Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Underutilization


Just got back from the mini-tour with Mark (Mosher), and am kind of going through my memories of the performances that took place. The overriding thing that surprised me was that my Korg ESX-1 was completely underutilized. Not only did I not use the sampling engine, I never even turned on the sequencer's transport. It served one sole purpose: acting as a series of buttons that would stimulate the MIDI port on the modular!

Now, I love the ESX (I recently found an SD card version, which made it much more lovely...), and was sure that it would become an integral part of my performance rig. I custom created a bank of sound that would be conducive for the sort of scary-ambient soundscapes I generally make, and I made a number of banks that had well-tweaked effects and channel settings that I could depend upon during performance. I rehearsed with the machine so that I could immediately hear a problem and fix it in the fly - the actual hard work of learning a new instrument.

So why wouldn't it work for my performances? Here are a few reasons I've come up with:

  • Within the fluid manipulation of analog synthetics, the use of samples sounded way too prepared. I want people to understand that I'm hand-managing the things that they are hearing, and there just isn't that much you can do with the samples in the ESX that isn't bloody obvious.
  • In comparison to the sounds of the digital part of my modular, the sample playback of the ESX sounds lame. I've got three digital sound sources in my modular: an MI Braids Swiss Army Oscillator, a Qu-Bit Nebulae granular player, and the Music Thing Radio Music sample switcher. Each of these creates a much more dynamic digital soundscape than the ESX. The Korg is fun on its own, but it gets kind of swamped in these environs.
  • There's no way to do real-time resampling. Or, at least, there is no way to do it that doesn't make me want to take out my eyes with a spoon. Loop selection, for example, is a nightmare.
  • The use of repetition, even the 8-bar variety, doesn't seems to fit. I'm not sure why, but even using the long-form sequencing of the ESX-1 sounds really mundane in this context. I applaud the ESX-1's 8-bar pattern sequences, but the inability to have different length tracks means that your ear immediately latches on to the repetitive elements - unless you are hands-on the controls at all times. But I'm hands-on the modular, so I can't pull it off.
So where do I go from here? I don't know yet; I'm going to continue my experiments with the Beatstep Pro,  and I'm starting to sniff around the Elektron Octatrack again (having Mark as an ally might make this the winning move...). That'll probably mean that the ESX-1 will have to go - which is a pity, since it is so damned fun...

But rust never sleeps!!!

[ddg]

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