Electronics in music and how do you use it? Humans or machine, who controls who?

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KVRer
19 posts since 18 Feb, 2016 from Denmark

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:13 am

As a musician, computer technology has given me many opportunities and tools that can do the work for me. However, I attach great importance in using my instrument (EWI 5000) to create music so you can hear that there is a human behind the variations and errors that occur. In my opinion, perfection is boring.
But with today's electronics the perfection is a part of the scene and it is not necessary to be able to play an instrument (great thing because it opens up for more people to make music). It's often automatic functions and loops which forms the basis of much of electronic music of today.
Humans or machine, who controls who?
These elements are also used in my set-up and I try to get as much control over the machines as possible. As a couple of examples, I can mention a freeware plug-in BlueArp as the bass sound controller or my drum loops. They are controlled in different ways, partly by my wind instrument and partly by the foot controller. The drum loops is a temporary arrangement until I find a digital drummer.

How do you feel about electronics in music and how do you use it?


Improvised live recording:
https://soundcloud.com/balther/balther-solo-down-town
Last edited by Balther on Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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KVRAF
3889 posts since 28 Jun, 2009 from Wherever I lay my hat

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:57 am

I treat the computer as a perfect co-musician. I really like the interplay between "human error" and machine-like perfection. So I'll have a very metronome-like beat paired with a slurred bass line and lots of rubato. "Perfect" arpeggios are cool, especially when offset by imperfect arpeggios. If everything is quantized, though, I tune out immediately.

KVRian
1158 posts since 6 Jan, 2015 from London, England

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:42 am

Balther wrote:Humans or machine, who controls who?
It was because of considerations like this that I named one of my albums OrganicDigital and used artwork to reflect these considerations. It was originally going to be a collection of electronica but on thinking about how we use synths, patches, and especially arps, it just had to be a collection of EDM.

https://soundcloud.com/garryknight/sets ... ital-album

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KVRer

Topic Starter

19 posts since 18 Feb, 2016 from Denmark

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:54 am

ariston wrote:I treat the computer as a perfect co-musician. I really like the interplay between "human error" and machine-like perfection. So I'll have a very metronome-like beat paired with a slurred bass line and lots of rubato. "Perfect" arpeggios are cool, especially when offset by imperfect arpeggios. If everything is quantized, though, I tune out immediately.
Do you have an example of the music?
I agree that quantization can be quite rigid.
I use quantization when I make a MIDI drum loop step by step. Then I take an audio or MIDI file with the swing I seek and use it as quantization. I'm not a drummer but that method gives it a human touch.
But many of the effects and arpeggios we use is quantized. Here the challenge is to make a good swing in the programming of the software.
Last edited by Balther on Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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KVRer

Topic Starter

19 posts since 18 Feb, 2016 from Denmark

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:51 am

garryknight wrote:
Balther wrote:Humans or machine, who controls who?
It was because of considerations like this that I named one of my albums OrganicDigital and used artwork to reflect these considerations. It was originally going to be a collection of electronica but on thinking about how we use synths, patches, and especially arps, it just had to be a collection of EDM.

https://soundcloud.com/garryknight/sets ... ital-album
I like the music. You sometimes have an oriental touch that I love and use myself.
When I listen to your music I think hybnose and trance.
Often EDM is made of a single basic key & beats. The soundstage change through time to create a hybnotisk-feeling that keeps people on the dance floor or keeps them focused in a meditation.
Interesting as it has roots in tribal rituals and religion. I think:-)
I myself I'm a very impatient man and something has to happen all the time. Therefore I'm only doing improvisations with many changes. It is to tell stories and express my emotions in real time.
One could say a lot about music and all the many styles but a common thing we all have is that it puts us in a mood which we rarely find elsewhere.

KVRian
1158 posts since 6 Jan, 2015 from London, England

Post Sun Feb 28, 2016 4:11 pm

Thanks. Yes, I'm influenced by world music from a lot of countries. And I've been aware for a long time of the link between hypnosis, trance, tribal rituals, and music. The kick and snare/clap of EDM isn't that far removed from the throb of tribal drumming, and repetition is a staple feature of all music - and repetition leads to trance. And what is meditation but one form of trance?

When the shaman eats the magic substance, begins to dance and goes into his own inner state, is that any different from the young person with MDMA and EDM, I wonder?
Balther wrote: One could say a lot about music and all the many styles but a common thing we all have is that it puts us in a mood which we rarely find elsewhere.
This is very true.

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KVRer

Topic Starter

19 posts since 18 Feb, 2016 from Denmark

Post Mon Feb 29, 2016 10:04 am

garryknight wrote:Thanks. Yes, I'm influenced by world music from a lot of countries. And I've been aware for a long time of the link between hypnosis, trance, tribal rituals, and music. The kick and snare/clap of EDM isn't that far removed from the throb of tribal drumming, and repetition is a staple feature of all music - and repetition leads to trance. And what is meditation but one form of trance?

When the shaman eats the magic substance, begins to dance and goes into his own inner state, is that any different from the young person with MDMA and EDM, I wonder?
It's an interesting discussion about what we used music for.
In addition to music speaks to our emotions, it can also be used to manipulate us as muzak, religious music, politikske campaigning torture and music teapi to name a few examples.
An experiment I have tried it is to tune my instrument at 380 Hz which is said to be the vibration much of nature swinging in. The theory is that the vibration enters the body and can heal as well as destroy.
When I know I tell you.

KVRian
1158 posts since 6 Jan, 2015 from London, England

Post Mon Feb 29, 2016 2:37 pm

I look forward to it. If it turns out to be untrue, tell me the moment you find out... ;)

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KVRer

Topic Starter

19 posts since 18 Feb, 2016 from Denmark

Post Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:28 am

garryknight wrote:I look forward to it. If it turns out to be untrue, tell me the moment you find out... ;)
It is a big task that requires that everything is tuned in 380 Hz. I am in progress to do a live set-up so I can try it out on an audience.
There are several pieces of New Age-like productions in 380 Hz which is used for healing.
Many experts believe that by tuning the instruments in 441 Hz music looses some of its magic.

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KVRian
616 posts since 15 Apr, 2012 from Moscow, Russia

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:00 am

Balther wrote:
Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:13 am
As a musician, computer technology has given me many opportunities and tools that can do the work for me. However, I attach great importance in using my instrument (EWI 5000) to create music so you can hear that there is a human behind the variations and errors that occur. In my opinion, perfection is boring.
...
This topic is 5 years old but I just read it and the question is still relevant. It leads me to an interesting thought: while in pre-computer era musicians were striving for perfection in music, now we are striving for imperfection. In the times of Bach or Mozart it would be cricuial to be trained well and devote coutless hours of training to get that perfection. Later, in rock music there was some natural imperfection (like slight irregularities of the tempo) and it was natural part of it (there is a Rick Beato's video on this, something like 'computers killed rock music). And when the computers came into music - things changed, cause perfection is natural to computers. On the computer it is much easier to make a perfect quantized beat with a rock-solid tempo, than to make something with a human feel. So now we all use a set of techniques like swing, velocity ranzomization, accents, tempo changes (you name it) to inject some imperfection is out music and give it a more human feel. In some genres like EDM only a gentle touch of those is necessary, in others you need more of it. But you always have to choose the right amount and don't fall into 'chimp tries to play the piano' sort of thing, but just enough to give your music some extra colors.

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KVRAF
21240 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 6:52 am

"So now we all use a set of techniques like swing, velocity ranzomization, accents, tempo changes (you name it) to inject some imperfection"
Well, I don't use artificial swing or any form of fake randomness. Tempo changes are compositional decisions and about feel in the initial impulse or improvisation. I don't start with a quantized step kind of input and then screw with it as this implies. (I wanted to use a groove template once (establishing it by hand), early in my DAW/vi sort of journey. The fact of the literal repetition tells on itself. Essentially I was trying to tell a lie, and a more elaborate story was needed. {I create lies in the editing, no doubt. But those strategies model from observation of my own tendencies.}
Humans in a room it so wasn't and it's crystal clear why.)

The perfection supposedly of an accomplished classical musician is quite another whole landscape than quantization in a DAW, and this is about performance on the spot. The so-called perfection of quantization is not anything to strive for as a musician. If one cannot keep decent time one is weeded out but soon. It doesn't have to be 'our' start point for a composition or its virtual performance. Play something by your hand and there's human element in spades, and the training you speak of is geared towards things so much more subtle - ineffable even - than those notions come at all close to.

"Later, in rock music there was some natural imperfection (like slight irregularities of the tempo)"
But it's true of any real music. Take anything, any audio of some music (unless it really is that plastic fantastic EDM with no actual human time to be burdened with) and find the downbeats and then the internal beats for real*. This is pretty much axiomatic, and once seen it's not unseeable. After a point the notion a track is in x BPM seems like a joke. (But it is true of a certain sort of music which computers enable people to "make". Extramusical aesthetic notions like 'this is supposed to be robotic' notwithstanding.)
"On the computer it is much easier to make a perfect quantized beat with a rock-solid tempo, than to make something with a human feel." Well, duh, but what you're not really doing with all of this other help is imparting feel, in all likelihood, as there's this gap in the understanding of it. EG: know that there is no such thing as a rock solid tempo by a human like that. It's not even desirable, usually. NB: Before computers and that whole MO there was no era of perfect time people had to mess up so rock was suddenly where imperfection was desirable. That tries to reverse engineer reality to fit one's conception. It's all upside down.
(*: Concretely: I remember when I learned of Cubase's time warp implementation. The demonstration video used that well-known Pretenders track, got legs/gonna use them.
So you drag the bar lines to first the downbeat and then you may want to see 2, 3, 4 etc, and the timeline conforms to those real beats values. This is easily considered a rock solid rock track. Yeah, no, every beat of that 4/4 is a new BPM. The variance is not terribly wide, but it's the truth of the matter. Epiphany; I knew it was true but not to this extent.)


Also seems "much easier" to have the computer tell you what time it is and then faff about with swing quantization or pseudo-randomization tactics than to become someone who can just play (easier to fool yourself). It's the actual playing you want to model with those techniques and here's an avoidance strategy, the same one as quantizing the time in the first place. I think that MO may not be enough to exert real control over that machine.

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KVRian
1059 posts since 23 Nov, 2018 from Birmingham, UK

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:40 pm

graywolf2004 wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:00 am
Balther wrote:
Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:13 am
As a musician, computer technology has given me many opportunities and tools that can do the work for me. However, I attach great importance in using my instrument (EWI 5000) to create music so you can hear that there is a human behind the variations and errors that occur. In my opinion, perfection is boring.
...
This topic is 5 years old but I just read it and the question is still relevant. It leads me to an interesting thought: while in pre-computer era musicians were striving for perfection in music, now we are striving for imperfection. In the times of Bach or Mozart it would be cricuial to be trained well and devote coutless hours of training to get that perfection. Later, in rock music there was some natural imperfection (like slight irregularities of the tempo) and it was natural part of it (there is a Rick Beato's video on this, something like 'computers killed rock music). And when the computers came into music - things changed, cause perfection is natural to computers. On the computer it is much easier to make a perfect quantized beat with a rock-solid tempo, than to make something with a human feel. So now we all use a set of techniques like swing, velocity ranzomization, accents, tempo changes (you name it) to inject some imperfection is out music and give it a more human feel. In some genres like EDM only a gentle touch of those is necessary, in others you need more of it. But you always have to choose the right amount and don't fall into 'chimp tries to play the piano' sort of thing, but just enough to give your music some extra colors.
while in pre-computer era musicians were striving for perfection in music
What is perfection in music? never heard anyone ever yet define it...probably because it's a bit of a nonsense! :) Bach, Mozart etc were striving for 'perfection'...no, I don't think so personally...that fundamentally misunderstands some key aspects of how music was often performed...the elements of live ad-lib and improvisation. they were often actually very keen on different interpretations rather than some philosophical, unattainable 'perfection'....

"Notation, the writing out of compositions, is primarily an ingenious expedient for catching an inspiration, with the purpose of exploiting it later. But notation is to improvisation as the portrait to the living model. It is for the interpreter to
resolve the rigidity of the signs into emotion....it is open for each performer to interpret the written notes and add their own personal touch of humanity"


The computer is a tool / instrument like any other involved in music-making...you can use it in a very basic, simplistic way if you only learn certain skills and techniques or you can use it in a very sophisticated and highly advanced way if you put in the hours to study and practise.
So now we all use a set of techniques like swing, velocity randomization, accents, tempo changes (you name it) to inject some imperfection is out music and give it a more human feel.
Sort of like a live performer might do, you mean? :) When I perform live I am almost certainly varying the tempo, the velocity / attack of the notes, the dynamics, the timbral aspects of certain notes, the intonation of individual notes etc etc...

Ditto when I create music at my PC...sometimes in real-time, sometimes in step-time, sometimes just drawing in the notes from the melodies in my head and then editing them afterwards for my personal take on 'musicality'!

It's all just different ways of creating music...not better or worse...people have always been more accomplished / less accomplished composers and performers...it's just the same with computer-based music creation for me.

https://soundcloud.com/chameleon-music/ ... os-1-and-2

Some sections of the above piece were played 'live' and left pretty much unedited.

Some sections were drawn in using the mouse and then edited afterwards.

Some sections were performed live and then edited here and there to 'tidy up' a few moments that I wasn't 100% happy with.

Doesn't really matter...just different ways of creating and 'performing' music.
Mark Taylor, Chameleon Music - Professional composition and sound design for all media since 1994.

https://www.chameleonmusic.co.uk/

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KVRAF
21240 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:03 pm

"perfection in music? never heard anyone ever yet define it...probably because it's a bit of a nonsense!"
a bit, yeah. No, the closest thing in this world to aiming for perfection in music is classical music performing seal stuff. And while you want to model yourself after something extant, you can't clone that, you will have a style and a performance that's your own or why bother? It would be too boring, it would be a death.
it's typical to see them called 'mechanics' and 'technicians' pejoratively, but what isn't happening is replication by rote, or even 'that's the best I've ever done this one, I must replicate this and this and this exactly every time'.

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KVRAF
21240 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:08 pm

Anyway, the takeaway I want people to have there is, ok, if you want to 'write' music in the DAW, and nailing everything live isn't happening for whatever reason, so you want to pencil the MIDI bars in there in the piano roll, you'd better understand what you're drawing in terms of timing. Timing is EVERYTHING.
So the person that has that experience getting it by their own hand knows things the noob cannot. Today in our instant self-gratification (I'm ruined too btw) times, people think they can buy a computer and some software and it's off to the races before their horse has legs to stand on.

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KVRian
1059 posts since 23 Nov, 2018 from Birmingham, UK

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:19 pm

jancivil wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:08 pm
Anyway, the takeaway I want people to have there is, ok, if you want to 'write' music in the DAW, and nailing everything live isn't happening for whatever reason, so you want to pencil the MIDI bars in there in the piano roll, you'd better understand what you're drawing in terms of timing. Timing is EVERYTHING.
So the person that has that experience getting it by their own hand knows things the noob cannot. Today in our instant self-gratification (I'm ruined too btw) times, people think they can buy a computer and some software and it's off to the races before their horse has legs to stand on.
Today in our instant self-gratification (I'm ruined too btw) times, people think they can buy a computer and some software and it's off to the races before their horse has legs to stand on.
Yeah, that's true without a doubt, but it's always been that way to some extent...kids picking up guitars / singing in a band / getting a drum kit for Christmas and then many getting nowhere cos they can't be bothered to put in the effort...

Possibly the only difference is the extent to which you can 'cheat' very easily and sound so decent so quickly on a PC / Mac?

Pisses me off everytime I hear cheap, preset loops just copied and pasted on TV programmes and films (not even with anything original 'wrapped around' them)...even the big composers do it sometimes and quite blatantly!
Mark Taylor, Chameleon Music - Professional composition and sound design for all media since 1994.

https://www.chameleonmusic.co.uk/

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