Over the last 10 years there's been an incredible shift towards designing gear that's not only computer based, but also live performance based. Laptops have no doubt (for better, or for worse) become a standard piece of gear in most electronic musicians' and DJ's live rig, but there's a big difference between what was happening in the early 2000s and what's happening in 2011. Developers are responding to musicians' and audiences' demand for the live element. And this relates to one human sense in particular: Touch.
Music is after all a very physical experience. From involuntary physical responses such as sound waves vibrating your ear drums to very intentional reactions like tapping your foot, nodding your head, or full on dancing. Electronic music can be created in hundreds if not thousands of ways...from scrolling your mouse across the screen with a pencil tool, to playing midi instruments with a keyboard, to recording live studio performances and micro editing in a DAW. The possibilities are endless. But with a tool like the MPC and more recently arguably its first worthy adversary Maschine, comes a whole other element of electronic music creation. In the above video we get an up close and personal view at Jeremy Ellis' now staple drum Maschine routine "Unlike Any Other". What we see here is an undeniable musicality and sense of live rhythm. He's a trained pianist and drummer who's been able to successfully translate his traditional musical background into bad ass finger drumming. The ability to convincingly perform live, however, can be done in several ways. Above, Ellis performs an entire routine live without sequencing. Our point here is not necessarily to advocate live drumming as the way to perform, nor is it to suggest that to be successful you must strive to become the next Jeremy Ellis. It's a great goal and a lot of hard work and practice to get there...definitely worth it as you can see. What's more interesting to us though, is Maschine's versatility. It can be used as a live tool (as demonstrated above), but those "in the moment" drum hits can be recorded and sequenced into a more detailed piece behind the scenes in the studio. It's a great alternative for those tired of tediously drawing in drum sounds with your mouse (which can also be fun). With a tool like Maschine you bring in the tactile element full on. Once you have the right sounds, the idea in your head can be immediately be translated into a loop and grown into a multi-layered track. You can also think about the drums pads not just as triggers for individual sounds, but with Maschine you can adjust your settings so that your pads trigger entire loops or "scenes" on the fly as well. Like anything, It takes a little patience to learn how to use Maschine at first, but that initial investment reading manuals, checking youtube videos, or taking lessons pays off quite quickly. Not only in time saved, but potentially also in how your beats sound. The ability to bang out beats with a live feel can more acurately capture the immediate moment of inspiration. Our reaction to music is immediate. Aspects of our creative process should try to mimic that sensation.
In conclusion, it feels as though the gap between electronics and live instruments is narrowing. This is definitely a positive step in a more human direction. In Maschine not only do you have a live tool, but also a full arranging, sequencing, sampling, and studio recording tool that allows you to explore a variety of composition techniques and approaches. And it's fun.
Upcoming Maschine Course at Off Centre...