Resonant Thoughts: Tom Jenkinson (aka Squarepusher) On Instruments

“With some of the instruments I’ve used, people would be surprised about some of the results I’ve got out of them because they’re not designed to do certain things and yet, if you put your mind to it and really get to grips with how it’s built and not the manufacturer’s intentions, any machine will do a number of things above and beyond what the manufacturer intended. It’s just looking at it with an open mind, then those things become apparent.”

Tom Jenkinson (aka Squarepusher)

Production Knowing: How Do You Know When It’s Something Musically New?


How do we know when the music we’re making is actually new?
What signs might indicate this newness?
Are the signs in the sounds or in our our changing attention to them?

It feels like nothing is happening
because musically speaking, nothing is happening.
I’m clicking through sounds, looking at the screen,

I search for a sound that I can relate to by playing it and getting into it.
But nothing is happening.

And then, a sound.
A sound that is interesting enough for me to stick with for a while.
I try it out by playing it and hearing what it can do.
I listen for interesting irregularities.

I play a simple phrase and keep returning to it.
Is there something here?
Is it a hook?

Soon I’m lost in the sound,
trying to build on the simple phase that hooked me in.

I find another phrase and repeat that for a while.
This one is more interesting that the first phrase
because I notice myself playing rubato
(even though the sound doesn’t respond to my rubato playing).
The sound feels expressive and so, I do too.
I’m even swaying in my chair a bit as I play.

I try linking the two phrases together.
They sort of fit, but only if the second phrase is played freely.

There’s some connecting chords needed to get into the second phrase
that I’m not sure about. Each time I play them the chords are a bit different.

I could figure them out…but I’d prefer to let my hands figure it out.

Do I refine the chords and interrupt the process or keep moving ahead?
I move ahead.

I hit record and play for a while,
keeping in mind the two phrases and connecting them.
I can always refine this later, but actually
this moment is my best chance to get it right.

I record a second time, hoping to improve it but the first take was better
because I didn’t completely know where I was going
or how it would end.