Obsolete Components

Computer World

From the first moment I was approached about participating in this project I was very interested. Over the years the use of a computer in my music making process has become more frequent and I have found it to be both a blessing and a hindrance.

My early music creation experience started off in my teens. I would sit in my mom’s basement, experimenting with tape machines, home keyboards, random instruments, microphones, toys, lo-fi effects that I had cobbled together, etc… Eventually I bought a sampler and a Mac plus and over time I added additional pieces to my studio.

Back then; the computer was not really the pivotal focal point of music creation as it is today. Mainly due to memory and processing limitations, most PC’s were mainly limited to the realm of MIDI (which uses far less data than audio) in regards to music creation. Now however, since the introduction of digital audio editing, when it comes to electronic music (or any type of music really), the PC (which is a powerful multitasking device but, not a machine specifically designed for music creation) is heavily relied on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the PC is a great machine for various music purposes (editing, synthesis, effects processing, mastering, etc…) however, it is also very accessible to nearly everyone (also, not entirely a bad thing but, can take away from it’s overall uniqueness).

I think what often gets overlooked with computer music creation is that the PC itself is essentially a single sound source. Though it is possible to use many different tools to create sounds “in the box” and use various instruments with a PC, in my opinion, in the end, the composer is still relying on a single source and often relying on a PC’s mix engine and can often be subconsciously geared to editing and composing their music to a certain type of format out of habit.

In many ways a musical composition is like a mathematical equation. All the factors of the equation are like all of the various sound sources and processes used to create or equal the final output. The more sound sources you use, the more dynamic your overall sound can be. Limiting compositions to a PC for all music creation can often (but not always) end up sounding like it was generated by a PC and the original intent of the composition can be lost in this process due to things like mix engine and summing bus limitations built into many software applications. Asking a single device like a PC to process and calculate all of the factors involved can often make it more unreliable and can cause various undesired effects (i.e. audio/EQ frequency degradation, digital parameter stepping, unexpected crashes, etc…). A computer only has so much resources and the more you ask it to do in one area can often take away resources which should be prioritized to others. There are ways to enhance the output of a computer but this takes dedication, focus, and often-additional time and financial investment. At this point I often find myself being more of a computer technician, rather than a musician.

Many PC based musicians shy away from using hardware (more often old/vintage hardware) due to the cost, maintenance, space, etc… which (depending on the individual) are valid reasons. However, in my opinion, many older pieces of music hardware have such a unique charm and sound that cannot truly be replicated by a PC, mainly because these machines use components that are entirely dedicated to it’s own form of sound synthesis. By default, using hardware devices like these provides unique elements that can add whole other layers and elements to the sounds (often good, sometimes not so good). I find that the use of different types of synthesis from various unique sounding devices offers a much wider spectrum of sound dynamics that most combinations of software often fail to emulate. It also gives the creator a more hands on approach to making these sounds and often forces them to consider how these sounds are created and how they are being used in each composition, beyond the scope of software editing and processing. This is something that I believe must be compared and experienced first hand in order to grasp the real differences between these methods of making electronic music.

Of course all of the opinions I have expressed here are subjective and somewhat arguable, however, they do come from several years of personal experience. Our goal with this project is not to discredit PC musicians in any way because; we too frequently use computers in our music making process. We are also well aware that computers can generate certain types of sounds that hardware cannot always recreate. We are fans of other musicians who compose music entirely with computers and… The bottom line is, a good song is a good song, no matter what sources were used to create it. Our real goal is to create something unique and cool using rare music technology which we have invested a lot of time to master over the years, to show respect to the individuals who originated and developed the instruments that we cherish and most importantly to demonstrate the value and understanding of these instruments to electronic music listeners who will appreciate our sound.