The Important Bit

Music has continued to be made whilst I took a short break from writing here. Now that I’ve hit upon the MO which I’m set upon exploring for the foreseeable future, talking about it seemed like an extravagance.
I also rediscovered a truth, that my methods, whilst occasionally interesting, are not important. Sure they shape the work and I have a degree of pride about the blood, sweat and tears that have lead to their development. However, they should only achieve interesting-ness once you’ve heard the end product and decided that you like it enough to want to know more. This, in my opinion represents a healthy relationship to music consumption; why imbue the music with any redeeming qualities associated with its production if it doesn’t appeal to you at all or you have even yet to hear it?
A fetishistic attitude to the means of production can function as an acid test of whether one has gained traction with the wider public. When journalists need to fill column inches, the ‘how’ of music production appears an easy source of copy; which artist wouldn’t want to wax lyrical over their unique / groundbreaking / somewhat-obscured-to-protect-IP ways of going about making music? The middle-class press love such stuff; this I remember from my parent’s having a Guardian subscription when I was a lad, at least they’d occasionally give away music and not just talk about how great it was.
I don’t know of anyone who is doing music the way I do at the moment. All tracks played in real time, using only pads and a pedal board as controllers of an array of hardware synths (with MIDIpal as the modifier between the pads and the synths). I’m not doing this to be different or more interesting. Setting my gear up like this allows me to play the synth using the only interface I can claim to have any skills with (drums), much in the same way as picking up an acoustic guitar and picking out the ideas that lead to a tune.
Through this page, I’m seeking to be as open as possible about what I’m doing – it helps me document how I got here and may give answers to questions that I hope my work raises (anything worthy raises questions, right?).
Here’s the music:

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Physicality

Much fun was had this week working on the tune below. Vid on the technical aspects above.
It did rather bring home the reality that getting your left foot to control the parameters which outline the form of a tune, whilst playing same with the remaining three limbs and possibly singing / vocalising too is quite the ask.
I am undeterred however and will continue in this vein.
Feedback welcomed.

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The Instrument

Things are definitely hotting up when it comes to my rig. My remit has broadened somewhat; I’m no longer thinking of it in terms of a ‘live setup’ or even as a collection of components but as a single instrument which, if I get really good at playing it, will form the basis of future musical explorations.
The addition of the foot controller not only gets me working the funky possibilities of my left foot (that’s right, funky), but allows access to changing multiple MIDI Continuous Controller parameters simultaneously. You can only get so far, compositionally speaking, tweaking one parameter at a time. Particularly if in doing so, you’re tying up the valuable resource of one of your hands.
Factor in the gear previous additions (with a few more to come) and I’m an excited camper. And that excitement isn’t just about seeing this project come to fruition, it’s about the sheer fun I’m experiencing in doing it.
Making my electronica as performance based as anything else I’ve ever done wasn’t a conscious goal but it has forced me to leave aside minutiae to facilitate the outcome, the ‘take’. That brings together the work I’ve done learning about electronic music and the kinaesthetic relationship to sound that only ‘playing’ can engender in a way that is new, for me at least.
Everything I’ve purchased so far is small, light, relatively inexpensive, readily available / replaceable and fully controllable via MIDI. When it’s a complete outfit, it will be flightcased and I look forward to taking it on the road. As much as I’m up for driving home from Adelaide etc straight after a gig, travelling to shows via airplane will be a luxurious novelty..
Permit me one gripe – as cheap, reliable MIDI controllers proliferate, why would anyone release a percussion pad that only transmits on channel 10? I know it’s the trad MIDI perc channel but really, such a small addition to firmware would make Alesis’s *pad series soo much more useful..

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Specificity

The commodification of music is now entirely fait-accompli. I know this because of what transpires when I’m asked if I like pop music.
Instantly, I stumble at the question; somewhere in my brain, there is a part of me that knows the socially acceptable answer is to answer in the affirmative. To do so is to confirm kinship and belonging.
Instead, I fall at the initial linguistic hurdle. What is meant by ‘pop music’?
As a genre name, it is redundant. It makes no attempt to describe style, merely the intended commercial outcome of its creation. A pop hit that wasn’t a hit first time around is still (and always was) pop when it somehow achieves mainstream success years later, it was ever intended for shifting big units.
Other musical genre names can be descriptive of the sonic experience (‘noisecore’), of process (‘jazz’) or even refer to musics made at a specific time and place (‘classical’) but pop has exclusive dominion over capital.
So, there I am contorting my face, trying to answer the question truthfully, my attempts to avoid disingenuity looking more like intestinal obstruction and my interlocutor squirming at the scene playing out before them.
To buy myself some time, I’ll ask for more specificity – are they referring to the Andrews Sisters or Jessie J?
Now I’ve done it.
Any pity hitherto felt on behalf of my apparent awkwardness at this most-innocuous of interactions instantly evaporates – he’s a difficult sod, why didn’t he just say no?
Now I’m on the backfoot, desperately explaining that there’s plenty of pop I like. My previous unwillingness to proclaim myself a true believer without caveat mean that my claims to pop-cred are met with stern incredulity.
I’ve been had, done up like a kipper.
Still, at least it’s not a conversation I’ll have to repeat.
Note to self: just say yes in future. If only I could.

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