Recently I have been finding certain workflows in the studio frustrating, in particular those that use products that are there to make our lives easier, apparently. I think largely this comes from the software domain although we are seeing this in new hardware too. The sorts of products are seemingly more focused on delivering ease in creating a specific genre, and as a result often covering many aspects to ensure greater appeal, than say something that has a greater focus in a particular way of working, that as we can probably see in the history of equipment, can either succeed and become a standard, or fail terribly and as a result often be picked up in the second hand market and be used in different ways, sometimes defining other standards.
I come from a background using a wide range variety of equipment to make music or sound work, such as the ease of pattern creating in the SH101, the micro editing and sequencing of samples in Technosound Turbo and OctaMED, to patiently building and programming with Max/MSP and Supercollider.
I wouldn’t claim any of the above are generally better or worse, in any way, but I would say each provides a unique way in which creating is pushed and pulled into places that might not be so easily reached otherwise.
I remember reading about Autechre learning from one piece of equipment, to then push that methodology or sound into another piece of equipment. I think this was possibly noticeable with the introduction of their Nord Rack/Lead equipment and it’s vast midi controllability, and then their subsequent complex almost general midi sounding works, the later being perhaps a consequence of the former and it’s workflow.
Recently I have acquired a mid 80s Yamaha QX1 midi sequencer, and already I can see this taking over some of the grunt work which would normally be coming from the Atari STE running Cubase, as today’s upload will show. It’s the combination of many things that make the QX1 quite possibly the best piece of equipment I have bought in recent years. A specific box dedicated to one main task, with the sound of those buttons as you rattle through the menus, and the internal map that slowly forms in the mind as the initially complex system becomes ever more clearer with each use… it’s a dream.
The Yamaha QX1 is by no means making my life easier in the context of recent innovations, I can edit on the fly, I have to wait for things to “execute”, the 5 inch floppy disc often getting stuck in the drive. But it ‘is’ making my life easier through it’s insistent nature of pushing me to work a certain way, pushing me to listen to less, to concentrate on the areas that need the work, and feeling a justification of less, not that it should ever need it.
The Yamaha QX1 delivers with seemingly no effort, an internal web of systems, surprising sonic rewards and the reconnecting of how the brain thinks about constructing sound and dealing with genre. It shows how far removed we are from certain ways of working and listening.
I would like to see more products made that challenge our creative minds, that require a certain mastering and uncertainty, with results that are more pushing for a sound of the future, than adhering to genres of the past. I think there is a huge difference in how technology can be shaped for the creative world, compared to a world of convenience.