Wonderful Imperfection

This is my first post from the sky… as I travel back to Tokyo from Sydney. It was nice to have a break over the new year.  Musically though, the trip was not as successful overall as I’d hoped.  On the plus side, I came up with a couple of solid ideas, from which I’ll definitely be able to shape two decent tracks… on the downside, progress on these tracks was much slower than during Sep – Nov.  Whether it was because I was not 100% comfortable with the working environment in Sydney, I bit perturbed working on unfamiliar monitors, or just a bit burnt out after a long year with not much break I’m not sure… but I know I got off to a slow start in late November with with first track I worked on.

The idea for this track came from a Volca jam session… I really liked the idea, and was sure it was become one of my best pieces of work for the year… but I hit a big stumbling block trying to replicate the parts in Reaper.  I could get the sounds right for the most part by layering direct recordings from the Volcas (primarily Volca beats) with either mic recordings of the speaker or samples (as I discussed in a previous post).  The problem was moreso trying to replicate the groove/feel… I think having a stack of thick drum sounds pushed through the tiny Volca speaker and the resulting accents and distortion created, plus minute timing imperfections caused by the sync between Volcas (and potentially the Volcas themselves), were basically lost when moving to the comparatively perfect world of Reaper and Kontakt.  The Reaper version sounded good, but was just missing something by comparison, and I spent a lot of time trying to discover what the missing piece was.

It made me think a lot about imperfections, and about one of the things I love about music generally… the juxtaposition of mathematical and physical perfection (e.g. the physics of waves, or maths behind diatonic scales), and the minute imperfections of timing and pitch which are essential to create feel and groove, and give life to music.  For some reason, my fundamental assumption is that the closer music is to perfect in terms of pitch and timing, the better it should sound… yet such music often sounds robotic and lifeless, and needs imperfection to give it some feel and identity.


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