April 17, 2011
Purity Of Procedure...
by Chris Randall
Ever since I switched from Pd to Max and didn't have to deal with incessant Problems, I've spent a lot more time working on my own music in this environment, rather than just using it for product development and such.
Lately, I've taken to making songs that run with little input from me, and contain no samples whatsoever. These tracks are built entirely from Max rudiments, and my only concession to convenience is in using reverb and compression plug-ins. (The main reason is that I'm not really able to make a compressor or reverb sub-patcher that is anywhere near the quality of Eos, ValhallaRoom, or DMG's upcoming Compassion compressor.)
These tracks use no external hardware of any sort (which sets them apart from, say, Procedure 1 off the most recent Micronaut EP, which uses external effects units) and, as I mentioned, no samples or pre-recorded material of any kind. They are, other than the 3 VSTs I'm using, entirely Max synthesis.
Now, the reason I'm bringing this up isn't really about the musical result, which is subjective, of course. As you all full well know, one of my foibles is placing strict limits on my creative process, and this is about the furthest I've taken that particular course of action. It is fundamentally the same as drawing a single Oblique Strategies card at the start of a session, one that says "Make Things Hard On Yourself." I mean, on the track from the screenshot above (which isn't even close to done) I spent about 5 hours coming up with the first sound, the kick drum. Working in a DAW, I'd have spent maybe 5 minutes in the Kick Drum Samples folder (called, in my case, Foot Samples, of course, since I'm funny like that) to find something that worked, then carving it for a bit with some EQ and compression and calling it done, and moving on to the next thing.
Anyhow, the net result of this process, aside from the music itself, is that I have a fundamental understanding, at the physical level, of each and every sound in the track. This makes the creative process quite odd, I find, being so close to the sound generation. Obviously, none of us are strangers to these general techniques, but we usually deal with them at a much more abstracted level (e.g. the front panel of a synthesizer). Whether I could heartily recommend this course of action is open to question as well, but it is an interesting thing, being so close to the sound generation. I think the closest analog would be building a track sound by sound using a modular synth, but even then, once the track has been laid down, you've unpatched it and moved on. Here, the entire song is a living, breathing sculpture with all of its parameters bare for tweaking.
But it ain't what I'd call a Streamlined Digital Workflow, I'll say that much.
Anyhow, has any other AI reader done something similar, so willfully obtuse? Obviously, making wrawk music or jazz with traditional instrumentation is a nearly identical process, but embracing physics instead of pure math. Or at least I think it is. I'm willing to be dissuaded from that viewpoint.