd way, some of the worst advertisements for products I have seen are satisfied customers who much like a child, want to show you their new toy and so make any assortment of sounds with it. The problem here is that these videos lack the second part of the Varese' definition, "organized".

As a gearaholic, I must admit to being guilty of that same childlike delight over a new "sound maker" although I do identify a SoundCloud recording as "demo" which implies it is more sound than organization.

My recordings that I consider musical works involve far more planning as yes, organization. At times they do come from experimentation and that pure childlike delight over sound in the tradition of John Cage but at times they involve a far more developed concept or one might say, the "organized" side of electronic music.

So, I now come to the reason I wrote this. I was watching videos if various gearaholics demoing the Ehkdahl Moisturizer, a spring reverb with open springs and built in filter that can be played. A few caught my eye or ear in a negative sense. One was a guy banging on the thing with sticks and randomly (not organized) twiddling with filter knobs. Apparently he thought this was interesting. I would rather listen to disco than this cacophony of random unorganized sounds.

The next was a guy with this simple sample and hold circuit which he thought made melodies (he emphasized how impressed he was by this) run though the moisturizer while he twiddled with knobs and banged on the springs. Same negative effect for me.

The only video that I thought was interesting was from Richard Devine that showed some novel avenues to a more musical and yes, organized use of this product.

So now I come to the cure. In the future, before jumping on every gear bandwagon, I want to ask myself a question. Can I use a product in a musical and organized way or am I just buying another expensive toy to bang on with a rattle.

This is not necessarily a criticism of the moisturizer because I do think it has real musical applications but rather to suggest that demos need to weigh in more heavily on the organized part of music as "organized sound" and ask the question "How can this product be used musically" rather than how can I make sounds with it. The difference I suggest is the difference between sound and music.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's Just a Matter of Time

I think one of the greatest blind ally's in electronic music is that the most important consideration in composing music is the waveform. The reason I believe this is not the case is expressed in one simple word that embraces all music and that is "time". Music, unlike the visual arts happens in time. So to of our experience of timbre.

Take the example of the filter sweep. No one ever remarks, wow, I love that setting you used for the filter cutoff. No, rather, music is modulation, change. By sweeping a filter we experience a waveform in a different way not as static but dynamic.

Consider a sculpture. To really experience it you have to walk around it. Language is a series of constantly changing timbres.

What got me thinking about this is Izotope's new Iris synth. When I used it in a static way by selecting frequencies the results were somewhat disappointing but once I started to think in terms on sweeps like movements of a brush stroke, I started getting interesting results.

This I believe proves my point. Working only in the frequency domain is boring but once visuals express flow and change the whole musical landscape changes. I rather like to see timbre as dynamic. It's the difference between a 2D painting and a 3D sculpture. And in the end, it's just a matter of time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Izotope Iris Review

Ok, I have been using Iris for a few weeks now so I thought I might write a review about it. I suppose the greatest complement to a synth is to use it in a composition. So far, I have only fiddled around with it so the jury is out on that. I can say that I have used Alchemy more than once in a composition.

Off the bat, Iris should remain at the introductory price. Alchemy can pretty much do what it does and does 10 times more. That being said, Iris is a specialty synth but that said, once again it should be priced as such.

In support of Iris, the interface is simple so it lends itself to experimentation. I know that I often find complex interfaces an obstacle to creativity at times.

However, a few simple tools would help. 1st, I would like to see a graphic environment more like Adobe illustrator. This way, regions could be much more easily identified and edited.

I would also like to see a blur brush. A gradient tool to lighten or darken would also be nice to create cross fades.

I would also like to be able to accurately identify what frequencies and times correspond to selections (perhaps a small indicator next to the selection).

Iris is fun and does open one up to creativity but it's almost like version 0.5 to me. It could be a much stronger synth without loosing simplicity then it might be worth the price.