The Computer in Electronic Music

Every time I see someone perform on stage with their laptop a little piece of me dies.

Don't get me wrong, I played many gigs using a computer, but I did try and make sure that I played all the parts i..e that things could go wrong if I messed up and it would be audible to the audience. It has gotten better over the last few years but I played gigs with loads of people that were up there launching clips in Ableton. The most irritating thing was how they postured around making movements that suggested all of this music was under the control of their fingertips to the most granular level. The reality being of course that they're just launching a bunch of loops and short of a computer crash, very little can go wrong.

Computers are embedded into our daily lives, we use them to work, so socialise, to book holidays, to order food, to manager our bank affairs etc. Do we really need to go go to a gig for some escapism and watch some dude up there behind a laptop?

I get that many pieces of music hardware are essentially scaled down computers with one specific function but they at least remove the visual aids and immediate sync that DAW's offer, and to my point above visually it is more liberating for an audience to look at versus someone who might be checking his email whilst he performs.

Music used to be about skill and riding through the chaos, now it appears to be about managing those risks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

"Live" Electronic Music

My first musical love was the guitar which I took up when I was 13, I started playing in bands not long after and this was how I spent much of my spare time until I was 18 and went to university. I went to uni in 1999 when electronic music (mostly trance sadly) was dominating club culture and moving into the mainstream slowly but surely. I developed a mild obsession with drum and bass and started mucking about with a cracked (sorry) copy of Fruity Loops, this led me to where I am today using Ableton live and various pieces of hardware. As much as I have enjoyed my electronic music making adventurers the one thing I really miss is that ability as a guitar player to get together with a band and just jam. 

Electronic music has made big strides in trying to get to a point of improvisation but the problem really lies in that generally speaking electronic music production is a solo exercise. You as the producer are essentially the composer with a virtual orchestra at your fingertips, this means that if you are to perform on your own you cannot recreate in a live environment what you have made as their are multiple instruments and one of you. Using things like Ableton live you can jam around with loops but there is a lot of preparation work to get there which kind of kills the "lets just do it off the cuff" vibe.

Things have got better if you consider that goons like David Guetta and DeadMuau5 have previously admitted to getting up on stage and just pressing play whilst dancing around in front of an expensive light show whilst charging £40 a ticket. I also used to really object to when the idea of seeing an artist play "live" was them Djing. The practice of djing kind of leaves me cold and in many ways I believe is unmusical but putting that aside I could never make my peace with liking an artist enough to want to hear them recreate their music live and then turning up to hear them play a bunch of other people's tunes.

Artists like Karenn have taken some ballsy steps by not only playing live but by improvising too, there is a great resident advisor article on them and their live setup here. Equally there is a fantastic panel type piece canvassing several artists by Attack Magazine here. On a slightly different end of the spectrum you have artists like Hot Chip who by their own words have a "hard line on sequencing" as this performance demonstrates. 

I think I have kind of introduced my subject and I will elaborate more over a couple more blog posts over the next week or so.......