Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)

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felixer
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Re: Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)

Post by felixer » Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:03 pm

nuromantix wrote:
Those who compose notes, meaning you hear something in your head and play it, or write it down, or you hear something when playing on keys or on a sequencer, and then remember it, repeat it, make it into something....

ie. those not using random/stochastic/generative approaches.....
ever heard of xenakis? stockhausen?
your approach is very old fashioned and romantic ... big drawback is that you can only write what you know. with sounds that you know. fine if you want to live in the past, but if you want to explore/discover you need more then your own mind.

pretty much every composer works with some system: counterpoint, or harmony or serial or something else. this is basically a series of mechanical manipulations that can turn a seed into a tree. it gives flesh and variations. you can do it by hand or computer, doesn't matter ... it is still a (selfchosen?) prison that has nothing to do with 'that moment of inspiration'. very few (and only the best) composers set up a new system for a new composition. most just shove a new seed thru the same old machine. and wonder why everything sounds the same ...

composing means 'putting together', ordering ... how you do that is secondary. if you set up a generative patch you are composing. because you made that patch. and just like manuscripts it can sound without the composer being present: nothing new there ... worked even before we had elektrickery ...

i find it impossible to 'write for guitar'. which guitar? segovia? marvin? hendrix? now try to define that tone you're hearing so that 50 years from now a guitarplayer can reproduce your composition ...

so this way of working leads to cliche sounds used in cliche ways. but please do continue if that is what you aspire to :twisted:
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Post by nuromantix » Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:50 pm

ever heard of xenakis? stockhausen?
Yes I've heard of them. Is there something you want to tell me about them that will add to this discussion? Rather than just acting like you know something more than me, why not share it, if it's relevant?
your approach is very old fashioned and romantic ...
Yes I am romantic, but you are making a mistake in assuming that because I posted a question about a certain way of composing, then I must be against all others and/or not using any others. This is not the case.
big drawback is that you can only write what you know. with sounds that you know. fine if you want to live in the past, but if you want to explore/discover you need more then your own mind.
I disagree. I think the mind has the power to invent beyond that which it has already heard or seen. Otherwise how would any innovation or invention in any field come about?
pretty much every composer works with some system: ...... very few (and only the best) composers set up a new system for a new composition. most just shove a new seed thru the same old machine. and wonder why everything sounds the same ...
Perhaps you are right, I certainly agree that most composers are not that interesting. However, some are. I don't feel like I am working with a system, I feel like I am feeling my way, and looking for new ways, whilst grabbing bits from "normal" music theory occasionally to help me along. I am sure there must be unconscious mental systems at work though, and I thought it might be interesting to talk about it.
composing means 'putting together', ordering ... how you do that is secondary. if you set up a generative patch you are composing. because you made that patch. and just like manuscripts it can sound without the composer being present: nothing new there
Yes you are right, but surely it's OK to discuss something secondary once in a while.
i find it impossible to 'write for guitar'. which guitar? segovia? marvin? hendrix? now try to define that tone you're hearing so that 50 years from now a guitarplayer can reproduce your composition ...
so this way of working leads to cliche sounds used in cliche ways. but please do continue if that is what you aspire to
I'm not sure of your point really, but it feels like you are attacking me for having said something like "real composing is done by humans using music theory and anyone using other methods is not as good," whereas in fact I have said nothing of the sort and just wanted to have a discussion about what I see as the "intuitive" side of creation, to go along with the threads about generative approaches. As far as attacking me personally, your assumptions in the final quote are way off the mark.

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Shouldn't be so daunting for people

Post by knobbyfischer » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:22 pm

I think more people should try 'composing' even if it is a very simple idea they are trying to express.

If people would sit down at their modular and even say "I am going to try 440hz for roughly 10 seconds, then transpose to 880 for five seconds, then fine tune manually to 830, then trigger filter envelop, and close VCA" [I am just making this up and its the end of a workday and i need :guinness: - so don't :zombie: me]

...even if people did that, I think it would be a simple way to get into the idea of what a composer might think, but in our own terminology.

and after doing that for awhile, :despair: knows, maybe modular music gets more 'sophisticated,' but it probably wouldn't shred :sb: :sb: :sb:

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Post by knobbyfischer » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:34 pm

Ps. IMHO - nothing about the 'visceral' :bang: that is automatic either -- some people are shall:woah:w and feel nothing but :banana:

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Post by felixer » Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:49 am

nuromantix wrote:As far as attacking me personally ...
oh no :hug:
nuromantix wrote:I think the mind has the power to invent beyond that which it has already heard or seen. Otherwise how would any innovation or invention in any field come about?
usually by accident. really. you try something you have in your head and something else comes out. the average composer throws it away and tries again tomorrow. a better composer might say: wow ... interesting ... 'where did that come from?'.
and that's the point. nobody knows where ideas come from. all those composition methods to me are just tools to catch whatever is flying by. today we are blessed with many more tools. take advantage of that. there is no dominant way of doing anything. diversify and check every corner for some trick you may have missed. listen to music you don't like. then forget everything and start playing :mrgreen: record everything. now you have whatever was in your mind plus some extra variations and unexpected things. then get out the scissors ... maybe you're done. otherwise open the toolbox and get to work. just systematically employ a system of your choice. i usually start off with the standard invert/retrograde combi's, then make some chords by stacking different notes from melodic material i have harvested, but that's just me, coming from a european tradition ... if one tool/methode doesn't work, get out another one. get a drone going, turn small segments into riffs, play things very fast and very slow etc etc. working from the same basic material usually ensures some sort of cohesion.
now you are free to add new material anywhere along the road as you see fit, but if you're a flash basterd you may want to 'keep it pure' and stick with the constructivist version of a composer. if you're a lazy beachbum you may switch on the fx rack and see how far that takes you ... i do that from time to time. that's my idea of taking a holiday :hihi:
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Post by nuromantix » Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:40 am

usually by accident. really. you try something you have in your head and something else comes out. the average composer throws it away and tries again tomorrow. a better composer might say: wow ... interesting ... 'where did that come from?
and that's the point. nobody knows where ideas come from. all those composition methods to me are just tools to catch whatever is flying by.
Thanks for the second post!
I think this part is really interesting and true.
A lot of interesting stuff can't be reached through classical training, nor through mathematical methods, it's just "flying by" and you might be able to reach for it.

I guess many of my better ideas come from just messing about on an instrument whilst LISTENING REALLY HARD for a good/unexpected/original bit.
Last edited by nuromantix on Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:07 pm

nuromantix wrote:I'm not sure of your point really, but it feels like you are attacking me for having said something like "real composing is done by humans using music theory and anyone using other methods is not as good," whereas in fact I have said nothing of the sort and just wanted to have a discussion about what I see as the "intuitive" side of creation, to go along with the threads about generative approaches. As far as attacking me personally, your assumptions in the final quote are way off the mark.
Yeah. I was the one who said that, in another thread, so attack me. Leave poor nuromantix alone!
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Post by felixer » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:26 pm

nuromantix wrote:my best ideas ...
i don't even regard what comes into my mind as 'mine'. it just is. i happened to be stumbling over it. i don't differentiate between whatever i wrote, what a musician played or what came out of some random box ...
obviously this doesn't fit in at all with the capitalist concept of 'intellectual property' or the romantic notion of 'creator/genius'. what i do take credit/money for is the sheer amount of work (and some of it fairly non-musical) that goes into realizing 'a work'.
nuromantix wrote:LISTENING REALLY HARD
this is key. and, like you imply, it takes effort. many are simply to lazy ...
most regard music as entertainment: something to fill the silence most westerners are afraid of.
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Post by jules » Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:40 am

Note for the ones from the back of the classroom who didn't really bother to learn how to write music: always have a dictaphone at hand (I guess that the modern super phones do have these function).
Then sing what you ear in your head.
You can pick it up later in front of the black and whites.
Plus, you'll improve your singing pretty fast.
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Post by felixer » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:49 am

jules wrote:pick it up later in front of the black and whites.
can't the daw do that nowadays? i remember an old version in logic that was fairly bad but that was a long time ago. i see boxes that analyse a complete guitarchord ... pretty amazing!
might be the best way as it eliminates any habits your hands may have gotten into ...
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Post by Randy » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:29 am

I suppose I'm on the other side of the fence from felixer, classically trained pianist, then jazz college for a little while. I figure if I can't (or didn't) play it, I shouldn't be writing it. The way I eliminate habits my hands may have gotten into is to practice new habits.

So that would seem to eliminate a fair bit of machine-generated or algorithmic "composing." When you're putting a piece together from various other pieces that you really had little to do with creating in the first place (like piecing samples together), are you composing or just building? And of course many "great" composers (of which felixer mentioned a few) are known for just that, but I don't necessarily need to think they are great.

I would also like to be an entertainer of sorts when I grow up, so I tend to write things that some portion of the general population might listen to, with the odd bit thrown in just for me I suppose. I always consider the effect my music might have on me if I were sitting in the audience listening.

My wife and I attended a concert that had some "free jazz" included. I suppose there are people who can appreciate that sort of thing but I suppose we were just not quite "there" yet. I can't figure out why someone would get all sorts of musical training, and then play stuff that sounds like several dozen feral cats chasing squirrels through an orchestra pit. I'm not really interested in listening to something that was done for the benefit of the artist only.

I've only recently started fooling with generating random sorts of notes and textures with the modular, but only to use as another texture in a song, rather than the song itself.

I'm also wondering if the conversation will eventually branch to include arranging, and what are the differences? Is composing the creation of the notes and harmony and that sort of thing, and arranging is the texture? Arranging is still composing, or is it? And what about lyrics? Argh, lyrics!

My ideas tend to come from noodling, just sitting and playing with the stuff. Sometimes it's a particular patch, or maybe a new drum pattern (in 4/4, but sometimes, gasp, 3/4 - yup, I can get out there when I need to).

Am I being a bit facetious? Of course, but I kinda miss be able to listen to new music created by someone who can actually play.

Randy

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Post by CJ Miller » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:56 am

jules wrote:Note for the ones from the back of the classroom who didn't really bother to learn how to write music: always have a dictaphone at hand (I guess that the modern super phones do have these function).
Then sing what you ear in your head.
You can pick it up later in front of the black and whites.
Plus, you'll improve your singing pretty fast.
felixer wrote:can't the daw do that nowadays?
What about people who make music which could *only* be made on a modular synth? If it was music that could be sung or made on a DAW, I wouldn't have needed a modular in the first place.
Randy wrote:I kinda miss be able to listen to new music created by someone who can actually play.
Randy wrote:I can't figure out why someone would get all sorts of musical training, and then play stuff that sounds like several dozen feral cats chasing squirrels through an orchestra pit. I'm not really interested in listening to something that was done for the benefit of the artist only.
:hmm: If you like to hear somebody with the chops to play difficult music, then why complain when the music gets difficult? Perhaps performers get bored of simplistic music more readily than audiences do. It's great that people say that one should be able to make pretty, melodic music - but then they and the audience need to actually listen to it.

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Post by Randy » Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:41 am

I don't recall using the word "difficult."

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Post by felixer » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:16 pm

Randy wrote:I suppose I'm on the other side of the fence from felixer, classically trained pianist, then jazz college for a little while.

Randy
not sure which fence that is ... i was clasically trained as a pianist. then picked up the guitar. even played in a jazz bigband for a short while (but sitting between piano and drumkit i felt pretty useless with an acoustic guitar ...). got a synth and that means you 're not welcome anymore in those circles. so i had to find your own way ...

i like some free jazz. big fan of cecil taylor. who was trained at a conservatory (like miles davis) and is at least as good as oscar peterson (i saw both live). except he chooses to play differently ... you get that sort of training because it gives you the technique to do whatever you like later.
and yes, most musicians are musically more advanced then the listener simply because they spend more time/energy with it.
Randy wrote:I figure if I can't (or didn't) play it, I shouldn't be writing it.
... I would also like to be an entertainer of sorts when I grow up, so I tend to write things that some portion of the general population might listen to

Randy
well, those are two sets of limits you impose on yourself. fine! obviously the room you can move in, musically, gets proportionally smaller. and so many people have been fishing in that mainsteam pond for so long that you 'll have to look very hard to find something that both 'sounds nice' and hasn't been done before.
Randy wrote:When you're putting a piece together from various other pieces that you really had little to do with creating in the first place (like piecing samples together), are you composing or just building?

Randy
good question :hihi: the jury is still out on that. it's the same sort of problem with these 'grafic scores' where the performer has to fill in the notes according to some abstract picture. is that composing? dunno ...
doesn't matter really to me as long as the endresult is worthwhile and credit is given where it's due: if you use a drumsample you might mention the drummer :mrgreen:
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Post by Randy » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:48 pm

felixer, when I wrote that "fence" comment, I thought, "what if this person has a bunch of musical training." Gotta start listening to that little voice more often. Even playing piano in a big band can be a bit less than exciting (did I count 63 bars of rest or 64!?).

I don't look at what you call "limits" as limits really. To me they are areas of improvement. "Sounds nice and hasn't been done before" is a challenge. I'm not that great a piano player so, even if something has been done before, many things have not been done by me. Kinda like when I tried in-line skating. I didn't do anything exciting but because I was so terrible at it, even the mundane stuff was exciting.

I got into the modular mostly to experiment with textures and things happening behind the scenes. I end up mostly in the mainstream but anyone listening carefully might be able to pick out the nearly hidden textures, and some might just notice something different but can't quite figure out what.

But really, I'm a piano player, the rest is gravy. I recently bought my first grand piano, made in 1908. It's in need of some work and takes up almost half my livingroom.

Randy

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Post by felixer » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:51 pm

CJ Miller wrote: What about people who make music which could *only* be made on a modular synth?
precise notation is problematic. best work with audio directly. not a problem nowadays as both can live happily together in the same daw 8_) once recorded you can treat it as any audio and get the 'music concrète' toolbox out ...
you can still make out certain contours from pitches or filtersweeps or volume modulations etc that you can mirror/slow down/transplant into other parameters. all those counterpoint/serial tricks are actually much simpler with a decent modular! you might be doing it already, it's not that far fetched. a good theory is usually a destillation of an existing praxis. you can discover 'm yourself or learn 'm in some school. but they 're not from some 'outer world'. nor set in stone. just tools ... a way of working with material to generate more but related stuff.

a central problem with composing: staying the same is boring, but too much change and it falls apart. how to create surprise but also cohesion ... everybody has to find their own spot there ... might depend on how much coffee you had :lol:
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Post by felixer » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:18 pm

Randy wrote:did I count 63 bars of rest or 64!?
Randy
yep, the curse of the orchestra player :mrgreen:
Randy wrote:"Sounds nice and hasn't been done before" is a challenge. I end up mostly in the mainstream but anyone listening carefully might be able to pick out the nearly hidden textures, and some might just notice something different but can't quite figure out what.
But really, I'm a piano player, the rest is gravy.
great! mainstream is not a dirty word. i usually have a finger in some 'pop but hopefully not too boring' project. i love to work with good voices and then almost automatically you end up in familiar waters.
but i also do love to take things to the max and stretch. beyond myself and beyond human. the air gets pretty thin but that's ok. most people are more homey/cozy i guess ...
Randy wrote:recently bought my first grand piano, made in 1908. It's in need of some work and takes up almost half my livingroom.
congrats :tu: at least if the roof blows off you have something to sleep under :lol:
and now you can get into playing 'inside'. you're aware of the great stuff henry cowell did? talk about beautifull textures ... he was john cage's teacher who then took the whole 'prepared' thing much further/extremer.
the beauty is that you can get surprising/strange sounds but they still fit in with normal piano. add some modular treatments on a mic (air or contact) and you could get a lot of milage from that ...
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Post by Randy » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:01 pm

I was thinking about some " treatments" but apparently, after someone inspected my house, I need to strengthen the floor a bit first. Although, if the piano ends up in the basement, I should at least try and record it.

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Post by felixer » Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:02 am

typically you built a house around the piano :lol:
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Post by Randy » Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:00 am

Wow! I've never even heard of that thing. I would consider doing that for a pipe organ. Finding a place for a 64' pipe is a challenge in the bungalow.

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Post by felixer » Sat Sep 06, 2014 7:10 am

well, you can have the pipe organ on the other wall 8_)
heard this silly guy from marillion bought an old churchorgan thru ebay and it wouldn't fit in their studio :lol:

klavins makes 'normal' grandpiano's too:

Image
the model 370 is an extreme version of the 'giraffen klavier' popular in vienna in the 19th century. mainly because you need little floor space:
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Post by twincities » Sat Sep 06, 2014 7:44 am

in addition to huge stuff, klavins is currently collaborating with nils frahm (one of my favorite modern pianists, who also does incredible work with a juno60+tape machine) to make a tiny portable acoustic piano.

ignoring the live sound featuring a ton of feedback, it sounds quite lovely.
[video][/video]

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Post by felixer » Sun Sep 07, 2014 6:14 am

100kg piano that fits in a small van :hail: this should make many people happy 8_)
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Post by abelovesfun » Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:45 pm

I have two writing modes: Sometimes I am patch driven and will start at the modular, get something interesting happening, and then write from that. That won't be generative though, that will be me having a specific(ish) idea before starting to plug things in.
Most often though, when I am writing for a song, I will actually stay in the box (Ableton for me) and afterwards I'll send those parts out into the Moog, Guitar, Ambika, Modular, etc...

As for any of the debate over old fashioned thought processes... who cares, show me what you've been making lately.
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Re: Composing (as opposed to automatic modular music)

Post by moofi » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:37 pm

Naming him is a chliché in itself ;-) :lol:
felixer wrote:[...] stockhausen?
[...]

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