April 21, 2013

From Wires: Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Modular Music

There is a very necessary visual side to making music that we tend to ignore these days.  Even contemporary music is written in bars and staffs that make it understandable, even if you aren’t technically skilled enough to play what is written on the sheets.  Modern music making programs like Ableton make use of skillfully designed icons and buttons to help even the most experienced user understand what this effect with do to their music.  One of the most important visual cues is the two dimensional graph that use to displays the slopes of a musical effect.  This helps us understand things like attack and decay, for without the visual cues – it would be hard to understand that any of that even means.

The thing is, once it’s all boiled down, all of these signals and impulses are converted into binary and computer language at some point.  This is much more difficult to understand.  Old synthesizers that use patch cables and other modular derivatives liken themselves to this kind of thinking – you are controlling what information gets sent there, and on the other end comes beautifully complex music.  Funny thing is, we are still using these methods to create music and it is not yet obsolete.