Music Diary (some blabbery first-person musings previously posted were boiled down to the following):

The advantages of software synthesizers are being able to jettison gear and "stuff," use the biggest possible graphic interface to design music more visually, and access new sound making tools as they are developed via the Net, as opposed to just downloading samples. The key to using so-called native instruments is to have your eyes open about their agendas and limitations and if the music is going to sound "off the shelf," try to put brackets around it so people know what you're doing, even if they don't know what you're doing. As a result of being more softsynthian, won't the music produced around here sound increasingly like those bits of tuneful ambient e________a played between stories on NPR (assuming they still do that--it's been a while)? Yes, probably, but I'm at peace with that, I think.

By the way, the titular bleat in the "drum and bass" track "Little Shrieker" was a field recording of a woodchuck, distorted, slowed down, and played backward in Kontakt. I'm proud of that good bad noise, whatever anyone else thinks of it.

- tom moody 4-27-2005 11:17 pm

haha, nah I don't think there's a dark side. yeah I generally prefer hands-on stuff, but that's not for everyone. And even I've got some laptop performance and softsynth projects in the works! My buddy that I hang out and talk music with, he's basically doing the same kind of crap I do, but with softsynths. exploiting/thriving on the limitations.

he was showing me Guitar Rig last week, that's some fun software.
- paul (guest) 4-28-2005 1:06 am

In the old x-eleven days, softsynths didn't really exist so I used loads and loads of hardware. For the new album I'm working on (should be completed in a few months), I've used soft synths almost exclusively. Every once in a while I turn on my Xpander or Prophet VS, but they're really just not worth the trouble and I keep them mainly as museum pieces now. I think the sounds I come up with on soft synths are generally more interesting than the ones I used to program on the old h/w variety, probably just because it's so much easier to experiment and discard what doesn't work. A good programmer can make a soft synth sound as "analog" as most any real piece of hardware. And of course the hw/sw divide is sort of arbitrary because most of those old "h/w" synths are full of software, too. With the exception of the oscillators and filters, a lot of the components of a h/w "analog" synth are just software (envelopes, lfos, ramps, etc...)
- g.k. (guest) 4-29-2005 1:32 am

Tom - i'm sort of curious as to how you see these ideas fitting in with your willingness to (a) use presets on your sidstation tracks and (b) align tracks of yours with techno genres and the types of sounds these genres use. It's seemed to me that a lot of your audio work has been about mining and crosswiring different forms of (electronic) music. Don't the limitations of soft synths play right into that approach?

A few things I like about presets/stock sounds: they're kind of like samples (they allow you to reference and/or buy into certain sounds/genres/traditions), they divide the world between those who can tell you've used a preset and people who would never care (music for people who own Reaktor vs. music for other people), and they free you up to focus on other parts of the music-making process (maybe spending all your time designing synth sounds is like spending all your time mixing paint).

- mbs (guest) 5-03-2005 4:18 am

Yes, absolutely the presets are just like samples and allow you to play with historicity (horrid word but I have to use it) along with all the other elements of a musical pallette. The plan here is to be completely perverse in sometimes wanting to change them around so they're "mine" and sometimes using them straight up without apology to others in the electronic music cult who recognize them, or anyone else who randomly recognizes them. Thanks for saying I'm mining and crosswiring different forms of (electronic) music, that's really nice--I guess I do that instinctively, but it's also the critic in me looking at all these "genres" and saying WTF? How did these get codified to the extent that we now have books that teach you how to make "drum and bass" and "house"? (I know because I bought a bunch of them and have been reading them.) Yesterday's wild and crazy ephemeral teenage dancefloor sound is today's set of conventions to be slavishly followed.

mbs--that piece you did with the trillville is a mashup, right? as i suggested on your page, it seems to me it's a case of combining two pieces of music to make something better than either original. but i don't really know enough about your methodology (and/or the original pieces of music) to say that definitively.

To g.k.--looking forward to that new music! That's great to hear that you reached that conclusion about the possibilties of software after having a solid basis in hardware production. It just seems like a logical development, and it's better for the environment to have less gear ending up in landfills, etc. i'm being smartass but i do kind of believe that.

paul's comment about the "dark side" was in reference to something i wrote and deleted about using softynths. sorry, I shouldn't rewrite so much.
- tom moody 5-04-2005 6:47 pm

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