[title is a slight misnomer but sounds slick, so I’m sticking wivvit – totally cool if there’s some other corner this fits better in, too!]
When getting into synthesis I was thinking to myself “ah yes, I can be a whole band all by my lonesome.” The actual process of working with synthesizers (and learning more about music writ large as a result) has guided me toward an approach driven by single sound sources or, at most, duos. The initial concept was sort of… “a jazz trio but everyone’s always soloing” with me sitting at the dynamic and harmonic helm, modulating timbres, bringing voices in and out, and guiding the flow of tension / release. Turns out that sounds completely unhinged (or, like this if you’re a genius and IANAG) and is, broadly, unmanageable in real-time (I’m not actually very interested in performing live – I just don’t really like timeline driven workflows // tracking parts in isolation and bringing them together in the DAW, for the usual reasons).
There are quite a few great examples of single-sound-source composition (Ciani, Barbieri, Okazaki, KAS, @infinitedigits on this, many sections of this EAS performance, Deantoni Parks, Sophie with the monomachine, although that soloism is undetectable by design). What’s more scarce, though (seemingly), is a vocabulary for arranging in this paradigm. I’ve listened to these records endlessly to get a sense of how to really push what a single sound source can do and have learned a few things, but am still a significant distance from getting the results I’m looking for. The current set up is earthsea → JF → delay. Previously I was all about DPO → granular (here) and may return to that at some point because the possibilities of something like the patch at the end of this video are enticing (although I do love pretending to be a pianist with JF). Most of my attempts at “extending” these techniques are like… “crank up the feedback and play more slowly” which is maybe good advice for a certain kind of music, but not the most flexible wisdom.
Y’all spend much time thinking / working this way? Anything you’ve learned by it?
what exactly are you trying to do and why on earth even???
I’m mostly interested in that uncanny valley between uh… (language here is difficult) properly “experimental” and “popular” music styles – stuff that’s still largely 12 tet, utilizes functional harmony, has rhythm and sections and such, but is shaped by intuition over execution of established forms – even the jazz examples above are pretty distant in their execution from the original tunes. Partially to remain intelligible in the broader musical conversation, but also so that the skills I’m building are broadly useful in collaborating with a wide variety of musicians in highly-integrated ways (knowing my way around keys, rhythms, arrangements) rather than like… being FM SQUELCH KING (which is still a cool guy to be).
I think looping is probably a key thing here, but there’s also such potential to get hemmed in by your own preconditions in that paradigm (and a sort of forced linearity to the arrangements unless I’m missing some game-changing technique I ought not miss!).
My parts are busy, my heart is busy, “making space” for more parts always feels like it’s robbing the initial parts of their individuation (oh yeah I shouldna thrown the b5 in that bass register // this melody really shouldn’t have spanned three octaves if you wanted to add a high line, etc). And I really love beats – music that’s just simple loops in support of a single sample, itself looping. Stuff that’s got 13 instruments and only 2 ideas can be really hard for me to listen to and I’d rather spend my time practicing a small handful of instruments than getting a dozen vsts to play nice with each other. Plus there’s just such immense solidity and freedom emanating from all of the tunes above. Singular works with singular sounds presented nakedly. That’s cool to me!