Tag Archives: Wendy Carlos

This is Not Us – On Moog, Asheville, and North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law

Moog responded to NC Anti-LGBT law by posting a picture of Wendy Carlos and Bob Moog, who were lifelong friends.
Moog responded to NC Anti-LGBT law by posting a picture of Wendy Carlos and Bob Moog, who were lifelong friends.

On Wednesday the North Carolina’s GOP legislature and governor crammed through a virulent anti-lgbt law. This law not only stripped localities of their local anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but also included many specific anti-trans provisions.

For those who do not know North Carolina politics in the last few years, there has been an increasing gulf between the mostly liberal cities, and the arch-conservative GOP state legislature and governor. I highly suggest people to look up “Moral Mondays” to see how contested this has been. Asheville, where Moog Music and Make Noise music is located is very liberal city which includes many of these protections.

The response from Moog, well was pretty much perfect. Wendy Carlos is a trans woman who was Robert Moog’s lifelong friend. The picture is a deeply symbolic response. When Moog says they synthesize inclusion, they mean it. Wendy helped raise the profile of Moog, and synthesizers. Her “Switched On” classical albums basically exploded the popularity of synthesizers in popular music. To explain how popular these albums were, one must consider they have few real rivals. There are few albums that changed music forever, Switched on Bach was one of them. Moog and Moog Music has supported and promoted many LGBTQ artists over the years, Wendy was just the first.

This is the point, I get the calls for a boycott, I really do. I am pissed as hell about this law as a queer person. But by boycotting  some companies in NC, we may in fact be hurting the companies that will be in the front lines fighting against this legislation. Moog being one of them. There may be no better corporate ally with regards to these anti-LGBT provisions than Moog. Moog holds a massive music festival in NC, and has made NC a destination for many musicians who come through the state visiting their factory and Asheville. When they say #Thisisnotus they mean it. The fly by night efforts of the NC legislature’s exercise in bigoted anti-lgbtq law making should not be used against the very real efforts by NC businesses and cities which are trying to make themselves inclusive places. These are allies in the fight against intolerance, and they should be supported, not boycotted. I am not saying “don’t boycott”, but rather be selective. We need to boycott the money and businesses behind the intolerance, but we also need to  support those who are or will be fighting it.

EDIT: Moog Music’s Full Statement

Friends of Moog Music,

North Carolina has been home to Moog since 1978. We treasure the community we live and work in,however we strongly object to House Bill 2, which sanctions discrimination against members of our family.

As an employee-owned company, we are a group of wonderfully diverse individuals who share a passion for designing inspirational tools. Bob Moog believed, as do we, that the most beautiful and innovative solutions evolve from harnessing the collective power of divergent ideas and perspectives. Exclusion limits our path to progress and denies our living connection to each other.

The Moog factory and Moogfest are, and always will be, safe and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ community and their allies.

Synthesize Love,

Moog

 

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.