Sunday, February 01, 2004

from the bench

by J. Phoenix ~ Music is something both abstract and concrete. Concrete in that it exists, sound waves through the air, contained on sheets of paper, grooves in a record, zeros and one's on a CD. It becomes abstract when we begin analyzing it, trying to break down why something sounds like it does, how a sound was created, or arranged. Electronic music goes one further from traditional music by breaking down barriers of what can be actually be played by a human being with an instrument, or things like tonality and scale in reference to notes. This can make electronic music difficult to talk about, without resorting to focusing on the personalities behind the music, or specific traits of a genre.

This presents a problem for beginning creators of electronic music. If you're working by yourself, without someone to guide you, it can be very hard to find information about how to do what you want to, or understanding the information you do find.

When I started there were very few people I found that were seriously producing, and few people that knew what a Live PA was exactly, but that number has increased as time has gone by. Now in online forums, there is more discussion from people that are making electronic music, or are interested in starting. Interest is increasing in creating the music, not just playing it.

At the same time, with new and emerging technologies such as mp3 players, cd players, and hybrid vinyl/software systems like Final Scratch, dj's are more able than ever to play out original music from producers and get them attention on the dancefloor. More and more people are turning to music not aimed at the dancefloor, giving a number of producers an outlet shortcutting the dj system found in the dance scene. The line between dj's and producers will further blur as time goes on and technology allows for more and more to be performed live, remixed, and created.

In my series of articles, I'm hoping to establish some basics about the different instruments and techniques used with them, which allows beginners an idea of what to use to create a desired effect. I will talk about the basics as I've learned them of sound synthesis, sampling, an explanation of drum machines/sequencer, effects, and a bit about
programming. After that, I want to begin interviewing producers and trying to discuss where they get ideas from, how they work on their music, highlighting some of the different methods that exist to get a given result, whether working in software or hardware.Later in the series, I plan on interviewing producers and having guest articles on how other people accomplish their art in electronic music.

To introduce myself, my name is J. Phoenix, I am a musician and I write electronic music. Lately I've been working on slower, more groove-based music, incorporating Trip-Hop and Drum and Bass elements. Before that I was working on Techno, specifically acid and minimal forms of Techno. My foundation is in rock and roll, and I have played guitar with several different groups before 1999 in that genre. I have been performing Live PA for audiences since 2001, and worked with d33p thou9ht and Ebon locally. In my Live PA I have strived to prove that electronic music is something that can be improvised live, which I don't see enough of in the Scene. This year I look forward to pressing on in new directions, and look forward to watching people dance to my music on the floor.

The first piece of advice I can give to producers out there, whether beginning or advanced, is to remember that It Isn't What You've Got, Its How You Use It. That came from an old black man w/ a guitar on the street back when I was playin' blues. It is still be best piece of advice I can give any musician. Its easy to get bogged down in the gear game, thinking that if "I had one more piece, or one more software program, I could do exactly what I want to". The truth of it is, that you can get effective results using what you've got at your disposal already, and if absolutely not, keeping working and learning in the meantime.

Whether or not the end result of your work satisfies you or your audience is what matters, not how you got the result. Whether you're recording yourself beat-boxing and sequencing loops from it, using a computer program to create tracks, or running a system that incorporates several pieces of hardware and a computer at once, there is no one way to create electronic music. It is always good to remember that.

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