Developments in Music Technology

When I first entered the world of music technology, it was at the tail end of the analog age and the cusp of the digital era. My initial forays involved cutting/splicing reel-to-reel tape recordings and building synthesizer patches using physical cables, before I ever learned to use a computer-based MIDI sequencer and 14 bit digital sampling software.  The studio where I cut my production teeth took up a whole room for all the wonderful, albeit large, pieces of equipment.

The evolution of microprocessor computers and the development of software alternatives to expensive hardware have had a profound impact on the way I make music. I am not alone in this, and countless others have joined the revolution. The pace of technological advancement has been matched — sometimes driven — by musical creativity, while new means of sound production or manipulation have often led to new music.

The importance of the move from analog to digital could be eclipsed, however, by a change from static to portable. Laptop computers are already de rigueur for DJs and live PAs, but could soon seem unnecessarily bulky compared to the advent of ultra-slim, touch screen, accelerometer equipped devices. Where could this lead us?

Notwithstanding the convenience of working on the go, I doubt that the small screen real estate and earphones of a smartphone or tablet could replace a proper studio. Instead, I think something like an iPhone/iPad could facilitate a type of live electronic music performance that previously would have been prohibitively expensive. There is also the opportunity for immersive and interactive networking with the devices of people in the audience, as has already been taken advantage of by the trail-blazing Plastikman, using Hexler’s SYNK. Furthermore, changes in the physical method of engaging with technology are bound to inspire innovative music, both on stage and in the studio.

There are already some decent apps out there (which I’m only just starting to explore) and I sense that more may be right around the corner. I am always keen to observe new directions in music technology and the concomitant developments in musical sound. Only time will tell, however, whether smartphones and music apps will be just another stepping stone, or a true milestone in the development of electronic music. A key factor will be whether developers and users alike will be willing to treat them as real tools or as simple toys.

Beat Maker 2 music production app

AutoValve analog sound emulator app

Who Is Ronin E-Ville?

Ronin E-Ville is the name I use as a DJ/producer, and I’m often asked what it means. The explanation is in two parts.

In feudal Japan, ronin were samurai warriors without masters. While other samurai were unswerving-ly loyal to their lords and obedient unto death, ronin had to forge their own paths. Like a ronin, I kind of do my own thing when it comes to music. While the idea of being master-less might seem romantic, ronin were considered a bit dodgy in their day…

The electronic music I make is an eclectic blend of synths, samples, and recordings, which I refer to as eclectronica. These days, I suppose my tracks are mostly downtempo, trip/hip hop, future funk, dub(step), and bass-music, but I’ve been known to crank out some EDM: house, techno, electro, and breaks. My DJ sets are equally eclectic. In addition to the styles I produce, I also spin: funk, acid jazz, rare groove, disco, classic rock, dub, drum n bass, IDM, etc. For people who like beats, I’ve got something for just about every taste!

As for E-Ville, it’s a reference to my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I lived in Toronto for a lot of years, and now I’m in Ireland, but it’s good to remember where you come from.

So, this blog is about my musicking. Still, everything is everything, and I hope to inspire listeners to deeper lived experiences. As the famous 16th–17th century ronin, Miyamoto Musashi, wrote: “from one thing, know ten thousand things.”

Image from Wikipedia Commons

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