brettworks

thinking through music, sound and culture

Month: May, 2010

Creative Strategies in Electronic Music

If you subscribe, like I do, to Future Music magazine, each month you get a nifty DVD with free sounds and musician interviews.  This month’s disc featured a video tutorial with Kieran Hebdan – aka Four Tet.  It was pretty brilliant (as the English might say).  Hebdan brings the viewer through the composing process he used to assemble his latest collection of music, There Is Love In You.  Hebdan explains how he transforms looped sounds into finished pieces using Ableton Live (for experimenting with loops) and Pro Tools (for assembling the finished track).  Interestingly, his strategy is often to go through as many obvious permutations of the material he can think of: playing the loop at half speed or double speed, playing it backwards. This “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” approach allows him to eschew the constant search for new sounds, preferring instead to make full use of what he already has on his ever-growing archive of material on his hard drive.  Here he might find a guitar riff he once played, or maybe a bass line that could find new life as a tuned kick drum.  Hebdan also does a lot of arranging “by hand” – meaning that he laboriously lines up different parts so they’ll sit just how he wants them to sit.  No across the board quantitzation for him.  The effect for me is that one can really Hebdan’s music breathe.

Reading About Silence

I’ve been enjoying George Prochnik’s recent book, “In Pursuit Of Silence.”  He articulates sentiments of many who live in densely noisy urban places: What is the effect of noise on our body-minds?  How does silence heal?  And how can we pursue the idea of silence in the midst of noise?  As a frequent headphone wearer and lover of all kinds of canned, mediated, electronically-reproduced, immersive sound, the book has me thinking about what my listening habits may say about me.  Prochnik’s book is not the only meditation on the noise-silence continuum.  I’m curious about Garret Keizer’s “The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise” and George Michelsen Foy’s “Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence.”  You can read NY Times reviews of all three books here: nytimes.com/2010/05/18/books/18silence.html

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