Creative Strategies in Electronic Music

by Thomas Brett

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.

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