raw hedroom – process part 255
On the Interface of Art and Technology.
I received a referral to contribute to the Process series from my friend Max Cooper just over a year ago now. I’m a big fan of the series and it really inspired me to want to provide something very special. I didn’t want to provide a usual club-mix but wanted to try and create something especially for the series.
I’m very grateful to Rayna for being very flexible with time as since then my life simply exploded (in the very best possible way!). In early 2010, Richie Hawtin and I, purely by coincidence, got in touch with the other to discuss some very similar ideas. I wanted to show him something I’d been working on (with Nick Bugayev, one of my now business partners) – an Ableton Live controller (Mu) for a touchscreen device called the JazzMutant Lemur. Rich needed some help managing the massive Ableton Live set for his upcoming Plastikman Live show. We met for breakfast in Berlin and in that same meeting asked each other to come on board with our respective projects. Over the subsequent weeks we worked hard on creating some advanced performance solutions for Plastikman Live using technologies like the Lemur and Max for Live (a framework for programming inside the Ableton Live environment). With the advent of faster, more powerful and cheaper touch technologies like the iPad we started porting some of that technology. Realising that others could also benefit from some of these powerful tools we were building, our company, Liine, was born.
This was obviously very exciting for me, both as a technologist, but also as an artist and performer. After all, I had got into music technology through being an artist first and foremost. As time progresses, I find that this distinction between creating art and creating technology is getting more and more blurred. A big personal motivation for working on this kind of technology is that I can create things that I really want to use for my own music. Later, working with these tools on some music triggers creative ideas for the technology – like a snake eating its own tail. Being involved with one motivates me to do the other. Indeed, art and technology have always been part of a big feedback loop. Technology drives music (the 303, 808 and 909 Roland machines created whole genres of music!) and music drives the technology in return (Liine’s recent Kapture Pad product was created because of musical results we wanted which weren’t possible in Ableton Live itself).
The similarities go further too. Making both music and technology involves creative phases and execution phases. These are sometimes blurred but are often quite distinct. Creating our applications involves some very stimulating brainstorming, experimenting and playing – the mad-scientist phase. However, following this it is necessary to think very clearly, to be exact in terms of what we want to achieve and to actually do it. In music, I would say that the original generation of ideas and making something new from nothing is a very stormy, creative activity, while bringing a track to its conclusion and some of the more “engineering” aspects are a lot more organised.
Straddling both of these worlds definitely seems to involve shifts and phases where I am closer to one than to the other. In the past, I’d have considered myself first and foremost a musician, working on music technology on the side. However, in the past year, working on these tools has definitely eaten up the lion’s share of my time. Right now though seems to be quite a fertile time for both – in fact I’ve just released my first record in over a year on Snork Enterprises, called the Manufactured Animals EP. It was created using tools we’ve been developing and it’s very satisfying to say that I’ve been involved in all stages of creating these tracks – not only the usual composing, synth patch programming, recording and mixing, but also the creation of some of the tools I employed (and indeed the company which developed them!).
So why do I do any of this at all? I decided recently to sit back and recap some of the tracks which have been instrumental in my journey in electronic music, and techno in particular, taking me to where I am now. You can hear a mix of 22 tracks on my contribution to the Minus Connections podcast series released last week. However, for Modifyer I decided to do something a little bit different and try and bring some of the earlier influences from this list (the 15 oldest tracks, from 1988 to 2003) into my present world. I took loops, one shot sounds, bits and pieces from them and created a single “song”, or “collage”. I hope you enjoy it.
01. Can You Feel It – Mr Fingers
02. The Chase – Model 500
03. Energy Flash – Joey Beltram
04. Substance Abuse – F.U.S.E.
05. Xtal – Aphex Twin
06. Acperience – Hardfloor
07. Piezo – Autechre
08. In the Bush – Jeff Mills
09. Dwr Budr – Orbital
10. Glasgow – Craig Armstrong
11. Kittens – Underworld
12. The Aztec Mystic – Jaguar
13. The Man with the Red Face – Laurent Garnier
14. Positive Education – Slam
15. 1969 – Boards of Canada