The hobby of producing personal electronic music has been around for less than a decade. The Macbook Laptops of the late 90’s that had the computing power large enough to handle multi-bit programs such as Logic, Sonar, Cubase, and Ableton Live brought the raw energy of production-power Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) to a seemingly-endless number of musicians, producers, and sound designers. Before anyone knew it, kids as young as 15 were churning out professional, club-ready tracks with hard bass-lines, pumping four-on-the-floor beat cadences, and sweeping chord progression-based leads.
Despite America’s newfound obsession with “totally heavy, face-melting basslines,” and stomping half-time shuffle beats, a look into the world of creating electronic music proves startling. A new generation of composer has arisen, one that seeks to bring together many different genres under the same roof. In a way, the laptop musician seeks to incorporate everything that has happened in music before his or her time into the same project. Not because he or she wants to or even has to, but because the technology allows it. With new drum machines that sound better than Abbey Road Studio session drumsticks themselves, guitar-amplification modeling, easily-downloaded software synths modeling both classic and cutting-edge synthesis, simple graphical user interfaces, and enough studio effects to make Rick Rubin blush, the future of sound will be found between the pixels on the computer screen.
“I’m personally into sound design and sample selection going after a particular aesthetic,” said Will Mitchell (aka Chill Mitchell) PO ’14 of his synthesis of music. “Also I love messing with different genres in the same context.” Residents that live near the Muddment have probably heard Mitchell’s music at some point. His professional-grade studio monitors can blast music at a clear, bright, and immersive 40 watts. According to Mitchell, he needs that power as he “spend[s] most of [his] time with the mixing and mastering process.”
Mitchell’s sound draws on his extensive background in music (he is an accomplished guitarist and classical violinist). However, most of his latest Logic Pro-created releases under the name Sassy City (http://soundcloud.com/sassy-city) have fallen somewhere between trip-hop beats mixed with seamless vocal sampling and vintage-sounding sine and rectangle wave analogue synthesizers.
“I start with whatever’s going to be the most important element of the groove,” Mitchell said. The sound is simply awesome and eclectic, yet truly responsive and comprehensive. “It’s tough having everything come out of your head, you lose some chemistry between your tracks not playing with someone else,” Mitchell continued.
Mitchell said that seeing artists such as Xaphoon Jones mix music on his laptop first got him interested in making music in the pixelated world. But Mitchell does worry for the future of music.
“I think the laptop studio and the internet are going to saturate the market for music with talented people so much. I don’t think I could make a living so I’m just trying to hold on to an awesome hobby for as long as possible,” he said.
With so much power in the hands of so many people today there is a huge influx of both great and horrible music. As consumers continue to download more music for free and pick and choose who to give their money to, there will be an intensified barrier between the mainstream and the progressive.
Jeremy Marks PO ‘14, on the other hand, sees the future of computer music as something completely different. “I want to bring emotion through sound. I want to make others feel my emotion through the usually-cold medium of the machine,” Marks said. Marks’s sound builds on itself very emotionally. Using Logic Pro, 80’s style bass lines, 808 and other drum machine percussion, and vocals beset with heavy reverb and delay, Marks brings together a huge range of different influences, melts them down, and coalesces them into an emotionally aural experience.
“Making music has always been a part of me and it will never leave,” Marks said. There is something truly magical and separatist about creating music from a tool usually used to write our papers.