Sunday, July 26, 2009

Midnight Rain on Pavement Glistens

New tune, in a bit of a different style. Not a different style of music, just made in a way I haven’t done in a while.

I have a lot of synthesizers nowadays, but in olden times when I only had a Minimoog and a Casio CZ-101 I had to stretch myself and my equipment when trying to make complex tracks. The CZ-101 was four-note polyphonic, but there was a mode you could put it in which would let you split each note out onto its own separate MIDI channel, basically giving you four individual monosynths. At first glance this may seem like a major bummer, removing any possibility of chords. However, what I usually did back in the day was to have a bass sound on one channel, some sort of “paddish” sound on two more with maybe a lead sound on the last channel. And, because I had to record each pad note one at a time I ended up playing things I maybe never would have if I had better equipment and more instruments. Necessity ended up mothering my invention.

Which brings me around to what I’ve been doing lately, which is going back to my roots, so to speak, and recording a few tunes mostly with monosynths. In this day and age of spectacularly powerful computerized synthesizers, sometimes it just feels good to lay your hands on a Minimoog and start turning knobs. Lay down a track, then lay down another one on top of it in harmony. Then lay down another one on top of that to maybe provide some contrast to that harmony. Lather, rinse, repeat and maybe end up with a new song full of textures made only (well, mostly) with monosynths.

Somehow it feels very comfortable. Waaaaaaay back in 1979 or ’80 my recording studio consisted of my Minimoog, a Space Echo and my Radio Shack answering machine, back when answering machines were new and somewhat expensive technology (and people didn't like to leave messages because it was weird and strange). I still have some of those tapes somewhere in fact. It was a great day when I got a Yamaha QX7, though, as I could record multiple tracks (two of them at a time, I think) and then bounce them down. Then I got my first Mac and a copy of Performer. Not Digital Performer, mind you. The sheer luxury of “unlimited” MIDI tracks was overpowering. We’ve certainly come a long way to get to Ableton Live and mixing and matching eight-bar clips to compose our tunes.

Which brings me around (finally!) to the new tune. Eight mono tracks, each one building on the next, with the lone exception of a pad track where I played fifths. I might still add a crowd of robot voices (or maybe human ones, or both) over the beginning build up and ending slow down, but I'm not 100% sure of that. It was great fun, composing one line at at a time, and I definitely ended up with things I would not have gotten if I had played them on a polysynth. If I had used a modular it would have come out differently. Same if I had used a Monomachine, or a Prophet ’08. They’re just such different mindsets, and it’s good to have a supply of different kinds of tools at hand. Heck, I even sat down at a grand piano a couple of weeks ago. It’s still me making the music, but the tools you use definitely have an effect on the music you produce.

<a href="">Midnight Rain on Pavement Glistens by Seth Elgart</a>