Live ‘Switched-On’ Bach Performance On EWI & Moog Sub Phatty

Sunday Synth Jam: This video, via Chimy Music, captures a live ‘switched-on’ style performance of the Bach Two-Part Invention No. 15 in B minor, BWV 786.

Dan Chmielinski and Chase Baird perform the piece using an EWI-controlled Prophet ’08 and Moog Sub Phatty.

“We both think Bach would have been a middle-aged, ponytailed synth nerd,” notes Chmielinski.

15 thoughts on “Live ‘Switched-On’ Bach Performance On EWI & Moog Sub Phatty

  1. It’s easy to chide electronic musicians for making harmonically and melodically uninteresting music (and indeed, most do), but similarly, most classical and jazz musicians don’t seem to pay any attention to sound. I remember having a discussion once with a jazz musician who made me sit through some Miles Davis tracks from the 80s. In the end I told him that I couldn’t listen past the ridiculously cheesy sounds. He agreed, but told me I should listen to the music, not to the sound. That’s how separated sound seems to be for a lot of classical and jazz musicians in my experience.

    1. I’m not sure I understand how “most classical and jazz musicians don’t seem to pay any attention to sound.” Really? Classical players don’t pay attention to the sound of their instruments, both intonation and timbre? All professional musicians (and most amateur musicians) work hard to find the best sounding instruments they can possible afford. Miles Davis himself had a rare-ish trumpet model which now sells for between $10k and $70k at auction. If you are referring to the quality of the recording, that is not really up to the musician, but the engineers, studio and label. Jazz guitarists starting in the late 50s also spent a lot of time refining their “sound” between the type of strings, make and model of guitar and amp, fingerstyle or pick. Classical guitarists, same deal…tonewood, fingernails, body position, bracing, strings…it’s ALL about the sound.

      1. Hi Graham – “Classical players don’t pay attention to the sound of their instruments, both intonation and timbre?” Of course they do. There’s such a thing a a great sounding instrument and one that does not. And then there are many ways to refine your playing to make that instrument sound even better. But once classical/jazz players move beyond the sound of their own instrument (of which the sound and playing techniques are often part of a very long tradition), they seem to be at a loss. This is where electronic musicians have a big advantage in my opinion. Timbre is their playground. Somehow classical/jazz musicians have been trained to work with the finest details of harmony and melody, but when it comes to sound in general (so not the sound of their own instrument), their sensibilities just don’t seem to be that well developed. This video is a perfect illustration of that. I mean… as far as I can tell, these guys know how to play. But this would probably sound 1000 times better when they played their own instruments, where they know how to intone to make them blend better together. Their sound selection skills here don’t match their playing skills. By far.

        ” If you are referring to the quality of the recording, that is not really up to the musician, but the engineers, studio and label.” I don’t agree with that. A lot of classic jazz recordings were made by just having the musicians play and putting the mics in the right place. The sound there was almost 100% what the musicians produced, it was documentary. Also, the deeper you get into mixing and mastering, the more you realize that in the end the source material is the biggest factor in the sound of your end product. I’m pretty confident that Miles Davis had a big (but agreed, not the only) voice in how his 80s records came out in the end.

        1. Indeed I thought the choices of voicing in this case were pretty distracting and didn’t feel appropriate to the material. I think if you listen to some of the fusion players like Eddie Jobson you would definitely hear a difference in the sonic quality. There are a lot of players more on the fringe of traditional jazz or classical that are doing sonically interesting things.

          If you want to stretch the definition of classical to include “orchestral” there is a huge amount of sonic exploration happening in both film and gale soundtracks which often use the classical/orchestral vocabulary but push its boundaries with sound design.

          It’s a difficult comparison simply saying “jazz” or “classical” since genre-specific designations pretty much define that they won’t be sonically diverse. Pretty much like folk, bluegrass, blues and rock. Most genres of pop music faded in being truly adventurous at the end of the 70s and didn’t start getting sonically interesting again until the beginnings or edm. I would say, however, that the lack of rhythmic diversity in edm is still a challenge regardless of the timbral variety.

        2. Putting classical and jazz musicians in same group is a mistake at first. Classical players plays old pieces written for acoustical instruments, most of their training is based about improving technical skills on their instrument. You could play classical music with modern synths if you want but you could also play hip hop with orchestra ensemble. At the end mixing oscillators could be viewed as playing instruments together, when a piece were written, some parts are the exact same played by different instruments, this is looking for timbre and intonation as a whole for the piece of music.
          Jazz is different as it started with acoustical instruments but also involved lot of electronic gears later. Why do you think lot of jazz pianist embraced the Rhodes and Wurlitzer ? That’s because they were looking for something different in their sound than just a classical piano. Even those Rhodes were modified to reach what the player was looking for. Have you heard about Herbie Hancock ? That guy is pure jazz and was using synths not just for playing bass and lead… Pedals are used by lot of jazz guitarists, that’s for sound variety. Miles Davis were one of the first famous jazz leader to use drum machine.

          1. Hi Vernon – I think they are in the same category, they both treat sound as coming from an instrument that they play. It doesn’t matter if that instrument is electronic, a synth, electric piano, some renaissance violin or a modern trumpet.

            Electronic music doesn’t need players, and therein lies its freedom. It can be all about timbre, without being limited to what a player can produce on an instrument. Over the years sensibilities have developed in pure electronic music that are often lost on players.

  2. I think Bach WAS a ponytailed synth nerd! Between the church, the court, and contract labor maintaining organs, Bach raised his family. To pull this off in his time, without leaving his beloved forest, is truly remarkable. Today, we would find him at Messe pedaling his own eurorack designs.

  3. I know there’s a trend to see classical composers as staid old men who would be yelling “Get off my lawn!”, but in their respective day THEY were the forefront of pushing the sounds that could be produced to make music with, and I have a feeling if you plopped Bach or Mozart down in a room full of modern gear with handbooks on how to work it, an hour later you’d return to the next JMJ.

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