I genuinely think there is no worthy here. Insight and honesty are enough.
Really enjoyed this thread also - thanks for everyones input. A couple of reflections…
Since starting with a modular a year ago I’ve definitely moved away from making more complete tracks and have produced loads of ‘sketches’ instead. I keep meaning to spend some time trying to edit and compile them, but fiddling with a DAW is so much less fun than patching. And, perhaps that’s more important.
The other thing I think is that ergonomically, I’ve now designed my studio around my modular so my laptop is less convenient/comfortable to use. I really only have space for one of them to be right in front of where I sit. I choose modular!
UX of Music Instruments & Tools
agreed !! everyone’s input is valuable in my opinion
My thought exactly. I’ve kind of designed my composition strategy around enjoying creating music more than anything. That comes with an acceptance that my tracks will never have the perfect polish, levels, and structure of a piece created in a DAW, but on the flip-side it retains a lot of the raw, live feeling that I love about hardware synths. It actually reminds me a lot of jazz, and how much I dislike perfectly editing, expertly produced jazz records. I like jazz to have spontaneous energy, and I think that’s what special about modular music compared to most electronic music (as much as I love listening to a polished electronic track, it’s not music I’m interested in making).
My strategy is this: start messing around with my modular, often without any real idea what I’ll be creating, but sometimes I have a new technique I want to try out or whatever. Eventually I might find myself in a spot I like, so I build up a track around it, building up to the biggest moment of the track. Then, I dial back everything to something super simple, but knowing exactly where I’m going to go with it. Only then do I push record on my laptop I dedicate to recording, and figure out how to get back to my big moment, and then how to transition out of it.
I then stop recording, give it a little mastering love, and upload it to SoundCloud. For me, this keeps me off the computer as much as possible, but still have something to show for myself at the end. Maximizes my musical enjoyment and creativity.
I’m also new to modular and I think about this every single patch I make. I need to keep reminding myself that this is one of the reasons I got one - to create something, record, and move on. (There’s some life lesson to be learned in there somewhere…)
BTW, I love your Florist album on bandcamp!
Also keeping an eye on this thread as I’m in the same predicament. Great posts!
Is it strange that I’m a tiny bit disappointed that someone hasn’t come out of the woodwork to wax philosophical about how recording the modular destroys its essential nature? That the only way to really hear a modular is to be in the room as the patch develops?
I don’t buy into that argument, but I sure do enjoy the weirdness of fringe ideologies in already arguably fringe artistic communities. I will dish out heart points like crazy for a few good weirdo explanations of the soul in our machines.
I sometimes feel that way about my own audio/video patches. Typically with modular stuff I record about a minute of it and share it on instagram or something. I don’t ever feel like its the same thing if I leave a patch in and then re-visit it. I don’t think it destroys the nature of it really but patches really do feel impermanent compared to building something out in a DAW…this doesn’t even touch the fact that I find it really hard to mix modular levels! lol
Where’s Ramon Sender when you need him?
Seriously. What IS the difference between a session and a piece?
Conceptually, not much I think. In practice, you can do a lot of things in post that you could never achieve within a single recording session.
That sort of gets at (but doesn’t address head-on) the difference between composition and improvisation (and the gradient in between)
A lot of this thread has been about editing / revising improvised material. I was a theater / comedy improviser for a decade a while back, and that conversation - editing improvised material to make written (composed) shows was always a contentious topic. Second City, the most well known Chicago improv theater, used improv purely to create written shows. It went back to the 50’s (would need to fact check that) where the original SC folks didn’t think improv was enough to carry an entire show. The modern guru of improvised comedy was a guy named Del Close, who pushed the idea that improvised theater was its own thing, and wasn’t just about creating written stuff (he left Second City to start a theater that pushed ‘pure’ improv, called Improv Olympic, that’s where I was) It was a great conversation to have late at night in my 20’s. Could see similar discussions happen around modular.
Oh neat, there’s a connection here - Del Close and Ramon Sender were both associated with the Merry Pranksters. Synchronicity!
For me the difference is just the decision to call it such. Ultimately I think a lot of making art is just making a decision. From John Cage’s 4’33", Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings to Mort Garson’s Plantasia… all decisions to create and finalize something based on an infinite number of factors to consider that you as the artist are swimming around in.
But to come out of the depths for a second-- I have often thought that recording modular seemed opposing to it’s impermanence that I love so much. But on the other hand --When I feel proud of what I make and would like to share it, I believe it is a good thing. Not to mention of course getting to hear the beautiful things everyone else does. I think for me as this conversation has gotten more and more in depth, I find myself returning to where I started with the philosophy of recording stereo out from the modular to preserve its ecosystem as it existed originally. The modular for me is and always will be different from all other instruments in that I don’t want to play it, I just want to vaguely tell it what to play and listen.
Agreed. I’d love to have access to a local Modular on the Spot group. I like posting recordings on Soundcloud, would love to get a tape out this year or next, but I think I’d give that up for a performance group I could meet with on a regular basis. The disadvantage of a fringe art form when you’re not prepared to live in one of the hubs of the form.
From the variety of replies it seems clear that the answer is “any and all ways that you like to work to make something you are happy with”…
I love stereo recording and multi-tracking, but always do live performance takes. Others have said that straight to stereo is their choice… or recording patches and then using them in finished pieces…
In the end maybe the modular isn’t all that different than other instruments? Sometimes you can treat it as one instrument, sometimes as a whole ensemble-in-one. Live bands of all sorts often record straight to stereo… but others multi-track like crazy with single takes or lots of overdubs. Maybe we’re overcomplicating things?
I love that we all do different things and treat it in different ways, so much to learn from each other and our approaches.
This is something I’ve heard from many improvisors (jazz, new music, experimental, etc). A lot of this music really lives in the performance, and the players play to perform more than to record. If you don’t live in a place with a modular community, maybe there’s an experimental music community?
I’ve heard my more serious music friends refer to forms of improvisation as spontaneous composition… As you say, there’s definitely a gradient between the extremes.
This paper has some good high-level points about where the two overlap and differ - http://music.arts.uci.edu/dobrian/CD.comp.improv.htm
In my music work I’ve tended to think about a session as the real-time performance. Sometimes it’s improvised, sometimes you can perform the same piece multiple times or in different ways/interpretations. The piece is what you’re playing, or in the case of improvised music it can be the document of the output. Unless you’re doing completely free improv then there’s probably some sort of “piece” that you’re performing…
I spent my first ~1.5 years with my modular with that kind of philosophy. It was a very meditative way to make music, but after a while I became sad that I had no documentation of any of the music I’d created over the previous year. That was when I came up with my current strategy, as a slight compromise to try and retain my enjoyment of making music, but while still having a record of what I had created so I could look back at how my sound had evolved over time. (which is an even more curious situation: many of my recordings include modules I no longer own, so I could never reproduce that music again)
I like this approach…I might give it a go. Enjoyed the track by the way, reminded me of some conrad schnitzler stuff.
This thing about avoiding DAW editing is strange - I used to love getting lost in editing and refining a track on my laptop. I found the process quite meditative. Once started, a piece would just sort of come together without much conscious thought, like it was already there and I was just uncovering it.
This is a nice idea but probably wouldn’t really work for me. However I definitely am going to think about how to make my laptop more accessible - probably with a wireless keyboard and mouse
I should clarify that – I used to make a lot of computer music, and thoroughly enjoyed the process, but that was before I became a software engineer, and spent 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen at work. The first year or so I was working as a software engineer, I found that I was no longer making music, because I was sick of looking at a screen.
I purposefully got into modular so I could make music without looking at screens, so that‘s my motivation to keep myself away from the DAW
I have tried a few different configurations re: computer placement in relation to synth, mostly all depending on the size and shape of my space. The last apartment that I lived in was a tiny one room studio with walls that slanted down as it was on the top floor of a house. I had to make my setup specifically to fit in that space and it ended up that my computer and recording rack were on the opposite side of the room as my synth. Granted the opposite side of the room was about 10ft away - this was one of the more productive music making setups that I’ve had with the modular. I would still always be recording, I just wouldn’t be recording 1 minute long snippets of everything I thought was cool and instead spending hours at the modular working out a really intentional patch which I would then just prop my iphone up and record a video of. This video and the others on my youtube with this synth position are from that time - https://youtu.be/ltBBMl6tArc
I am the type of person who needs to be away from the computer when I am making music. I don’t know why but I need hands on. I use Logic basically just to press record, do some light mastering at the end, and bounce out. If I start to get deep in computer editing I lose the spark. But that’s just me …
I feel like computer location is something I am still struggling with. It’s hard to feel like everything is within your grasp and at the same time not cluttering up a space. This is getting more into the “studio layout” discussion but I think it’s quite relevant to productivity. Writing this is making me want to go re organize my space now!