stefan goldmann – process part 246
Often when I DJ I get feedback like, “Wow, you play all that different music in one set,” and I say to myself, “That was all 128 bpm with a kick drum in it, that’s not really diverse”. One could also say it’s all diatonic, mostly dorian minor, has that division of hihat, clap, bass, kick. It follows a 16th grid, has a slight shuffle phrasing, is repetitive, follows a similar arrangement pattern … We actually tend to forget how stylistically entrenched most music performances are. Or how fixed the parameters of that music actually are which we usually hear or do. Or do you actually ever hear something like Meshuggah on the same program like, say, DJ Sneak? Kifu Mitsuhashi and Autechre? Sodom and the Arditti Quartet? Oh, actually back in the day a friend of mine and I made up a list of the most nonsense collaborations ever – I only remember Steve Coleman meets Aqua (“Barbie Girl”) and John Zorn with Truck Stop (German Country). Think Allan Holdsworth and DJ Rush might have been another pairing. Keith Jarrett and Slayer (the latter being the cool ones)?
Fixed settings help to focus. See Alice in Wonderland:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
I do care where I get, so I choose my settings carefully. Many people aim to fit into a certain market or category, like wanting some particular DJ to play their tracks (“now it’s all about house, I have to put more emphasis on the Hihat” – or change the preset to one called “House”). If you want Richie Hawtin to play your tracks, it’s quite clear what you have to do. So many people compete with similar settings and get frustrated because of the channels being blocked by myriads of competitors with the same kind of results.
It’s natural that people want to associate with musicians and labels they love. I wanted to do that a lot, too. By now I recognised that I have more benefits (artistic and financial) from disassociating myself from existing stuff. I released for Ovum, Perlon and other great labels – but there already was a Josh Wink and a Ricardo Villalobos, so I moved on to be Stefan at Macro. Cool, uh?
Likewise, I distinctively care for bending my music away from what others do. How do you do that? Well, get aware of your mind’s presets. That doesn’t mean you have to push randomise buttons all day (it helps though). I do like structured stuff. And cultural practice, i.e. stuff that’s been proven to evoke something in people as opposed to concepts that look great on paper and sound stupid on speakers. Looking out for distant settings and reapplying them to our cultural world is one of the most rewarding approaches. Very abstractely. I don’t advocate stealing other people’s achievements. I really hate taking just samples and breaking their spirit – like it happened a lot with these African voices or Afro-Cuban percussion in House. Terrible stuff – once you put it through Autotune and quantize it to a beatgrid it’s dead. The other way around is so much more rewarding: take the scale and rhythmic phrasing and apply it to your synthesizers
Let’s go into a case study: Ladies and Gentleman, meet Amza Tairov. Amza is an electronic music innovator, a role model for the youth and a performace superstar who makes a ton of money. He’s busy as hell and the first call booking for any self respecting gypsy wedding between Kraguevac and Diyarbakir. Yet he has no release, no website, no Facebook and no contacts given anywhere. How did he do it then? In the first place, since he is so awesome, people just do it all for him. They film him and put it on Youtube. They recommend him to their cousins. And he has appeared on major TV shows in Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey. Not to forget he speaks at least 5 local languages to greet his crowd adequately. Though the amazing thing about Amza is that he took something Western and applied it to something Gypsy, and that is the bomb: the Korg Triton keyboard and it’s pitch bend wheel in the hand of someone who k.n.o.w.s. In fact, Amza is the Jimi Hendrix of the pitch wheel. He didn’t actually invent this style, but he took it to a stellar level. The tones regular synthesizers produce are way too static for the music of the Balkans. Things just need more expression there. With Amza, the notes actually scream like a pornstar – just with real feeling. Proof:
As he, and many many others, to be fair, adapt Western technology for their individual settings, I think we can re-import a lot to break up our own worn out patterns. I’m particularly keen on breaking out of even tempered tonality. Modulating notes and re-tuning scales is a field hardly ever exploited in Western electronic music. That’s just an example – I’m open to bending any parameter beyond recognition – from irregular metres to assumptions like there needs to be a meter at all. But for today, let’s stay with Amza.
It’s important to remember that the way we do or perceive things is just one option, and it’s good to play around with this and explore deviations. I don’t believe in plain noise or pure innovation for the sake of it (is that actually possible at all?). Either magnifying detail from our own practice or applying developed stuff from elsewhere are approaches that seem most rewarding to me. So this is just a method to keep things interesting and to go roads less travelled. You don’t need to practice Amza’s keyboard solos. You could as well just go for Amet:
Check the murder bass line, the vocoder intro and the slap back delays. also look out for interior design ideas. Amet is something like Bulgaria’s Prince (except for the clarinet, I think he played everything himself) – with a West Coast Hip Hop appeal. Indeed, the Balkans seem to have answers to many aesthetic problems. Like people’s lust for the sounds of past eras. Isn’t this just the better and more original take on old school:
And never forget, kids: there is a life beyond Techno.