πŸ’¬ Limitless Tools

Replied to The myths we live by, limitless tools & silent study by Oliver Quinlan (Quinlearning)
Faced with limitless possibilities, creativity can really struggle. But there's no reason why we have to use all these possibilities. In fact, a lot of what I learned about visual artists when I was at school was how they often seek to restrict themselves. The George Fitzgerald interview linked above really got me thinking, as rather than just showing off all his music equipment, he really gets into why he uses a room full of ageing 70s and 80s electronics when he could emulate it all in a laptop. It all comes down to restrictions. He takes each limited piece of equipment and finds the few ways in which it can do something special, then repeatedly uses these to create music that sounds unique.
It has been interesting to see the transition in soft synths Oliver. The interview with George FitzGerald reminded me a short clip involving Jack Antonoff. He too restricts himself to original equipment:

Antonoff condenses months of creativity into eight minutes. It left me think about how much learning is assumed to get to a point of understanding the technology to get to a point of control. I remember when I was young, I had a Roland G707. I would use a cassette player to record tape after tape of tweeking with the various sounds. There was something about the physicality of it that was never matched when I moved onto Fruity Loops.

5 responses on “πŸ’¬ Limitless Tools”

  1. Thanks for responding to this Aaron. It’s a really interesting area, I can see so much resonance for music production and I wonder if there are general points that are relevant for other disciplines/activities. I’m sure there are but not quite put my finger on it yet!

    I think there’s two distinct parts to this. One is the physicality that you mention at the end of your post. There is something powerful about interacting with media using physical controls rather than virtual ones. You can get this with soft synths and a multi purpose midi controller – and for simply manipulating a couple of parameters this works well. I often remap a couple of knobs on my hardware synth to a soft synth to ride them a bit through a passage. However, for more involved things like programming new sounds or getting really creative with manipulating sound this isn’t a substitute for a dedicated physical interface designed for exactly what you are doing. There’s something about how we associate physical objects with particular things and how our muscle memory works that makes this really powerful.

    The other aspect is the restrictions. I can see how this is tangible and obvious if you restrict yourself to physical instruments. However, once you realise the power of that idea, there seems to me no reason why one couldn’t achieve the same by putting some arbitrary restrictions on process. I’ve tried setting up a template project in my DAW with a set of instruments and tracks that I go back to. I’ve got inputs for my hardware instruments, but also one MiniMoog soft synth set up read for bass, one Jupiter 8 for synth keys sounds, one instance of Absynth for pads, etc. Trying to keep to this setup as a ‘virtual band’ as George FitGerald describes could have some interesting results… I’ll keep you posted.

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