Tag Archives: PraxisCat

Spotify Sucks

Spotify Sucks
Spotify Sucks

If you have not heard from musicians, Spotify does indeed suck. Many artists over the past couple of years have complained about the paltry revenues from streaming. This is no joke.  Per song streamed on Spotify, I as an indie artist through Distrokid make  $0.00080.  By all measures this sucks. Pandora is also especially awful. If you are asking do other services do better, yes, yes they do. This is why it is worth it to spend $8 – $10 elsewhere, and well, go with something that actually generates meaningful revenue for artists.

Several services pay about a penny or more per song stream, though it tends to fluctuate a bit.  Google Play All Access being one of the prime examples as it pays at least a penny per song streamed.  While this may not seem large, in aggregate it can add up to a decent living. I am not sure how well Apple’s new service pays though, my hope is they have a similar or better pay model. The two biggest advantages of both Google Play and Apple Music is they both offer a purchase option as well.

I am not looking to become a millionaire off my experimental electronic music.  PraxisCat is honestly too weird for most people to ever achieve mass popularity. But when you hear people complain about Spotify and Pandora and the terrible streaming royalties per song with these services, they are not telling a lie.  But what has not been talked about is the fact there are far better options out there, and it is worthwhile to do the research to see who is providing musicians a living, and who is literally starving them. I know millionaire pop artists are not the best people to complain about this. I am not a millionaire pop artist, neither are many of the people I know those making music and selling it over the interwebs, playing shows at your local venues, and making music we care about deeply.  Spotify does indeed suck, this is one of those few instances where the pop stars, and working musicians agree.  The economics of streaming are not as good as people buying albums, but if you must stream, do your research, and find out how much artists are getting from each song streamed. I am going with Google Play myself, but this is because I know how much artists are getting from it.

PraxisCat / MsModular

Live Performance with Modular and Esoteric Electronic Instruments

Last night I performed at the Goethe Institute in DC as part of DC Listening Lounge’s annual event Sound Scene. My usual performance rig as PraxisCat is Serge format modular synth panels (4U), and a Ciat-Lonbarde Dousk.

Modular synthesizer instruments are usually known for their studio capabilities, but in terms of live performance they were often avoided because from a traditionalist perspective making them “repeatable” is a difficult task. Those who embrace more improvisational methods in terms of electronic and experimental performance though have embraced them for just this element of unpredictability, myself included.

The big thing is keeping an open mind in terms of musical performance if one does tend to take on both modular instruments, as well as more esoteric instruments. This is both true for the audience and performer. Performance will never be the same twice, and the nature of the music itself will sometimes pull one outside of their comfort zone.  Noise, varying frequencies, arrhythmic music, are all likely elements when seeing somebody with a modular instrument perform.  This is likewise the case when one brings in esoteric electronic instruments as well.  There is an embrace of the beauty of chaos in music.

The great thing about performing with such instruments is the fact that what this can bring is a sense of newness with seeing an artist each time, even though they may be using the same equipment their approach on that given night may wildly vary.

Electronic Music Without The Dance

I have written about synthesizers extensively at this point, but I think it is time to bring up electronic music itself. While electronic dance music has exploded in popularity, I think when one approaches electronic instruments they should not feel limited to making such music. The beauty of electronic music is the fact it can be expansive in scope, it has unlimited potential. One can approach synthesis as a way to make music one loves, or to expound the boundaries of what is considered music.

Electronic music has modern classicists like Wendy Carlos and Suzanne Ciani, it also has deep roots in the Avant Garde. In fact much of early Avant Garde music was produced with electronic instruments and techniques. The technological innovation of these instruments was coming out of participants in the avant-garde community. Some of these instruments were solely created by and used by composers, Daphne Oram’s Oramics synthesizer being a prime example. Others, like Don Buchla’s modular synthesizer found a wider commercial market. The intent of both the instrument maker and those playing the instruments  was to push the boundaries of music with these new concepts, and to create unique sounds and experiences.

Electronic music works within the bounds of existing and potential technology for sound. This can be as simple as a tape player, or as complex as an artificial intelligence.  The reality is there really is no right way to make electronic music, and no wrong way.  There may be a right way or wrong way to operate equipment, but that is all.  Electronic music does not have to follow the  constraints of notes, rhythm, and melody. Musique Concrete, noise, and drone are all legitimate forms of musical expression, in electronic music. As such synthesizers can take on many forms, and the instruments themselves can become as abstract and strange as the music. Music is nothing more than intentionally presented sound, how that music is intentionally presented is only limited by invention and imagination. What the listener gets out of these sounds comes from our pattern matching biases as a species. which is by in large, subjective.

What an electronic musician does is use technology to present that sound of intent. This can be to evoke a response, such as fear or agitation, or to make a person dance by presenting a structured melody and rhythm.  While traditional musical knowledge can help in that presentation, so does learning how to use the underlying technology and it’s limits.

My Own Musical Philosophy and Approach

For the past few years I have had an electronic music project myself called PraxisCat, here is a sampling.

I should note, I composed much of this album on a unique modular/semi-modular instrument made for me by Peter Blasser of Ciat-Lonbarde called a Dousk. My interest in modular synthesizers largely stems from having instruments that match both my workflow and philosophy, the dousk is one of the primary instruments I play these days.

My Ciat-Lonbarde Dousk.
My Ciat-Lonbarde Dousk.

 

My own music is not notational, it is more sculptural, organic, or mechanical. It is laid out in a forest of patch cords, or waves on my computer screen, and the effects I use to refine my sound. The goal is not to even have a clear structure around the music I present. I embrace the more chaotic and unpredictable elements of music to present a mood, feeling, or even a sense of place.

I have a very good understanding of my instruments and how they work and can sound, this is especially true with my synthesizers. I have also been playing musical instruments for years, and took years to develop the music I make now.  I have a pure obsession about learning about synthesis and sound design, and have very clear concepts of the type of music I wish to make.  While I do take on some aspects of musique concrete, ambient, and radiophonics,but I am not limiting myself to that history, or those constraints. While I bring chaos into my compositions, that does not mean I do not interlace it with melodies, and more rythmic elements to bring a sense of order or beauty.

I am an avant-garde composer and musician, and I compose and perform with musical happenstance, sequences, and noise. The point is to present the beauty in the seemingly random, or just as often, to make weird and interesting music.