Artist Setups

(from the FP link)

Just to be clear, I don’t want it to be assumed that a technical knowledge of harmony is necessary for making harmonically interesting music.

You absolutely don’t need to be able to play an instrument to explore this world. I think maybe as a kid I thought it was essential. Some of the best musicians I’ve met can’t play an instrument. Many of my favourite musicians wouldn’t consider themselves to be technically sound. But those same people can have an incredible sense of harmony.

Even though I do have that technical grounding, there’s a process I use that’d perhaps be useful for people who think they struggle with chords but still want to come up with something that interests them. Basically I record lots and lots of chords completely independently of each other. The overall key doesn’t matter, they can have no relation to each other whatsoever. Then you sample these chords, lay each one out on a key of a keyboard and experiment with playing them back in a different order to see if a certain combination sounds nice to you.

That’s just one way of exploring new progressions that you otherwise might not have come across. For me, as someone who can get around a keyboard, I still might not come up with any of those combinations naturally. I’ve got those go-to voicings as you say. I end up slipping into certain progressions. But this technique can get you exploring harmonic progressions that you wouldn’t have thought up, whether you know about the theory behind harmony or not.

with normal keyboards i find my hands physically playing progressions that are familiar

with earthsea (ie grid of chromatic notes in stacked fourths) a completely new playing style emerges and chord shifts i never would have done just spill out in the best ways.


I’ve noticed that too, sometimes it’s even super interesting to me how, with earthsea, I end up doing something and I’m like “Oh that’s a typically whateverartist melodic line!” and it’s often in a genre I’m not super knowledgeable about, or an artist that I feel is distant from me. Which really doesn’t happen all that much with a guitar or piano, where I feel more like exploring more technical little aspects of a general pattern that’s pretty much “my backyard” and trying to make it as subtle as possible. I feel the convergence of both those processes is really the basis of my work.


I don’t have access to Earthsea but find that Chordion on iOS offers a similar level of functionality. It reminds of an Omnichord.

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simeon coxe with friends, circa 1968:


It kind of looks like the Easel version of parts of the studios of Hainbach or Look Mum No Computer


Yesterday I was thinking when finally will computer be accepted as an „instrument” at musical academies. When I create music I often have those mannierisms from playing guitar/keys which I feel still steer my music in particular direction even when creating music by using mouse on computer. So I wonder how would music sound if created by someone whos first and only instrument is laptop without any keyboard controllers etc. Maybe still such person would gravitate towards more traditional harmonies or maybe the voicings would be much more different when not constrained by patterns engraved in muscle memory.
Unfortunately even some persons in experimental musical circles still think of pure „laptop music” as something lesser to acoustic music but hopefully such people will be less and less frequent (I myself always try to oppose such views publicly because I feel they are a classic example of gatekeeping).


just sold a bunch of stuff and rebuilt my performance rig, seems i have some similar thinking to Surgeon.
Out of frame is a guitar + distortion and octave pedal, and a Morningstar MC6 foot controller for triggering recording on the Octatrack. (also I will be taking this out live in Bristol (UK) on 4th Dec at Cafe Kino if you want to hear in action :slight_smile: !


Surachai did a series of videos some years ago on Atari Teenage Riot who have one of the most interesting live rigs I’ve seen. Modular, circuit bent toys, old Atari computers, DAT machines…


@karol I think this is a fascinating question. I have been making alot of music I like on VCVRack lately and I have been trying to put together a hardware setup as a consideration for doing something live.

It just doesn’t seem right to work all in the box, but I don’t know why. Kind of driving me mad actually. It seems more interesting I guess if there is hardware up there.

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I absolutely love AraabMuzik’s simple workflow/setup.


Solid, makes me wonder what he’s doing in software.

Seen on the fediverse today – cool shot of Laurie Spiegel’s studio circa… maybe 80s by the look of it?

Also Cécile Schott AKA Colleen has a cool & pretty detailed tour of her studio setup through the creation of some of her more recent albums:


Here is a photo or my live setup from my performances at the Whitney Museum back in August. There was a nice lines community turn out the second night :trophy:.


The metrocard looks folded in such a way that I have to ask if it’s part of the setup or just something that was around? The circle rug is super cozy, I love it.


Ha. Good spotting.
The metro card was getting used to create space between the tape and the heads at certain points in the performance


Maybe this goes a little too much into detail, but may I ask how you are using the different samplers/loopers? There seems to be some overlap between devices, so I’m curious what roles they play in your setup.

Could you explain how you’re using 16n in this setup? Interested what youre controlling on your modular rig.

(What is that module that its going into / what is 16n controlling?)

Here’s my setup from my most recent run of shows. Not seen: pedalboard under the table, Keystep to control the Streichfett (ran out of table space – it swaps places with the lap steel), bass.


the 16n i2c port is connected with a stereo 3.5mm cable to the TELEXb module, which acts as a bridge between the 16n and er-301 sound computer. this setup allows one to map 16n faders to the er-301’s internal units without having to use up any of the er-301’s analog inputs.


Loving this setup! What sort of stuff are you playing on it? Was assuming techno due to the Surgeon reference but then I saw the Mood pedal.