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:

 
 
 

81 comments:

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Jul.03.2013 @ 9:08 AM
boobs
re: Audio Playground/Joseph Rivers - i met him when i lived in orlando. nice guy. the studio was a very large collection of vintage synths + traditional recording studio.

he rented synths to clients in the studio. he would give tours now and then and chat about the synths and studio but wasn't really a classic EM studio of the tape music era... though probably could do some of that if configured.

there was/is? a large web presence and he did have some cool things on the site like guis of the synths and soem drum machines w/samples etc i haven't looked in a long time though.
 
 

 
Jul.03.2013 @ 1:56 PM
ToneHead
jwcase: >"I eschew the "blending the new tools with the old" philosophy. this is what every studio in the universe is marketing right now. inserting, or modeling/ sampling old kit for its "punch" or "warmth" to mitigate "sterile" DAW output"

I agree with you there, I didn't really intend to suggest that CR cater to that commonplace approach, but rather assemble sort of "CR's Cabinet of Musical Curiosities", applying his particular taste in gear to assemble a minimal but effective studio that also serves as a sort of electronic music shrine / meeting place. (At least that seemed to be the general direction I interpreted from his comments.) A Eurorack could work well in that context. Alternately he could focus on just classic tape techniques, which would certainly simplify the agenda from a gear selection standpoint.
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 12:07 AM
nathanjc
"...and out of the ashes an analog industry will arise."

this is a really interesting debate. do we a: limit ourselves to what was available in the era of said equipment and implant a modern understanding/approach to its practice?, or b: incorporate not only modern techniques but technologies as well? the later stance does raise the question of what was missed in the development of technologies that lead to the DAW in laptops.

since this thread began i have been on the fence, and i still am- i think. the romantic part of me would like the more pure approach, but the rational side asks: "what would that gain? why limit? granular synthesis is a ****ing pain in the *** on tape!"

i feel that if something were to be designed with a conscience towards the historical element, we can not deny the evolutionary reality- otherwise we would be debating the difference between a tapedeck and notation.

i know that this is an awesome idea and is something that should be extended beyond a single thread, and hopefully will result in a place and practice. but, i have to ask "did digital kill something?"
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 7:23 AM
analog monster
I'm only 25, young and new(ish) to the industry. I have never heard R2R tape directly from the machine - I mean I listen to subotnick, stockhausen and carlos for example, but they are all digital rips. In fact I have never even seen a maintained machine, but plenty sat rotting in the corner. I'm in the final year of a UK university degree and talking to my peers Its fair to say that's the norm. Some of the younger ones haven't even seen a cassette tape before!

Where I am unusual is my dedication to hardware. Not necessarily analog, although a lot is. I collect unusual devices, devices that didn't sell well because they had horrible interfaces. I don't see it as a problem, I see it as a rewarding challenge. And challenges also lead to more happy accidents than easy things do.

I have had many arguments with people who do not seem to understand that easier does not mean better - some of the best music has been made under the duress of limitations. But with the power of today's technology available to us, it take a certain kind of person to self impose limitation.

Personally I would love to get involved with a project like this. Sadly I'm UK based so I don't think that's going to happen. But I believe you will easily get enough like minded individuals together, just look at the hackspace craze going on around the world. Build it and they will come!
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 7:58 AM
Chris Randall
I was at an e-music producer's get-together last night, and I had a little booth with a MacBook Pro running Live 9, an Analog Four, and an original Oberheim SEM.

A kid in his early 20s came up to me and said "so you're the owner of Audio Damage?" I reply "co-owner." He goes "cool. Did you make these VSTs?"

He's pointing at the Analog Four and SEM.

This serves to illuminate analog monster's point. I think, in our comfortable environment here and with our like-minded peers, we have zero fucking idea how little the average "kids today" know about this world. At this get-together, 100% of the producers use Live 9 on MacBooks with a little USB interface. And that's it. That's their sum total of their experience with music gear _AT ALL_. This is true for the vast majority of people making electronic music these days.

Something to ponder. Whether it's good or bad is a subjective opinion. I submit that it is bad. The gear becomes a funnel, and the narrow end is where the music comes out.

-CR
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 9:29 AM
MikeF
Stockhausen: "And when I compose in electronic timbres, then I have my own timbre-scales, and actually I have a hundred degrees of dynamics in the studio when I work with ProTools."

link [www.stockhausen.or...]
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 9:35 AM
Chris Randall
And your point is?

-CR
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 10:00 AM
MikeF
My point is that analog monster cites Subotnick, Stockhausen, and Carlos as tape musicians. The reality is all three embraced the current tools of the day including digital recording. A while ago, I attended a Subotnick concert which he performed with just a Mac and mouse.

Having said that, I think when we moved from analog to digital, we lost the benefits of dedicated controls specific to each piece of gear. It is frustrating to have the power of a DAW trapped behind a screen with only a mouse or a generic controller like Novation which I find even more frustrating.
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 11:58 AM
ToneHead
kleenex=paper tissue
VST=synthesizer
ToneHead=Rip Van Winkle

Jeez that "kid in his early 20s" anecdote made me feel ancient ... (I had to reread it because I first thought you said "kid in his early 2s")

That loss of history is why your dream, however you might choose to pursue it, is valuable. It reminds me of classical musicians who pursue authentic instruments and performance styles, not because you can really recreate how Bach or Mozart did it, but because it's important that folks remember that it was once done differently, if only to illuminate something about how it is now done.

But given that "authenticity" in such things is always illusory, personally I don't mind the admixture of techniques and styles. That's what creates new culture. Potential is the other side of the coin of limitation.
 
 

 
Jul.04.2013 @ 12:19 PM
ToneHead
Also wanted to note that the nathanjc comment "granular synthesis is a ****ing pain in the *** on tape!" was brilliant.

The first time I tried granular was by crafting a bunch of grains in Turbosynth, then loading them into an Ensoniq sampler, and sending it 500-1000 MIDI notes per second. Needless to say, the banshee shriek of an Ensoniq crashing beats granular synthesis any day of the week. Wish I'd been rolling tape.

But now that I know that all my old man stories sound like "I VST'd a VST to another VST, then VST'd the bejeesus out of it , sonny!", I can safely STFU.
 
 

 
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