June 29, 2013

Man Of La Mancha...

by Chris Randall

Okay, here's the deal: I'm not a millionaire. Or even a ten-thousandaire. But I was always told "dream big!" And I do have a big dream. I've had this dream for a while, but I've only told two people about it, because I thought it sounded kind of stupid. They didn't laugh in my face when I told them, so maybe it's not a stupid dream after all.

Here's the thing: I would like to (re)create a late-50s / early-60s tape-based electronic music studio (of the sort used by Stockhausen, Varese, Schaeffer, Dissevelt, Dockstader, et al) that was completely free for interested parties to use. My thinking here is that a facility like that is not a whole lot of use to a single person, but wouldn't it be interesting if, say, Richard Devine or Alessandro Cortini or other current experimental electronic musicians had access to a vintage electronic music studio? What would they make, bringing today's musical vernacular to that context? I think that's music worth hearing, honestly.

I have a firm idea of what equipment such a studio would have, and I have a good working knowledge of how that equipment is used. But I have no idea how to bring it about other than throwing a shit ton of money at it. My dream precludes financial renumeration (it would be fiscally impossible to make such a facility actually turn a profit, of course) so I would operate it on the following basis: if you have musical credibility in our peer group (and since it's not a terribly large group, that isn't even really a judgement call) and you can get yourself here and put yourself up and pay the expenses (tape ain't cheap), schedule permitting, it's yours to use as you see fit.

Okay, maybe it isn't silly. It would be tough to pull off, though. Go ahead. Have at it. Laugh and laugh. In the meantime, here's some vintage e-music studio porn:



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Jun.30.2013 @ 3:51 PM
To me this sounds as useful as bringing back the horse and buggy. Call me crazy but if I wanted to do musique concrete, I'd do it in a DAW. However, I am sure I am missing the point of the whole thing which would be nothing new.

My suggestion is to contact the Red Bull Music Academy for corporate sponsorship. They have had Q&A's with so many obscure / experimental musicians that they just might consider something like this. $100K would be nothing for them.

Jun.30.2013 @ 3:59 PM
Chris Randall
One thing I know about you from your many comments here, Mike, is that you have a difficult time seeing potential. I only note that because I'm the opposite: I have a difficult time seeing the pragmatic actuality, and _only_ think in terms of potential. This facet of my personality is, in fact, the reason I make a pretty good living doing what I do.

But, the flip side is when I see a comment like yours, I'm like "doesn't he see...?" And I don't particularly know how to answer it other than to just say "trust me."

That aside, that's an excellent suggestion. I used to have a very good relationship with the Red Bull people; perhaps it is time to rekindle it.


Jun.30.2013 @ 4:23 PM
I'm somewhere in between in that I don't understand the point if you're going to use DAW's as part of the process. Why not just fire up Berna then and save a lot of money?

link [www.giorgiosancro.ne...]

Otherwise it seems like you'd be feeding some oscillators into the DAW, making samples and chopping them up. Which everyone could do at home, and does. At what point are you saying "that's a hardware job and that's a software job"? It seems to me what's unique in the old stuff is inseparable from the tedious methodology.

Jun.30.2013 @ 4:29 PM
There use to be a studio that I used here in Auckland, New Zealand with many of the old bits of gear needed for that kind of music creation. Unfortunately he has moved down country and now it is a 4 hour round trip to visit him! I used his gorgeous 1960s Ampex Valve 1/2 inch 2 track a few times. Here it is: link [ekadek.com]

He is very capable technician specialising in valve and tape gear. In fact he makes amazing custom built mixers, tape delays, spring verbs, plate verbs, compressors and eqs, from old designs. All point to point valve devices that sound amazing!

My guess is if you want this kind of studio you need to have someone like this to help make it possible.

Check out the massive magnetic delay unit he has. He calls it Ray the delay :
link [ekadek.com]

- Hugo

Jun.30.2013 @ 4:48 PM
I didn't realize that I posted enough comments here that anyone would be able to form an impression of my personality. I am just playing devil's advocate. If all 30 people are in agreement on a topic, I tend to take the other side just to add some balance. I think it's healthy to have dissenting opinions in any discussion. I actually can see the value of getting away from computers for a while just because it forces you to work and think in a different way.

In any case, ignore my wet blanket contrariness and get in touch with Red Bull and get the ball rolling!

Have I posted that many comments that you have formed of my personality?

Jun.30.2013 @ 4:49 PM
bongo does bring up a good point, Chris, and you yourself have really enjoyed/been challenged by using things like that Roland computer requiring a fair amount of tedious setup/configuration, as well as other things of that sort. i do tend to think the process is part of the challenge or mystique. i mean, if Xenakis did 'Concrete-PH' in MaxMSP instead of by splicing hundreds of tape chiclets of burning charcoal together, i'd be less inclined to be impressed.

nonetheless i think it's a great idea. i certainly went to college where they had an old TEAC 4 track reel to reel plus an Ampex 300 30 ips 1/2 track and a couple of others available, so i experienced the workflow before MIDI and computers. i totally sucked at splicing so i'd be less inclined towards that thing personally, but allowing a space where older and newer workflows could combine in creative and unforseen ways could be beneficial. for example, i bet the Berna app doesn't allow you to play with the tape rewinding speed on those virtual tape machines ala Dissevelt. having the physical thing there before can present you with a lot of options you might not know you had if you'd only experienced the virtual/digital version.

anyway i'm in full support of the project, and will give what i can. and 501 c3's are not a big deal to apply for, though it does take time and paperwork. as a first step you can pretty easily be sponsored by another non-profit as an umbrella organization. something like Joel Chadabe's EMF might be a place to start, but i'm sure there are many others dedicated to experimental electronic arts.

best of luck and keep me in the loop as to developments!

Jun.30.2013 @ 4:51 PM
Whoops, I rewrote my comment and accidentally left over some fragments. It should have ended on "rolling!"

Jun.30.2013 @ 5:36 PM
Seems like an interesting Kickstarter project. Perhaps you could get a grant from CCRMA, Dartmouth, Mills, or one of the other American universities with electronic music programs.

However, as someone who studied electro-acoustic music for many years, under some of the people who were students of Stockhausen, Varese, Cage, etc. I have to say they'd probably be the first to embrace digital recording.

Splicing tape is a pain in the ass. I'd much rather drag waveforms on a screen. It would be nice to have that stuff around, but I'd almost see it as a "colonial Williamsburg" thing than useful tools.

I do love the idea of a non-pretentious, affordable desert studio space for the creation of non-oontz-oontz electronic music. [insert something about Steve Roach here].

Jun.30.2013 @ 8:48 PM
Like Mike (heheh), maybe I'm not really "seeing the potential", because I can be that way. if I walked into a room full of vintage tape music techno, cool retro gadget part of me would be as excited as any of us. But if you're gonna use a Eurorack oscillator instead of an HP test oscillator (and I can't think of a reason not to), plugged into a digital tuner and record/splice/edit in Live (or some other DAW, which again is a far better idea to me), then how exactly does this "electronic music studio" differ from the one I'm currently typing on? It sounds like what you have left over is tape machines that you might use for echo or mixdown. And perhaps a fun, but relatively unused room full of antiquated gear that most people won't be bothered with.

Don't get me wrong- one would definitely make a different kind of music with a pile of test oscillators, spring reverbs, razor blades and tape machines than they would with Live, even if you attempted to apply the now-arbitrary constraints of "strict" musique concrete tape music. I'm sure most AI readers are familiar with the BBC Radiophonic compilations, which are filled with the sound of hacked-up tape melodies. It's certainly a unique and awesome sound that would be almost impossible to replicate in a modern DAW... to me that's the only really good reason for this kind of place, but I'm not sure most would go to the trouble (or have the skillset to). I don't have that kind patience, and I'm a pretty tedious fellow.

Jul.01.2013 @ 3:18 AM
Tom Whitwell
Chris, this is definitely the most exciting idea I've heard for a long time, let me know if there is any way at all that I can help.

Anyone who has used Berna for any amount of time knows that the point/click interface is frustrating, but the process is very inspiring. That's probably why Giorgio Sancristoforo, who coded Berna, now uses a Buchla modular and tape link [vimeo.com]

I've watched that Mr Müller video so many times, so inspiring.

As well as a working studio space, you'd also be building a creative hub in your city, the kind of place that will change hundreds of lives for the better. If I didn't live 5,000 miles away, I'd offer to come and help you paint the place.

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