ai weiwei: …ceramics is crazy. I hate ceramics…but I do it. I think if you hate something too much, you have to do it.
hans ulrich obrist: To exercise?
ai weiwei: Right.
I think a lot about this exchange between Ai Weiwei and Hans Ulrich Obrist. I sometimes fall into a trap of defining my work as much as what it isn’t than what it is. Whether that’s approach, tools, whatever. In terms of tools, I’ve avoided using sequencing for years, but I’m thinking of remedying that as an exercise. I’ve found that to be useful in the past, in an Oblique Strategies kind of way.
What do we think? And if you love sequencers, convince me that they’re fun!
oh man, I really like “if you hate something too much, you have to do it” as a Weltanschauung!
I don’t know what it is about sequencers you hate, but for me it’s just that it’s totally foreign as a way of accessing pitches for me, since I come from a classical piano background. There are so many “pianistic” or “performative” effects that you just can’t easily get on a sequencer.
But, sequencers also let me emulate sequenced styles of music, which I like, they let me play faster and stranger than my hands are capable of, and they do make obvious some more “combinatorial” possibilities for alteration, which don’t always make ME happy, but I’m sure Schoenberg would be.
So, I try and practice making melodies that would be hard to play by hand and embrace the “robotic” aspects where it makes sense.
I think it’s the repeating patterns of step sequencers, changing the odd thing here and there on each pass of the sequence. I don’t hate sequencers, but as an experience it was uninspiring for me, and just no fun to use. I don’t work with fixed pitches, so recently I’ve been thinking of ways I can sequence changes in timbre, and I think it’s healthy to tackle head on what it is about a particular tool or approach that you dislike. But I’ve avoided them for so long I’m pretty bewildered by all the options, especially in Eurorack!
totally agree. by bringing your full self to these experiences, you find approaches in the attempts that are more uniquely yours, which opens up opportunity for innovation. even if it’s just innovation-for-self, throwing spaghetti can really help clarify your voice.
There are many kinds of sequencers: DAW piano rolls, trackers, linear pitch sequencers, Cartesian sequencers, linear trigger sequencers, combo sequencers that handle both CVs and gates, Euclidean rhythm sequencers, algorithmic sequencers, Turing machines and similar, sequential switches, probably some I’m not even thinking of. And there are many different implementations of each.
I have an old habit of using piano-style sequencing, which gives a composer the most control and has a lot of flexibility. But I also enjoy working with unquantized pitches, and with rhythms and interactions that arise from combinations of patterns and algorithms.
In modular sequencing I never really “write” a part in the same way I do with MIDI. I might write a basic rhythm that drives algorithmically derived gates and triggers; I might build an intentional pitch sequence, but I won’t write a line the same way. In fact I like to set up a pitch sequence in Mimetic Digitalis and then trigger its X,Y,N and O in a different order. I also like timbre sequencing, which isn’t something that happens much with MIDI…
So… with all the possibilities out there, there might be some kind of sequencing that you don’t hate
Without knowing the full context of the exchange between Ai WeiWei and Obrist, I can’t really comment on what brought Ai WeiWei to that conclusion…but I think I’ve experienced something similar? There are times when I absolutely, absolutely hate my music and I hate having to write about my music and I hate doing my PhD because why did I ever choose to do it on my own practice OMG, but the main reason why I reached that point in the first place is because it’s my passion, and it gets all-consuming.
I think music is totally crazy but, at the end of the day, it’s what I’m compelled to do. There is no choice
I do this same thing—usually clears out space for what was really meant to be written after I get it out. But if I don’t allow my brain to go where it needs, i’ll get way more stuck than I would had I accepted the corny melody to begin with.
I usually hate to organize my ableton projects…but boy does it make things easier in the long run.
Most sequencers run themselves in a predictable way by default. One exercise you can try is record/overdub a loop with the sequencer running at different speeds on each pass. Used this quite a bit on my last album, originally got the idea to try this while listening to Oneohtrix Point Never’s Returnal album.
A plain sequence can also be very meditative, especially when you have several of different lengths running at the same time or changing the length. I enjoy what Caterina Barbieri is doing in this realm, inspired by minimalist composers. Koen Holtkamp’s Beast albums are really great too - don’t see a lot of people mentioning his work.
I’m still very much a beginner in every aspect of music making, so I feel a bit hesitant about chiming in here(does that mean I have to…?).
I’ve found a nice way to add some variation in a modular system is mixing a humdrum sequence with all kinds of other cv sources. This way you can jumble it up as much or as little as you’d like but there’s always a base structure to return back to.
Probably elementary stuff I imagine, but it’s felt like a revelation to how I approach things.