Bookmarked Peter Zinovieff in 2018 (BBC)

BBC Archive catches up with composer Peter Zinovieff, 50 years after he appeared on a Tomorrow’s World report about computer music.

He explains how he procured his first computer (perhaps the first computer to be installed in a private home in Britain), and reminisces about its limitations and its trailblazing live performance at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

What impact might computers have on the way we experience music in another 50 years’ time?

Peter Zinovieff reflects upon electronic music and how it differs from traditional music. It is also interesting to consider Zinovieff’s quote from a performance in 1968:

One of these days, a computer could produce a sound as emotionally satisfying as a full symphony orchestra

“@BBCArchive” in BBC Archive on Twitter: “The hugely influential synth pioneer Peter Zinovieff, has died aged 88. A couple of years ago, BBC Archive caught up with the great man and asked him about his 1968 appearance on Tomorrow’s World and what music would sound like in another 50 years time.” / Twitter ()

Bookmarked Trent Reznor on Love of Synths in Book, ‘Patch & Tweak With Moog’ (Rolling Stone)

“It’s good to treat your inspirations as precious. As a lyricist, I can’t tell you how many times as I’m just about asleep, at the last seconds of semi-consciousness, I’ve been thinking, ‘That’s a really good line. I’ll remember it in the morning.’ No chance – it’s instantly gone.”

“So have a little recorder by your bed. You may be thinking you’re going to remember it. I assure you, you’re not. You’ll remember that you had a good idea – ‘what was that thing I was thinking of?’ – but it’s gone. That feeling is the worst.”

In an excerpt from Excerpt from PATCH & TWEAK With MoogTrent Reznor reflects upon electronic music and appreciating the possibilities of an instrument.

It wasn’t because that was the best-sounding sampler, it was because that’s the one I had. It didn’t have enough memory and it did a lot of things poorly, but I’d find every trick you could imagine – from sampling things three or four times higher than they normally are to stretch them out, to using some of the weird aliasing that might come in when something was dropped four octaves down. Because it was all I had, I had to understand it deeply: there was a sense of having mastered it. I haven’t felt that way about any instrument in years – not only because I have more instruments now and I have less time, but also because I have less discipline to spend the kind of time it takes. I’m distracted by the other things that also matter, like writing songs or composing.

I remember being in part inspired by Reznor and Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile to explore electronic music and step sequencers. I found a site talking about NIN and it had links to various open source applications. However, it has only been more recently that I have come to appreciate subtractive synthesis.

via Ian O’Byrne

Oliver, I really enjoyed this breakdown of how you turned a jam into a track. Growing up, I never quite knew how it all worked, especially in regards to sequencing. (Life before YouTube.) Even with all my dabbling with synths and software (particularly Fruity Loops), I could never quite make sense how some sounds and songs such were made. I think that I thought DJing was just a guy with a crate of records.

At one stage many years ago I had a Roland GR700 and would press hold on a note and just explore sounds with the Roland PG-200 that you could attach. However, all I had to record with was a tap deck, which I never properly saved. I recently bought a Korg Volca Modular, thinking that might be something of an entry point, but again like the PG-200, it feels like it has its limitations.

I recently came upon and think that this might be my next point of exploration. I would love to build my own, as Chris Beckstrom has, just not quite sure about the time and space. (I knew I should have kept my reference monitors.)

One question, what are the trigger pads? I assume, like a Launchpad, they are linked to Ableton that allow you to trigger samples and/or midi tracks? Or are they triggering a module within the rack?

Replied to Getting Started in Synth DIY: First Steps (

I built a modular synthesizer without any electronics experience, and I want to empower others to do the same, to build their own weird sound machines. I want people to know that this is not beyond the realm of possibility- you can do it, and for cheap!
A few years ago I started trying to build an a…

Thank you Chris for this write-up. It would seem that Forrest Mims’ book Getting Started in Electronics might be the right place to start. For now I have been looking at Korg’s Volca Micro-Module as a starting point to making sense of modular synthesisers.
Replied to (

Coming soon: a guide to getting started building your own synthesizers! I have some info on my website, but it mostly relates to my particular modular synthesizer and doesn’t really address how to actually get started, what tools you need, where to find circuits, etc. I’d like to change that and…

This sounds fantastic Chris. Definitely interested. Just need to get me a workshop too
Listened Episode 166: Bon Iver,Song Exploder | Bon Iver from Song Exploder

Justin Vernon founded the band Bon Iver in 2006. Bon Iver’s released four albums and won two Grammys, including Best New Artist.

The most recent album i,i came out in August 2019, and in this episode, Justin breaks down a song from it called “Holyfields,.” He’s joined by producers Chris Messina and Brad Cook. We spoke to him in July, from his studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the song started. They finished it at Sonic Ranch studio in Tornillo, Texas, on the border between the US and Mexico.

In this episode, Justin Vernon reflects on his use of electronic instruments and the inspirations to his music. This includes a short discussion of the use of The Messina, a synthesiser developed by Chris Messina.
Bookmarked The Sound Engineer Behind Bon Iver’s (W Magazine)

Chris Messina figured out the perfect combo of software and hardware that lets Justin Vernon sound the way he does. “But here’s the thing,” Messina says. “It’s not a thing.”

Emilia Petrarca discusses the innovation and opportunities provided through the use of The Messina, a mixture of software and hardware, created by Chris Messina. This was inspired by the vocoder and the Prismizer. This sound/technique has not only been used by Bon Iver, but also Banks.


A few days after the Pioneer Works show, Chris Messina was on the phone; he was willing to offer a simplified version of what goes on with his machine. “Onstage, Justin is singing a song, and he’s playing a keyboard that can create harmonies simultaneously,” he said. “Normally, you record something first and then add harmonies later. But Justin wanted to not only harmonize in real time, but also be able to do it with another person and another instrument. The result is one thing sounding like a lot of things. It creates this huge, choral sound.”

When I asked Messina to describe what The Messina looks like, he responded, “Here’s the thing — it’s not a thing. There’s a laptop running software, and then that software is run through a physical piece of hardware, that is then doing another thing,” he explained. “It’s many things working together and none of them are ours, but the product is. Basically, we used things the way they’re not normally intended, and we put them together. That’s how we get the sound.”

Replied to

Eric, what is the #1564challenge?
Bookmarked What will happen when machines write songs just as well as your favorite musician? (Mother Jones)

On the upside, the rise of AI tools could spur entirely new genres. Fresh music technologies often do. The electric guitar gave us rock, the synth helped create new wave, electronic drum machines and samplers catalyzed the growth of hip-hop. Auto-Tune was a dirty little secret of the record industry, a way to clean up bad singing performances, until artists like Cher and T-Pain used it to craft entirely new, wild vocal styles. The next great trend in music could be sparked by an artist who takes the AI capabilities and runs with them. “Someone can make their own and really develop an identity of, I’m the person who knows how to use this,” says Magenta project engineer Adam Roberts. “A violin­—this was technology that when you give it to Mozart, he goes, ‘Look what I can do with this piece of technology!’” exclaims Cohen, the Orchard co-founder. “If Mozart was a teenager in 2019, what would he do with AI?”

Clive Thompson looks at the marriage of music and machine learning to create tracks on demand. He discusses some of the possibilities, such as generating hours of ambient music on the fly or creating quick and easy soundtracks. It is interesting to think about this alongside software music and the innovation driven by broken machines.

I love Daft Punk and have always been somewhat mesmerised by their music. For me the genius is captured in the documentary Daft Punk Unchained. I think that this is eptimosed with Random Access Memories. What I love the most is the way the tracks and the album as a whole ebbs and flows. Whether it be the changes in intensity or the blend of acoustic and electronic. As a sidenote, Darkside also created a remix of the album.
Bookmarked The art of DJing: Jeff Mills (Resident Advisor)

Certain DJs use certain techniques to mix. So it’s not always pod up pod down. Some DJs use the EQ to filter out the frequencies and thus the audio. Some DJs use the crossfader because it’s a very literal way of going between tracks. Some kind of feed and tease the line levels. Some DJs work in a way of, I suppose, amplitude, where they mix by building sounds together, but not so much attention to subtracting and deleting.

Will Lynch talks with Jeff Mills about the art of DJing. The more I read about different artists, the more I realise there is a certain misnomer around what DJing actually means. I remember growing up with the perception that it was just about scratching records, but as Jeff Mills explains, it can be about making those records too:

Do you shop for music much?

Not as much as I used to. I would first try to make it. Or I would alter someone else’s track, just for me to use, not to sell it. But if say, I like someone’s track, but just the bassline and the drums, I’ll make a special version of that just for me.

This reminds me of Mark Ronson’s album Versions, which he produced in order to use in DJ sets.

Another word that Mills uses is ‘programmer’. This is in reference to the connection between the DJ and the audience:

To be a programmer, you have to put yourself in the audience’s position. Not only that, but you have to really know your audience, and you have to anticipate what they want to have, and what they need to have, at what time. When I think of these type of things I think of DJs like Larry Levan. He knew his audience, because he was part of his audience. He knew exactly what to do at what time for those people. There was no division between what was happening in the DJ booth and in the audience.

Jeff Mills also provides an insight into the curative mind of the DJ. He explains how he only listens to the last quarter of songs, because that is usually where all the parts have been mixed together:

So when I buy music, I typically focus on the last quarter of the track. And when I’m DJing also, it’s the last quarter that I’d prefer to play more than the beginning. The track breaks down in the last quarter and becomes more solidified. That’s where you find the better mix between sounds, that’s where you find the real groove of the track, and the most important elements of the track. All in the last quarter.