Quick on the heels of last fall’s Syro, Aphex Twin, aka Richard James, recently released an EP of computer-controlled acoustic instruments, titled appropriately enough, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2. I had heard about James’s collection of such instruments and even saw a photo somewhere of a snare drum attached to which were metal claws holding drumsticks. So I was curious to hear what all this gear sounded like.
Overall, listening to Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 refreshed for me why I still prefer the sounds of acoustic instruments over electronic timbres. They’re simply richer and more evocative. (Read more about my frustrations with electronic sounds here.) Having said that, I also enjoy the groove of electronically driven, MIDI-controlled sequences and beats. Machines have an interesting funk to them–even if part of that funkiness is the result of our projecting onto them more meaning than their grooves deserve. Finally, listening to this music had me thinking about the voice of a performer/composer/acoustic instrument controller. I’m curious how it is that musicians can have a distinctive sound that we recognize in an instant. This sound, this voice, includes note choices, timbres, rhythms, and so on. But it’s also a matter of Quality. And how this Quality can be felt through the mediations of electronic gear controlling acoustic instruments is a wonderfully interesting problem indeed.