Recent developments in synth technology are driving an explosion of experimentation with microtonal electronic music – and many of these experiments are showing up on YouTube.
Non-standard tunings may initially sound strange or out of tune. But moving beyond equal-tempered tuning opens up infinite tuning possibilities and alternate music traditions for musicians to explore.
Recently, we reported that Moog was making Microtuning Mainstream, by introducing the Phatty Tuner Alternate Scales Editor. The Alternate Scales Editor is a free download that lets owners of the Slim Phatty and Little Phatty retune individual notes of the scale. While microtonal support in synths is nothing new, it’s rare and a welcome feature.
The Synthanola punch-tape sequencer & synthesizer – an entry in the 555 contest – does its own version of Bach’s Inventions # 8 & 13.
The Synthanola is a three channel music synthesizer, not so well-tempered, capable of four octaves per chanel.
555’s are used to generate each octave for each voice (or channel). There are twelve 555 timer IC’s used for the synthesizer section and two more for tempo control and paper speed. It is sequenced by a Heathkit H-10 paper tape unit and programmed with a 486 PC running QBasic.
Frieze Magazine has published a article that takes a contrarian look at the musicality of Auto-Tune.
Author Jace Clayton first recognizes the fact that many musicians hate AutoTuned vocals:
Vocal purists hate Auto-Tune. They hear in its robotic modulations some combination of sugar-rush novelty, bulldozed nuance, jejune synthetics, loss of ‘soul’, disdain for innate vocal talent, teen-optimized histrionics, emotional anemia, and/or widespread musical decline. It’s ugly.
Discussing US R&B singer T-Pain’s Auto-Tune-aided hits in 2007, music critic Jody Rosen declared that, ‘T-Pain represents a kind of symbolic severing of African-American music from its traditional emotionalism […] the impassioned melismas that have powered black popular singing for decades are smoothed into synthetic gasps.’
Clayton goes on, though, to suggest that Auto-Tune is leading to a Man-Machine hybrid vocal style:
In an era of powerful computers that allow one to audition all manner of effects on vocals after the recording session, recording direct with Auto-Tune means full commitment. There is no longer an original ‘naked’ version. This is a cyborg embrace. In Cyborg Manifesto (1991), Donna Haraway notes that ‘the relation between organism and machine has been a border war.’ Auto-Tune’s creative deployment is fully compatible with her ‘argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.’
What do you think? Are there artists that you think are using Auto-Tune to create cyborg art?