by Empty Vessel

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Inspired by discussion in the Electronic Music Philosophy Facebook group ( and thoughts on composition, habits, likes, dislikes and ego I set out to challenge myself to make a piece of music I disliked, hated even.

The Process
After some thought I decided setting out to literally compose something I hated was impossible or certainly very hard, so I set out to create a framework for composition that seemed likely to result in something I’d dislike. Something that would take most decisions out of my hands so I had little or no artistic influence on the result, the only way I could see to make something I disliked.
Meaning no disrespect to modular experimenters, I’m no great fan of the ‘blips n bloops’ style of music which makes up some of the output of modular synth-equiped studios. So blips & bloops it was to be, then. Long tracks of generative, guided noises from an appropriate source. (I am aware, and a great fan, of many Eurorack musicians, it’s really just the style of tracks that sound like someone jammed a load of patch cables in random places, hit record and then went down the pub I’m less fond of)

I chose West, a Buchla-inspired Reaktor ensemble created by my talented friend Icaro Ferre. In part because I’m not that knowledgeable or comfortable with the west coast modules and from playing with it previously I felt like it offered plenty of Sources of Uncertainty to give the machine a life of its own and to take artistic decisions away from me.

Patch 1 - the ‘Transmission’ was my opening patch with the instrument, my communication to the machine, my first words in this new alien world. The patch is performed live in one take with much tweaking throughout it’s slightly uncomfortable length.
The 2nd patch - ‘Reception’ is the result of several randomisations of the initial patch - i.e. the machine’s interpretation and attempt to comprehend the Transmission. This patch was initially quite a brief (1 minute or so) collection of percussive noises. In order to annoy myself further I stretched this out to 10 times it’s original length. Sadly, or not, I rather like the results.
Patch 3 - ‘Response’. Further randomisations led to this patch which represents the machine’s reply to me.
Patch 4 - ‘Dialogue’. By this stage I’m feeling like the machine and I have reached an understanding and are entering into dialogue based on the beginnings of a mutual understanding. Some tweaking from my side and considerable uncertainty on the part of the machine contribute to the movement and variation.

Do I hate the end result? As I suspected when I started this, no I don’t. I quite like bits of it, elements if not the whole tracks. Have I learned anything from the its creation? Yes I have.
Making quick decisions when they were needed, although based on picking a path to annoy myself, still led to quick decisions. This EP came together in just a few hours, including mastering which was fairly easy and just involved some gentle compression and a limiter to catch any errant peaks on the already normalised tracks, a touch of Valhalla Vintageverb gave some suitable ambience in parts.
Because I was focussed on the task of making something I disliked I wasn’t thinking about the potential reception for the end product, just the process of making it. This definitely led to a feeling of artistic freedom which I hope to carry onto other projects.
It was good to break out of the habitual repetitive behaviour that 40 years of playing keyboards and composing lead to. It was great to discover Icaro’s lovely ensemble more intimately and to feel challenged and excited by making what turned into an EP, in a relatively limited environment. Creating something I wouldn’t normally listen to feels like it has broadened my musical palate. There are a lot of other benefits from this process but I won’t ramble any longer than I already have.

Is it an amazing EP? Is it rubbish?. If nothing else I hope it is at least polarising, that it at least provokes SOME reaction. I quite like it and I enjoyed the process of making it and definitely plan to think up more ways to do this kind of thing and get back to the process of freely creating in the musical equivalent of dancing like nobody is watching.

Any feedback or thoughtful criticism is welcomed in the Philosophy Facebook group.
You can find Icaro’s great ensemble here:

If you feel like buying a copy to help me buy a coffee or two to fuel more experiments like this, your support is very much appreciated.


released February 21, 2017



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Empty Vessel New Zealand

Musician, Synthesist, Sound Designer, Photographer, Climber, Writer, Hippie.

Programming synths for a long time now, all the music shared here is made with a series of single synthesisers - exploring the sonic character of each instrument.

Every sound is programmed from scratch. I'm not sure anyone notices or cares but it makes me happy :)
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