in search of a musical identity

from: Xal 19 Dec 2007

Ever since I was 14, music has been my biggest passion.

Well, that's not completely true...after a couple of years, women became my biggest passion. Or, to be completely honest : in the stage of life that I'm in now, all that I'm really interested in is "Sex, drugs and music" as warped into my very own favorite reality-tunnels and superimposed into something almost but not quite entirely unlike your standard definition of "Sex, drugs and music"...But that's another story entirely.

For a long time I was restricted to 'consuming' and 'digesting' music, basically because, for logistic reasons, I didn't have my main instrument - the pipe organ - at home.

The last couple of years I've been wrestling with my musical identity. No, not really 'wrestling' as such, but more trying to find out what the fuck I mean by 'musical identity' and what it is for ME.

This has been complicated by meeting and listening to close friends who play melody instruments (you all know who you are). popeye-x got me hooked onto synths, and of course, when I figured out how to get sound from them, I was interested in getting into melodic playing (or : standard piano/keys playing) too. In a way it was quite intimidating that my friends were all such great musicians. My favorite guitar playing friend regularly produces the greatest songs as if it costs him no effort at all and he manages to make me dig his songwriting, even though I'm not really into 'songwriter' music. My favorite string playing friend moves me to goosebumps and tears with everything ranging from Bach to Zappa and I can only marvel at her welding of technical prowess and emotional involvement.

However, I myself am -technically speaking- not really the biggest hit on earth when I'm not behind an organ console. I'm a lousy piano player and never really had enough fun practicing to get to a technical level where I can play solo piano or solo keyboard...This was all pretty confusing and not really good for my self-image, musically speaking. It's like : "I want to make music like that too, and I can hear it in my mind, but it's just not in my fingers". It went as far as to make me sulk in a corner just reading literature and writing stuff instead of dicking around with my synths.

I'm slowly starting to realize that there is no such thing as _one_ musical identity. There are several. Some of them are relatively closely related (like my guitar and string playing buddies' approaches are different, but in a related vein). some of them are very different indeed.

You see...My musical identity is starting to develop ever more into an approach that's opposite from the 'canonical' musician's approach. I'm into creating sounds much more than into creating notes. When I create notes I prefer to make bass lines or drum grooves...that's fun to do. And of course I practice jazz and blues improv on loops, but that's also just for fun, with the Minimoog being my instrument of choice, because it's one of those instruments that makes it easy for me to express myself in 'notes'.

But my main thing is creating sound. The immense kick I get when I am slowly starting to understand the capabilities that a certain synth has. The 'yeah!' feeling I get when I get a sound I like. The deep exciting underbelly feeling when I have internalized a complex modulation routing circuit and can spoo with the controls just like a guitar player spoos on his high notes...So what the fuck if it's an abstract kind of spoo...What's wrong with abstraction as long as it's intimately bound to feeling. It's about what I feel when I do it. If I wanted an audience at my knees whilst spooing over them, I would have become a sax or guitar player :-D It's all spoo anyway and spoo is a feeling for YOU and if you have an audience that digs it, great man ! but it feels just as good without an audience.

Composing musicians have notes in their heads and translate that to their instrument. My brain isn't wired in terms of notes...I have sounds in my head, and translate them to my instrument...the notes that are made with that sound are of secondary importance. I love to have someone give me notes to play...I say : "Give me notes, and I'll create a sound and play your notes for you"...but playing notes is just entertainment to me.

It is definitely a math thing. To me art and math are intimately related, or probably they're one and the same. This is hard to explain. It's not like : I have mathematical concept X, which relates via funcion f(X) to musical/artistic concept Y and I write down equations and WOW, I get an orgasm...I am a tad nerdish, but far too much of a freak to be nerdish in that sense. Hell damnation, your average nerd thinks I'm a huge freak as soon as I start talking to them about something beyond science, so go figure !

To me it's something unconscious. I 'see' patterns and structures and mathematical relationships like an improvising musician 'sees' the notes. That's why the synth is my instrument of choice (well, next to the pipe organ, but I consider that a synth too) because it is a natural extension of the way I hear music/sound in my head.

I think it's bullshit to say that this or that 'approach' or 'identity' is better/worse/superior/whatever to the other. Find your groove man and dig it ! But it's a bit of an epiphany for me to discover that this sound thing is where my creative sparks are. That's basically why I never produce any 'real songs' (whatever those may be)...I'm a neophile...the kick is in the creation of a new sound or a soundscape or a sound concept. Once I've reached that translating it into a 'conventional' song does not come as naturally to me and I have to exercise discipline to do it...It's a bit like being high on mushrooms...seeing abstract patterns, being able to control those patterns, but 'feeling' them as intensely as you feel an orgasm. No rationalistic bullshit at all, just pure feeling man !

So, with this, I cordially invite anyone who is interested to send me notes, and I'll create a sound for you and play your notes :) Although I like playing a pessimist, I'm an optimist at heart, and I think the 'sound' approach and the 'note' approach can synergize immensely if there is chemistry between the musicians.

H2 + O2 -> KABOOM :D XAL



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