On Small Frustrations With Making Electronic Music

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One stumbling block for me with electronic music is the sounds. It’s hard to find sounds that excite me the way certain acoustic sounds do.

Acoustic sounds seem infinitely open and malleable, responsive to my limitations and even my (brief) moments of control. Acoustic sounds are also mysterious and always slightly beyond my comprehension. (Think of a gong’s sound.)

I could try making my own, hopefully exciting, electronic sounds, but that begins a process that takes me away from making music to something that feels less musical. So I resist that.

Sometimes I stumble upon exciting sounds while browsing through sound banks, and I make note of them. But I don’t necessarily feel connected to the sounds. And how could I? I just met them.

Some of these sounds I stumble upon are exciting, but I don’t feel connected to them because in addition to having just met them, they also don’t sound like me. Only upon admitting this do I realize how closely musicians can identify with their sound sources, the timbre of their instruments felt to be a reflection and extension of their own voices.

I could sample an acoustic sound–like a favorite drum, say–but this only traps it like a firefly in a jar. I can play with the trapped sound–re-pitching it, say–but this only makes me wistful for the days when the sound was free. (Copies are never the same thing, phenomenologically speaking, as originals.)

My frustration with the sounds of electronic music then, is also a frustration that I am not free enough as a musician when working with electronics. Like the sampled drum sound, I’m a firefly trapped in a jar of my own design. The interface isn’t right; or I just haven’t yet learned how to adapt to the system.