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Linear vs Non-Linear way of making music


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People like Sean from Autechre always seem to bash on people that making music in a Linear way.
It is extremely limited compared to making music In a non-Linear way according to him.

I wonder.. In what way is it more limited? Linear-music making is also created with sounds/noise made in a amount of time right? Do you unlock more time if you get it done in Non-Linear way?

What way is the best way to sequence music ? 

How do you sequence your music if not the traditional way?

Peace 
 

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Got any quotes from ae saying this?

I'm not really sure what making music in a non linear way is, do you mean making the different sections of it out of order and then putting them together in a different order to how you made them?

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16 minutes ago, vkxwz said:

Got any quotes from ae saying this?

I'm not really sure what making music in a non linear way is, do you mean making the different sections of it out of order and then putting them together in a different order to how you made them?

First of: I was reading alot of Ae interviews yesterday and Sean keeps coming back to that topic very often:

"And the conventions of the home studios of electronic music seem to us largely absurd! Don't talk to me about MIDI, DAW, keyboard. All this slows everyone down." - Sean

"That does not mean that I can not appreciate music made from a cool synth and a great drum machine. But it would require such a mindfuck to come back to something so linear and limited" - Sean 

From that Japanese interview. 

If you put up a drum sequence on a 16 step drum machine you go linear that means "Start" on first step then going to the right.

Kick

1 . . . 5 . . . 9 . . . 13 . . . 

Snare
  . . .  5 . . .    . . . 13 . . . 

Etc.. Linear like in a DAW.

Non-linear is only about time.. You don't go from start to the right in a sequence. that menas you sequence it just by building your sounds then execute them over the time. 

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1 hour ago, cern said:

How do you sequence your music if not the traditional way?

generative and deterministic techniques? 

i.e. getting away from the idea of putting notes into a piano roll/grid, editing automation, blocks on a timeline etc - instead designing and building "machines" that operate on a specific internal logic, and with parameters you or another machine can control that influence what comes out. 

the idea being that you can set the outline of what kind of thing you want, but the machines do the heavy lifting.  and if it sounds crap, change the machine or build something else

e.g. I want some events to take place, I'd like them to occur approximately 8 times over the next 10 seconds/2 bars, I'd like one of the events to always occur at the start of bar 1, but the rest can happen at any time, quantised to 1/16th of a bar except for the 2nd half of the second bar where the quantisation is a 32nd of a bar, and I'd like those events to be notes in the scale of C minor, and I'd like approximately 1/3 of the notes to be played on a piano, and the rest of the notes to be played on one of a group of 3 phlanged harps in different spatial locations, chosen at random, and whose phlanginess I'm controlling using a knob on my kenton killamix controller

you know, that kind of thing..

 

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2 minutes ago, xy_politics said:

>Sounds.like busking with a malfunctioning looper is up their alley then? 
FTFY

I wonder how many new instruments can be invented.  the space must be enormous.  imagine a "beatboxing synthesizer" or something that uses audio analysis to detect trigger events that set off modifications to a stateful model of sound reproduction loops or something.  i bet a good beatboxer could learn deep behaviors of the system without even explaining how they actually work, through intuitively playing with it

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3 minutes ago, ilqx hermolia xpli said:

I wonder how many new instruments can be invented.  the space must be enormous.  imagine a "beatboxing synthesizer" or something that uses audio analysis to detect trigger events that set off modifications to a stateful model of sound reproduction loops or something.  i bet a good beatboxer could learn deep behaviors of the system without even explaining how they actually work, through intuitively playing with it

Some nerd somewhere did that in 1996

..that's my default assumption whenever I feel the temptation to believe I've invented anything new

it's held pretty steadfast so far

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3 minutes ago, xy_politics said:

Some nerd somewhere did that in 1996

..that's my default assumption whenever I feel the temptation to believe I've invented anything new

it's held pretty steadfast so far

haha i am sure it has been done

but where is it standardized and commodified... i'd like to see.  i'm sure there is maybe something

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Im not convinced that the algorithmic approach is worth the hassle tbh! Yes, you can be much quicker later, but to master it well enough you need years of struggle with the theory, try-and-erroring, programming and debugging. Maybe if you have 20 years for just doing that, every day, whole day…  but who can afford that? Some ppl are extraordinarily talented and they somehow manage to materialize music from algorithms easier and quicker than the rest of us; we see that with some watmmers too. Some ppl are already prolific in programming, like William Fields, so it’s easier for them from the get go.
Anyway, for simpler music styles you can fairly quickly start making algorithmic music, you can even dl half-finished templates but then you start questioning yourself by thinking who am i kidding here? why am I doing this when I can just use my 606 and a stupid little synth and it’d be more fun and it’d sound more organic? 
So it’s a function of time, talent, knowledge, musical style and approach to creation regarding the compositional action-reaction loop

Edited by xox
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algorthmic stuff is great for inspiration at the start of a track. find some loop you like and expand it. a bit like sampling

doesn't have to be really advanced stuff either, lotsa cool stuff can come out of something simple like a turing machine, or a looped s+h through a quantizer.

etc ! ! !

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The whole "nonlinear/linear" dichotomy breaks down pretty quickly if you try to come up with examples.

 

But that AE quote isn't really about msuic anyway, it's abotu equipment.

 

The linear/nonlinear dichotomy breaks down pretty easily in that case, too, but not quite as quickly.

 

 

Anyway, a Bach cantata was created through an iterative process of improvising, transcribing improvisations, improvising on the transcriptions, retranscribing, and repeating until the piece was "done." A piece of pure stochastic music is made by devising an algorithm (through an iterative process of coding and testing) that produces sounds over a period of time between when it starts and stops running and that's a performance of the piece. Is one more "linear" than the other?  Or delineating between "linear" and "non-linear" a complete waste of time if you aren't talking about sequencer UI design?

 

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I don't think the problem lies in the music being quantised to a grid but how you approach the grid creatively. Look at AFXs recent live sets for example, 4 to the floor dance music but with loads of intricate fills with their own rules sprinkled on top.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/18/2022 at 10:27 AM, chronical said:

I don't think the problem lies in the music being quantised to a grid but how you approach the grid creatively. Look at AFXs recent live sets for example, 4 to the floor dance music but with loads of intricate fills with their own rules sprinkled on top.

Yeah but i think AE cant just go back to this. And even if you are super creative, the grid and closed processed equipment WILL shape your sound in a certain way and limit your ideas in a certain way.

"That does not mean that I can not appreciate music made from a cool synth and a great drum machine. But it would require such a mindfuck to come back to something so linear and limited"

They have tasted the MAX-MSP open flow, which has almost no limits, its kinda hard to go back to a 16 step sequencers looping when youve pushed sounds that evolve and behave in a much more organic way.

(personally i can love both but i can understand AE views on this)

 

Edited by thefxbip
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In a software like MAX or with things like complex modular patches (and with free impro as well) you can have time and modulation and sequences behave in a radically more open and free fashion than lets say on a simple normal drum machine. You can run multi-tempo sequences, have the meter change and modulate, frequency mod do really wild things, all of them independently, more or less, of a single grid, to your taste. You can have ten grids running together if you wish. You can bend them, modulating each of their speed. Gives you a far less ''square'' sound with clear cut sections switching on lines, behaving likes fixed concrete and instead sound moves around with a more organic feel, and act like an entity constantly metamorphosing on all parameters.

This gives you a palette of sound and possibilities of structures that are way wilder.

Edited by thefxbip
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Basically you can stretch time in multiple speeds instead of one speed. And have sound staying abstract and open and instead of forcing it to follow an overimposed strict line and have it stick to a fixed grid as much.

Or you can at least combine them in a single track, have multiple time narratives flowing seamlessly (or disorderly) at the same time, its not bound so much to a single linear process, it constantly is moving all across the board.

It's like relativity vs newton physics. One accept only a single time scale and the other is more open to multiple trajectories.

This is my take on it anyway.

 

Edited by thefxbip
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Also im pretty sure AE mentioned they dont use random algorithms/ randomizers much because each time you run them they sound too different and you lose control of the direction things are going and it gives you a less focused sound.

They probably set up dozens of modulations moving in all directions and different speeds but it's still very much controlled. Not in the way that they control every step and every moment the same way someone like AFX does but they control every PROCESS the sound goes through very tightly and they way they are entangled together.

I really think the difference between linear or non-linear way of working, is the difference and the focus on process vs just sequencing and recording. AE use different techniques to have the structure and underlying pulse of the track itself be in constant modulation where AFX just straight out will sequence, order and fix every single moment in concrete with sequencers or in a timeline DAW.

Ive done both and you get a different rush from each. But the non-linear process is a bit more open to novelty and surprises.

Edited by thefxbip
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Linear and nonlinear editing are terms from the film world, aren't they? Film is nonlinear in that it can be cut and spliced freely, frame by frame and off-line, while videotape needs to have all clips prepared and sequenced in secondary storage before they are commited to the master tape in real-time. 

Anyway, there's music gear that lets you work in both ways, like the Monomachine and the Machinedrum. You work "linearly" on the patterns (ie plotting in each event into their alloted 1/16th time slot), and then the song mode lets you skip freely/nonlinearly within each pattern, looping any sub-pattern as you wish, changing the tempo as you wish, etc.

Very powerful stuff for a classic hardware sequencer. You can do real polyrhythms (not just polymeters) or remix a single 16 step pattern into endless variations. Unfortunately Elektron have ditched these features in all their boxes since the Octatrack. 

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I've been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to figure out what they meant. I think "linear vs. nonlinear" can be applied to a lot of different aspects of music, such as the structure of the finished piece, the composing process, or at the technical level with devices. One easy way in which you can (and maybe should?) make music non-linearly is by not having an end goal in mind. You can also rearrange things drastically, or process sounds so far they completely change the feel.

@fxbip While reproducibility is important for the larger aspects of a piece (or is it?), having aleatoric components in a song can add to the fun and also speed up your workflow, which can help you get and stay in the zone longer. I sometimes do things like loading hundreds of snare drum samples into a sampler and having them randomly selected on each hit. It's true that each time I export my track it's a little different, but I can produce variants until I find one that sits well with me. It's not much different from having a human drummer, if you think about it. Same for having a % chance of a note being played.

Also, regarding being locked into a grid with most DAWs, that's true to an extent, and I used to feel constrained by it, but I've come to see that it's actually not a bad thing. You can still introduce whatever time signatures and polyrhythms you want, or totally disregard the grid. The concept of a sequencer/timeline is integral to me, as music only exists in time. I guess I can't really fathom just completely programming a song without using some sort of visual representation of the events within it across time. I've tried working with PureData but I struggled to make simple sounds and gave up. If anybody has any experience doing this, I'd love to see how you do it.

One thing I will say is that, at least to my mind, there's a limit in terms of the processing of musical patterns. Some amount of predictability/repetition is needed even in experimental songs. I mean, any periodic waveform has repetition in it, but I mean at the compositional level. Autechre has made some of my favorite tracks and is a huge inspiration, but sometimes I hear a really cool sound and I think, "man, I hope they do that bit again". Nope. Once per 10 minute track. It's too bad that they seem extremely opposed to revisiting old territory, like their more catchy songs on Tri Repetae. That lowpass-filter-cutoff-modulated saw line which is sort of like a chorus in Clipper is so amazing in its simplicity.

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1 hour ago, Summon Dot E X E said:

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to figure out what they meant. I think "linear vs. nonlinear" can be applied to a lot of different aspects of music, such as the structure of the finished piece, the composing process, or at the technical level with devices. One easy way in which you can (and maybe should?) make music non-linearly is by not having an end goal in mind. You can also rearrange things drastically, or process sounds so far they completely change the feel.

@fxbip While reproducibility is important for the larger aspects of a piece (or is it?), having aleatoric components in a song can add to the fun and also speed up your workflow, which can help you get and stay in the zone longer. I sometimes do things like loading hundreds of snare drum samples into a sampler and having them randomly selected on each hit. It's true that each time I export my track it's a little different, but I can produce variants until I find one that sits well with me. It's not much different from having a human drummer, if you think about it. Same for having a % chance of a note being played.

Also, regarding being locked into a grid with most DAWs, that's true to an extent, and I used to feel constrained by it, but I've come to see that it's actually not a bad thing. You can still introduce whatever time signatures and polyrhythms you want, or totally disregard the grid. The concept of a sequencer/timeline is integral to me, as music only exists in time. I guess I can't really fathom just completely programming a song without using some sort of visual representation of the events within it across time. I've tried working with PureData but I struggled to make simple sounds and gave up. If anybody has any experience doing this, I'd love to see how you do it.

One thing I will say is that, at least to my mind, there's a limit in terms of the processing of musical patterns. Some amount of predictability/repetition is needed even in experimental songs. I mean, any periodic waveform has repetition in it, but I mean at the compositional level. Autechre has made some of my favorite tracks and is a huge inspiration, but sometimes I hear a really cool sound and I think, "man, I hope they do that bit again". Nope. Once per 10 minute track. It's too bad that they seem extremely opposed to revisiting old territory, like their more catchy songs on Tri Repetae. That lowpass-filter-cutoff-modulated saw line which is sort of like a chorus in Clipper is so amazing in its simplicity.

Yeah i prefer chaotic improv or LFO modulation but a random LFO can be useful.

The problem is when you want something to have a certain sound and it renders differently because of it. If you make the conscious choice to have this impredictable element it can be useful for surprises. Especially if you pre-render it in the project and that surprised is fixed like you need it.

I think the big difference is DAW linear views VS patch format in Autechre. Jamming a patch is VERY different from recording tracks and the timeline process.

I think things like very basic tape recording back in the day had some of the same qualities of openness as a patch does. When you listen to early electronics they couldn't sync as much as now but they took the apparent downside and weakness of this gridless process and used it to their advantage to find new ideas and explore free structures. And it changed music forever.

I disagree about predictability/repetition in experimental songs tho. If you go into really hardcore experimental some of them barely ever repeat. (remember that good ol' Stockhausen remark hahaha)

Edited by thefxbip
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On 3/28/2022 at 9:20 PM, thefxbip said:

pretty sure thats all they use, and its been that way for a while

They're also using a bit of Ableton now (presumably for Max hosting and for sequencing) as well -

https://forum.watmm.com/topic/50162-autechre-interviews/page/7/#comment-2854119

What did you program?

SB: Actually, we mainly transferred our existing patches to Ableton. The reason for this was that we were asked to do a remix for SOPHIE. At that time, we couldn't process our stems in the live setup.

RB: It was designed too much for real time.

SB: For the remix, I transferred a few of the patches to Ableton and started to dig into them. Finding myself in context. I hadn't worked with a DAW in years before. I actually didn't want to.
RB: We actually use DAWs more to master our tracks. So that was a more compositional approach to our real-time setup.

SB: We practically did live jams for NTS, the elseq parts and Exai. For an hour or so, then boiled it down into tracks, then put some layers on top, for example from other live jams, and then coded the track. That worked well.

And how did it go this time?

SB: We built it up layer by layer, very gradually, in Ableton. I don't like Ableton that much, but it supports Max / MSP patches. And then we haven't done the SOPHIE remix in ages. That only happened a few months ago, and completely different than originally planned. We didn't use a lot of the material that we had produced to get used to this new setup. And this is mainly where SIGN emerged. We met after six months of training and heard a common thread in Rob's stuff, to which a couple of my pieces fit. The album came out unintentionally.

“My attention span is a little shorter than Robs. I get bored faster than him. "

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