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Subject: Re: [motm] Modular Zen.. long and pointless

From: improv@...
Date: 2000-03-24

Interesting idea, one I've put some thought into as well. IMHO, being a
virtouso involves not just being a good player, but having that extra
quality of "effortless mastery." I don't remember where I first heard that
term, but it's one that has stuck in my mind over the years. I'm sure you
know what I mean, that quality of being so connected with the instrument
that the creation just seems to flow. It's like Michael Jordan, or Herbie
Hancock, or any of a hundred different geniuses I could name. So, who are
the synth players with this quality? I honestly don't know. The virtousos
that generally come to mind aren't using modulars, and if they are, are
using them in fairly mundane ways. I mean, no one can doubt Keith Emerson's
keyboard ability, but I wouldn't say he's a genius at getting synth sounds,
in fact I thought most of his sonds were pretty lame. Jan Hammer definitely
had a thing with the Minimoog as a performance instrument, but again it was
his keyboard phrasing that made it work more than the "synth" qualities,
though I think he had some very cool sounds. Joe Zawinul? Some of the
Weather Report stuff had a use of electronics that was, I think, very
innovative for the time, and didn't depend on traditional keyboard
virtuosity. Wayne Horvitz blew me away in the '80's, doing free improv with
a DX-7, reprogramming it from the front panel on the fly and making great
music at the same time. Maybe some of the Techno cats, like Aphex Twin,
Richie Hawtin or Carl Craig? There's a German free-improv player named
Thomas Lehn who uses an ARP 2600, I haven't heard him yet, but have been
told by people I trust that he's the most interesting electronic improviser
EVER. I'm meaning to order one of his CD's, I'll report when I do hear him.

I've had occaisional glimpses of this kind of effortless mastery when
playing, I'm sure everyone has had that feeling of being totally "in the
zone", getting to that place where everything you do is musical, and it
just flows. It's probably rarer on the modular, but I've had a few of those
weird late-night patching sessions, as I'm sure we all have. I think a
virtouso is someone who can tap into that kind of space every time they
play, not just the rare glimpses the rest of us get.

I think that the main thing it takes to develop this effortless mastery is
time on the instrument. Carlos and Tomita probably spent more time on
modulars than just about anyone else (who else is there from that
generation of players who worked so extensively with modulars? Subotnick?
Richard Teitlebaum maybe? Pat Gleeson? Larry Fast?). Since the modular is
still a pretty new instrument, and the MOTM in particular, maybe we just
haven't had the time to develop this level of mastery. Maybe we're the
virtuosos in training....

>From: revtor@...
>Has anyone thought of a modular synth in terms of being an instrument in its
>own? Im sure you have, but as was mentioned in a previous post the
>similarities between a piano and a modular, many sounds are able to be wrung
>out of both by a skilled player. I know that comparing these two is not the
>most useful comparison, but consider the piano. 88keys. Keystrokes cause
>felt tipped hammers to strike the keys. Same in all pianos. There have been
>many virtuosos. Thousands of pages have been written on piano construction,
>playing technique and actual music. Now think about how a piano sounds when
>98% of pianists play it. The same as any other piano. These virtuosos are
>indeed able to master it and bring out that sound tht the other 98% just
>can't. Now consider the modular. Can there be a virtuoso? (Carlos and
>Tomita are generally considered to be the closest thing) First of all no
>modular is the same. No controller is standard. No modules comprise a
>standard modular. "Playing" a modular therefore means nothing. In a piano
>you have no other option than the keys. (Except those who bang on the case,
>pluck the strings, throw things in there etc.. this doesnt count) but in a
>modular you can equip it with a keyboard and this imposes piano like
>standards on it. Keyboard chops shouldn't define ones ability in playing a
>modular. Could there ever be a virtuoso? Virtuoso: 1: An experimenter or
>investigator, esp. in the arts or sciences (we are therefore all virtuosos)
>3: One who excels in the technique of an art. So if we are going to
>follow with this usual definition of virtuoso, then we have to define what
>the technique behind using/playing a modular is. Is it being able to patch
>up a sound that pops up in ones mind and have it be almost perfect when you
>turn up the volume? or is it one who is able to go deep into the modular
>making an evolving sound for hours that is never stagnant and not overly
>repetitious? I guess these are two things that i'd like to be able to do..
>Who is the best programmer/patcher you know? I guess there can never be a
>virtuoso of a modular.. there are just too many possibilities thats why we
>love them so much I guess.......
>anyone have any thoughts on this???
>damn that was long..
>(I have one module so far!!)
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Dave Trenkel : improv@...
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