Electronic Calculations: Music of the Future

Laughter can be heard over the sound of synthesizers and drums. Eric Troiano, a young drummer from Long Island, New York, watches his favorite drummers on YouTube. He sits at his desk in his dorm room, viewing musical brilliance on his 11-inch laptop screen.

He admires drummers like Zach Danziger. Danziger has electronic pads and triggers incorporated within his acoustic drum setup.

Troiano pauses the video. “He is a true artist,” Troiano says. “Think of other drummers that do that … you can’t.”

Troiano has been drumming since his freshman year in high school. The first time he heard electronics in music was from mainstream artists.

“Travis Scott and Kanye West use samples all the time,” Troiano mentions. “You can hear them sample old Michael Jackson songs. People love it. It’s not my thing, but it’s well-produced. The way Zach Danziger does it is so musical.”

In an interview with Modern Drummer magazine, Danziger gave readers a view into his rig. Danziger sets up his sound through a Macbook Pro running Ableton Live. He uses electronic drum pads made by Keith McMillen Instruments.

He also uses MIDI, a digital interface, which connects a wide variety of electronic instruments and computers.

Danziger plays alongside bass player Owen Biddle in their project, Edit Bunker. The two musicians trigger chords and other sounds and samples while improvising together. All of this is triggered through the duo’s computers and MIDI system.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.21.09 PM
A typical MIDI keyboard made by Arturia. Photo by Anthony Bubbico.

Whether it be artists like Kanye West, Porcupine Tree or Zach Danziger, it seems like musicians can’t get enough of this new technology. However, electronic instruments are nothing new.

Electronic music can be traced back decades. The theremin was created in 1928. It is an electronic instrument that utilizes no physical contact from the performer. The instrument’s control sections include two antennas and two control oscillators, one for frequency and one for volume.

The Theremin can be heard on the movie soundtrack, “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” The soundtrack was performed by Bernard Herrmann, who created an eerie atmosphere for the science-fiction classic.

Years later, horror-film director, John Carpenter would utilize electronics for his film soundtracks. His films include “Halloween” and “The Fog and Escape from New York.” Carpenter used an array of synthesizers and keyboards.

Synthesizers can be traced back to the ‘30s and ‘40s. However, this instrument came into prominence in the 1980s. Bands such as Depeche Mode utilized the new technology. Even the progressive rock band, Rush, began to use synthesizers in the early 1980s.

James Maloney, a bass player from Long Island, New York, has seen the ups and downs of the new technology. Maloney played in several heavy metal bands, including Point Blank and Toxic Shock.

“I don’t see a problem with bands using synths,” Maloney said. “They can add something that can’t really be made on other instruments. Even using them to sound like an orchestra is fine I think because of financial restraints.”

Maloney does draw the line at some points. “Now using electronics in the studio to enhance or correct a whole performance, or cut and paste a part where it belongs through a whole song is deceitful to me,” Maloney said. “But that’s my musician point-of-view.”

Maloney emphasized that he is not of fan of letting the technology “perform the part.” He prefers real musicians operating electronics in real-time.

Turan Yagublu, a 19-year-old guitar player attending SUNY Plattsburgh, has come to embrace the music technology of today.

“A very large majority of my favorite progressive rock bands use synthesizers,” Yagublu said. His favorite bands include Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Riverside.

“Synthesizers are almost the main focus of the music,” Yagublu said. “And they occasionally use drum machines. In my opinion, doing so brings a flavor to the music that they make.”

Yagublu counts these electronics as instruments. “I believe each instrument has a uniqueness,” Yagublu said.

Troiano feels that with electronics, we will never run out of music. “We all know what a guitar sounds like,” Troiano said. “Sonically electronics are different. It’s pleasing to the ear.”

 

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