The Phenomenology of Musical Instruments: A Survey

I found this *> article <* by pure chance a while back as I was browsing the net for similar views I hold. I’d been listening, analyzing, studying, and dissecting electronic music since I can remember. Before I knew it, I was composing and recording it in my very own built studio. From the gear, composition, synthesis, theory, to the best workflow, I tried to find out everything about it. This lasted over a decade. It excites me..eerr…. or should I say “excited” me.

Earlier this year I starting browsing various music platforms again. Something made me to do it. Not sure what it was, but it came from the gut. Everything from Bandcamp through to Soundcloud, the complete barrage of music on those sites is overwhelming, it’s as if I’m swimming in an endless ocean of audio files and I’m slowly drowning in them. From basement recordings, to semi/professional studio releases, everyone is trying to get noticed. It’s a massive aural attack on my senses. As I slowly weaved through the massive amounts of music profiles I noticed a trend…..Nobody gives a crap. Everyone is trying to get noticed, marketed, and they ALL sound the same. No originally, no diversity, no pioneering work to be heard anymore. Ya, I’m picky… or is something else going on?

Perhaps there is a reason why they all sound the same. A majority of the music was electronic. Is it that hard to believe? We’re living in a digital world after all. I’m not talking about someone recording their synth parts, using a midi keyboard, or even playing with a theremin. I’m talking about 100% computer based. From drum tracks/beats, sounds, everything is synthesized from scratch at times (if not most) within the computer. Starts off in the box, finishes in the box. You can only do so much with 0’s and 1’s, and it takes a very special and unique person to develop their own style when working out of a computer fully. I’m not gonna drop names, but there are very few who’s style can be recognized upon listen and they’re all pioneers for the most part.

As much as I love electronic music, it got me thinking that it’s lacking something nowadays for me. Unlike a traditional instrumentalist (drummer, guitarist, pianist, etc); a computer based musician is confined to a mouse, keyboard, and one place (in most cases a mac or pc in today’s age) and the same program as every other uses (Ableton, Logic, ProTools, Cubase, Renoise, etc) But that’s not the main problem. It’s not so much about how we’re recording, but more about what we’re playing. Unlike a traditional instrumentalist, who interacts with their instrument on dozens and dozens of different levels; An electronic one needs no time to develop a relationship between theirs. Clicking a mouse does not classify them as a musician. Simply put, it classifies them as a programmer; someone who can take a course online, or youtube and learn how to make “this sound” or find a “sample pack” that 500+ have downloaded before them. Sound does not breathe within a computer, nor does it get affected by the air pressure around you in that given moment of composition. Sound however does change dramatically at times in live environments when playing a traditional instrument. Not only that, but it becomes an extension of your own body, soul and emotions. The imperfection’s caught by a microphone, the breath of the player, background noises, each human mistake, and offbeat/hit, make that one piece of music in the long run “perfectly human” and “alive” to the listener, hence why we resonate with it.(ie motown records) However, such things cannot be said for computer based compositions, where things are so equal and perfect that it seems nonhuman. (yes, even when you use note offsets).

Others will have different views, and that’s the whole point (this topic is subjective and highly debatable on its own) but to sum it up, this quote from the article mirrors my views to a tee, “I don’t feel like I’m playing a digital instrument so much as operating it.”

I’m sure I’ll come back to composing electronic music sometime down the line, after all, I have more then a few ideas and projects in mind for the future. But for now, I need something organic and alive in nature.

Your thoughts below:

Is the digital age to blame for stale, lifeless inorganic electronic music nowadays? Or has mass marketing of electronic music in the last few years been beaten to death and about to be buried 6 feet under, only to be replaced by a new trend soon?

Full article below.


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