Is it enough?


this past week @tehn was helping teach a masters course with the theme of juggling and music here in stockholm at the circus university. at one point he mentioned this idea of working on a project and having the most simple solution end up being the thing to do in the end. even if this solution or action didn’t actually take so much effort, time, energy, or personal growth. almost like a feeling of cheating. obviously this goes along with your expectations on how a particular process is going to turn out.

but parallel to this, the third teacher on the course, ivar heckscher, talks about necessity in relation to art. and that the best art is made up of content that is put there through necessity. i remember on an earlier tour that brian mentioned sometimes feeling slightly guilty for throwing a bass drum sample on one row of mlr and then mashing the other groups over it… as if that 4th group could have in one way been so much more. but the bass drum actually drove the whole composition, which couldn’t have existed without it.

i don’t think this is such a “how do i know when my album is finished” kind of thread. but rather, how do you know or judge or discover what is necessary for your art, and how do you filter out all the other expectations (from yourself, your peers, the community, society, etc.) to truly do what is right in the moment and leave all the other baggage behind?

Generative systems

Oh, I totally get and love that approach and am always trying to find simple or better “natural” solutions.

The example you mentioned fits my work quite well. I do it with bass sounds instead of drums but still. Giving things a rather simple structure that holds the more advanced stuff together.

I guess, not to overthink it is the main thing but that is easier said then done. The best way to stay clear for me is to patch standing up and trying to feel the music. Even though I make rather ambient-ish tunes, this still helps a lot.


I’m sure my brain will bubble up some more thoughts on this later in the day (have friends visiting at the moment), but this is something I think about every so often. For me it’s something I often combat (but perhaps in the different direction that you mean), in that as humans, with egos, we often fetishize ‘work’ and ‘effort’ as metrics. I view that as a byproduct of capital E ego, which isn’t a very aesthetic-friendly being.

Further to that point is #1 on the list of John Baldessari’s list of something that every young artist should know:

spoiler: 1. Talent is cheap


This is a really interesting subject & one I think about a lot. I’m probably old-fashioned & usually think in terms of the final “product” - if you somehow produce an amazing track in 10 minutes by looping a single sample, that to me is as valid as if you spent a year painstakingly soldering an entire modular system to do the same.

I think the politics of using or not using presets in synths is also interesting here.

I also completely agree with @Rodrigo about the fetishisation of effort, but would add that I think this is also a product of modern capitalist society.

Need to go & re-read Buckminster-Fuller’s thoughts on this…


In Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Buckminster Fuller says he loves EDM.


I’m not very talented, but sometimes, without too much consideration or effort, I make something I like…if someone else likes it…I like that feeling. It’s hard to feel proud of something you make by finding it or filtering it… I don’t really have an answer, but the fetishisation of effort is an interesting thing to consider.


Questions of necessity are, to me, inherently biological.

Questions of art are tied up in expression of meaning, identity, and/or aesthetics.

So, I see questions of necessity in relation to art as having to do with the way our physiology shapes our ability to express meaning, identity, and aesthetics (or simply “expression”, to be terse).

From the perspective of physiology of expression, a 4/4 bass drum on the 1 makes a lot of sense for a list of reasons. It’s not pandering or laziness to notice how our physiology, our biological evolution, provides the foundation for culture. There’s nothing wrong with not resisting it. It’s “natural” for reasons, reasons that can be objectively understood.

In my work as a software designer, I’m often asked about the “meaning” of colors I choose for things. In that context I avoid the cultural discussion (because we are a global company with a multicultural audience) and steer it towards physiology (our eyes can more readily distinguish distinctions in blue and green than in other hues, so the increased gamut in those areas provides for more choices, I don’t just “like” blue because “everybody uses it”. It’s not laziness.)


Some of the best advice I’ve heard in recent years is when my friend told me some advice he was given: ‘When I get stuck, I start taking things away’. It’s worked pretty solidly for me since then, and I try and approach my work with some kind of core simplicity, whether that’s building a feedback system of some kind and letting that run for x minutes, or making a piece with a single sound source because the timbre has so much inner complexity for me that I don’t feel like anything needs to be added… etc.

I don’t believe so much in strict rules; my work always fails when I try and do that. But keeping whatever I’m doing as simple as possible in some way, even if the result doesn’t sound simple, that works for me. Sometimes that means a track will take weeks or months to finish, other times, a single take is enough.


sometimes it takes a lot of effort to arrive at simple.

this is often the case of interacting with modular, you do obvious things (things that you think will get you to something that sounds good the fastest), and it sounds like shit. and then you spend 2 days fine tuning it and it shines. and you sit there, just tweaking it slightly for an hour and thinking, this is too easy!


Just in relation to the music and juggling…



I find myself disagreeing with #2: You must be possessed and you can’t will it.

Possession is necessary, but I feel pretty strongly that you can certainly will it into being. It’s the only way I know how.


I think whatever is easiest is the best!

If it’s easiest for you to sit on the couch, go right ahead. That’s your thing.

If it’s easiest for you to buy gear, be a collector!

If it’s easiest for you to code and never make music, thank you!

If it’s easiest for you to use tools to make music, I’d like to hear it!

I try to let go of what could be or should be and harness what is.


yes! i got to work with tom johnson first in 2009 when he adapted his piece “failing” for juggling. he’s now published 3 different compositions for jugglers which is quite amazing. to be honest i was expecting a bit more with the piece in the video… the steim ball demo video is awesome but with tom’s allergy to any biography in the music he went with the most basic settings and patterns. the one thing i absolutely love about those balls though is that they have built in speakers for excellent sound design possibilities.


I have a formal anti-capitalist process for music creation in that instruments are ones I build myself, receive or are granted access through community or collective work spaces, friends, family, colleagues. This necessity puts enough constraints on my process that the insecurity of “if only I had the top gear I would make better work” is eliminated since in many cases I’m working with gear that was once literal garbage. This is much easier for me in my current geographic location of San Francisco. So much technology garbage passes through here because…late stage capitalism is terrible.

Software platforms I put energy into are all free and libre software and when possible, run on open source hardware. This removes the question of “which DAW do I need to learn to be professional?” because the popular opinion of free sound software is “not for professionals.”

When recording and editing, I don’t overdub or punch in/out with multitrack recording gear. While having multiple input tracks is possible, it removes much of the complexity in editing. If it sounds bad, throw it away and do it again. I interpret this as anti-capitalist because it does not fetishize each performance or recording as an essential product. By removing value through my process, the chosen works exist outside of a commodity value system.

These process constraints do leave me thinking “is it enough” quite often. While they are not designed around the concept of “ease” they reduce the surface area available to add ornamental features or luster. Sometimes my process is quite difficult and for example I put much work into debugging a kernel driver of an obsolete audio interface but in the end, the result is a tool or instrument that rises to the top of the garbage pile caused by global capitalism.


'Music is especially powerful. It conveys emotion more strongly than any other artistic medium. - c.dukowski

nervous gender
’Edward had met Phranc and based largely on her androgynous appearance, invited her to join.

'Their first instruments were Magnus Organs, cheap toy-like things, and they’d play them onto cassette tapes, looping and re-recording to get odd sounds.

'We also played one infamous night in San Diego where we got paid more than we ever had before when the staff took up a collection to pay us to stop.


One of the folks from Teenage Engineering gave a talk at Loop yesterday, and one of the tidbits was effectively (paraphrased):

Some design decisions are totally arbitrary, but those decisions can still be very helpful for a creative process. For example, they decided that there would be no yellow anywhere in the OP-1 hardware or software. So when deciding what color to make something, yellow was never a possible consideration.


I was working at STEIM around the time they were developing these… I know work has been done on a new and better version but I’m not sure how if it was ever finished to a working prototype :slight_smile:


Tried this last night and it really helped :slight_smile: also better for my health to don’t sit too much


Great! Glad it helped.


This article feels relevant: