I’m writing this Blog to document some work I’ve been doing in the field of electronic music-making.
I wasn’t an expert in any of these things before I started – and I’m probably not an expert in any of them now, but I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone on, and I hope if I can pass it on it’ll be a source of interest and in some small way an inspiration to others who are getting involved in this field
When I began thinking about this project I decided to do it in the following way:
a). To avoid working with computers (until the very end).
I’d used computers extensively in my music before, from Logic for straightforward composed pieces to a variety of other programs for electronic composition or sound treatment. I expected to return to using the computer in the end, but with the benefit – hopefully – of new knowledge and new sound devices.
b). To incorporate where relevant some projects I’d started, and mostly not finished, many years ago.
I’d made some guitar effects with a degree of success that could be described as ‘mixed’ – some of them I use to this day, which work very well and can’t or don’t need to be replaced by anything new; some are still around, not quite working the way they were intended to; some never worked at all!
So I decided not to go back to guitar effects, but to concentrate on sound producing devices.
c). To explore certain specific ‘movements’ in electronic sound-producing, such as ‘circuit bending’ and ‘Lunetta’ devices, and construct some of the ‘classic’ designs along the way.
d). To explore alternative methods of music input – isomorphic keyboards, game controllers, and other home made devices.
One of the intentions behind this was to create music in more of an informal and ‘live’ way than I had done using the computer; another was to explore the variety of music- and noise-producing devices now available – usually cheaply in sales, second-hand shops and on eBay.
I also wanted to pursue my obsession with the Stylophone, an early electronic synthesiser of the late 60’s and early 70’s, but recently reintroduced.
I’ve divided the different parts of the project into the following categories:
In this first phase I would take existing devices and add new features, or expand existing ones.
My principle in doing this was understanding the circuits (to a certain degree) and making appropriate changes to produce specific effects.
Phase 2 was to build a number of sound-producing devices from scratch, using circuit diagrams and descriptions from books and magazines (I had a number of these collected over the years, and hand-drawn circuits copied from publications in libraries) and from the internet.
Again, a certain amount of understanding of the principles of the circuits would be necessary.
3. Circuit Bending
In this phase the idea was to take existing electronic instruments – children’s toys mostly – and make them produce sounds they were never intended to produce, mostly without worrying too much about the circuits that produced these sounds and how they were working, which I felt was more within the spirit of the enterprise.
4. Freeform designs
The intention then was to extend the knowledge gained in previous phases to create new designs, partly modified, partly constructed, incorporating past ideas I had had, but never put into practice and new ideas discovered through experimentation.
This phase was to be mainly computer-based, involving programming, which I had not done before.
As it turned out, I was overtaken by events, and parallel with the Modification and Construction, have got involved in some slightly different areas. However, I’ll write about each of my projects in order, and put them in the appropriate category.