Electrorganic Instruments (site draft)
( "electrorganic" is a working title. I hope we find a nicer name! )
This site is about ways to create rich music out of real instruments, on the spot. New, impressive, but not sterile.
Music that can easily go to any place and adapt to any need of the public in terms of volume, style and mood.
Its about exploring the full range of organic instruments with high technology and
about producing orchestral density with few such instruments.
Its about the dreams of the musicians who want to form sound by touching vibrating materials, but are not tied to the sounds those materials produce on standard acoustic instruments.
Its about becoming aware what our music serves for and what instrument is ideal for it.
Its about the opposite of triggering a sample from a keyboard.
do you prefer an explanation [could link to several places with different approaches]
- by sound examples (hard, because a lot is about the feel of the instrument...)
- by physics (just the minimum that a musician needs to understand about his instrument)
- by musical function (what do you really need to make music?)
- by an example instrument (you may have felt it but not put in full context!)
- by history (where we come from shows where we might go to)
or just an abstract:
What do we mean by electrorganic?
An Example: if you put a skin on an arrow, stick a pickup underneath and attach some effect electronics, you create an electrorganic instrument. Its NOT a controller: Any movements on the skin will be heard and always sound different. It can be built to sound similar to congas, but it will never sound the same, because there is no resonant wooden tube to it. In turn, the neutral skin vibration sounds interesting as is can be shaped to take over all kind of musical functions. It can replace all your skin instrument and it fits into your suitcase.
Of course, this same idea can be applied to any traditional instrument and most arrangement of materials that vibrate in some way. For the guitar it has become quite common, in various blends between more or less acoustic. And those "electro acoustic" guitars are mostly used directly to any sound system. so those we call electorganic.
There is a wide range of sounds philosophies and instruments between totally unpluged and totally digitally generated.
Mostly acoustic instruments are miked anyway and electronic music contains recordings of physical instruments.
Our proposal is right in the middle, taking the best of both sides.
The electrorganic idea is to leave the generator organic and replace the resonator by pickups and electronics.
The generator (string, tongue, reed, air tube...) is the part we need to control the sound!
The resonator is basically an accoustical amplifier (f.ex. apply the vibration of the fine string to a lot of air...) - but very lo-fi. You may like the resonating color, but its not essencial for your expression, its static and actually just limits your expression and sucks the sound energy from your generator (thats why electrorganic instruments have more sustain)!
Why all this?
Amplification is a grace, not only to make music as loud as we want and to spread it over huge crowds, but to make subtle fingering audible, to allow to use the instrument at the volume that it sounds best and to not stress the musician and to allow the creation of instruments which dont have resonancy bodies and therefore are smaller and as soft as we want.
Electronic music is the most simple to amplify, but sounds too cold for most ears.
Its hard to bring life into computer algorythms, and
its hard to create a controller which reacts as subtly and intuitive as a string, tongue or skin, and
its hard to extract control signals out of those materials without loosing the subtlety (at least MIDI is not capable)
-> we think the best is to put pickups near the string, tongue or skin to pick up the original vibration and transform it electronically, possibly even enhancing the dynamics and emphasizing subtle playing details.
Amplification alters the sound, yes, always... be it with microphones or pickups... but often improves it in some ways!
Why do we want that original sound so badly?
- because the composer thought of that sound (when possibly no others were available)
- because the musician practiced hearing that sound and adapted his playing technique to it
- because a sound source which the musician holds and vibrates all over the instrument is more complex, alive...
- because we are lazy to adapt to a new sound.
Any musician can tell how dificult it is to bring his sound over to the public.
And the engineers can tell how difficult it is to put the mic in the right spot.
And every time the musician plays in a new place it sounds different and another effort is done to make it work reasonably again. Very tiring for the public also.
-> We think the instument should be one with its pickup and electronic so the musician plays his instrument with the same sounds and feeling wherever he plugs it in. Thus the musician adapts his playing to the amplified instrument and does not long to some other "original" sound.
As opposed to organic instruments, controllers just send out simple commands like note start/end, volume, sound type...
The make a lot of sense together with organic instruments, mainly for foot operation.
To give the musician full control over the sounds of his instruments, the direct access to the generating material is not enough, he also needs to access parameters as intuitive and quick as possible. This started with drawbars and pedals in church organs and continued with pedal effects in the 60ies. Now we have fully programmable pedals and many more kinds of controllers to set any combinations of parameters we want - but to set all up is an effort we dont want to ask from any musician. Some love to create their own setups, others need plug'n'play.
Electrorganic instruments have more space to include controllers. This field has not been explored yet.
Why are such instrument rare in the shops?
In the 80ies, Korg created WaveDrum, pretty exactly the percussion instrument described above and anyone I meet that heard it is in love with it. But they stopped making it and the price went way up on eBay which tells me that those few who understood it badly want one! WaveDrum was maybe too expensive and at the time, fascination was focussed on electronic instruments. But today it could be done cheaper and many more ears would be prepared to hear it (after we have been wiped with loads of electronic sounds ;-)
Yet, the music industry concentrates on reproducing traditional sounds and digital generation of new sounds, leaving the most "healthy" way aside: create new sounds with organic instruments.
The musicians who dont accept the sterile digital sounds mostly hold on their old instruments and dont see the new options or how much easier it all would be if they did not insist in reproducing traditional sounds as well.
We hope to pool this consciousness and make such instruments avaliable and discuss their use in music.
here is an example of how people misunderstood "organic instrument" in 2004:
The idea of controller/sequencer/sound module started in the middle ages with music machines and organs.
The electrorganic started with guitars with magnetic pickups in the 40ies. But the technology was so limited that it defined new sound character like blues, jazz and rock guitar, amplifiers and overdriving and feedback techniques. So this recent tradition and all its virtual copies has its own problems and is talked about enough in other places.
This branch of the movement started in the 70ies when general sound equipment that reproduced pretty exactly and fully controllable effect machines became availble to the musicians. It meant "directly to desk" for guitarists, and it meant to find a pickup for most other instruments. The Piezo pickup helped a lot. Andreas Vollenweider built his harp with a piezo under each string and a damper. Tape loops were used to layer sounds. Effects like distortion, delay and many others started to be used with any instruments, not just guitar. In the 80ies, digital reverb gave the instruments a new space. And since then it has become gradually simpler to create such instruments because of quick digital processing and new materials for pickups and controllers and many create their instruments, but only electrorganic guitars are really popular.