The varying qualities of modular based music and performances?

Similar to me the OP or someone else’s comment?

Similar to @sellanraa. I replied to them. mibe I shoulda elaborated a wee bit more :slight_smile:

there’s good and bad music in every genre. c’est cą

I’m pleased we’ve had a constructive discussion about my modular rant. I understand the notion of “if you don’t like it don’t listen to it” I’ve received from some here, and of course I’d do that if I as at home or in my car, but when I’m at a venue, sure I can step out for a smoke or whatever but stepping out for an entire hour defeats the purpose of going out to hear music. My whole “rant” was based on seeing too many shows of the type I described. Most performers are quite underground whom I’ve never heard if and don’t know what to expect in terms of sound or gear.

Another analogy to the modular trend is going completely DAW-less. I see A LOT of YouTube videos of jams that sound exactly like dance music I was listening to 20 years ago. I got into DAW-less from 2014-2017, but I also found it a bit limiting and sounding like many others doing the so-called “lo-fi” stuff so I’m now using a hybrid setup that works for me and allows me to create the music I have in my head.

I make musical stuff with my modular. Not hard. Depends how you use it, just like anything else. I see just as much stuff I don’t like come out of a Digitakt. Which I also use myself.

For me, the modular boom is the same as the laptop boom at the turn of the century.
For every Richard Devine there’s some knobber patchwanking with his newest boutique oscillator just as back in the day there were a thousand boring IT guys sitting behind PowerBooks fingerbanging their mouse over a third party glitch VST for every Fennesz.
Nothing wrong with modular, just as there was nothing wrong with PowerBooks. The problem is the amount of dickheads with access to them who don’t have a clue what they’re doing who keep getting booked for shows by promoters because they look the part.
Or maybe I just don’t get it, man.



By the same token I don’t get the 5000 Elektron users making more ‘dub techno’. But each to their own.


Modular music is like movies based on videogames. Most performances are poorly executed, lack vision, and don’t tell a very good story. Shallow. Though not all movies based on videogames suck. Look at Mortal Kombat. :wink:

Hey, but why does my opinion matter? I’m just another dude making crappy music , just not on a modular.

The problem I’m seeing is that too many people in electronic music either don’t have any training or abiding interest in music theory (and some got interested in electronic music over other musical outlets for precisely that reason), or think that experimental music or adventurous sonic exploration means throwing out all music theory in favor of “the new” (which is usually vaguely defined/articulated). With modular you’ve got a perfect storm of these conditions: electronic instrument that doesn’t require foregrounding of music theory; experimental in nature, with luminaries like Don Buchla expressly trying to offer non-standard musical expression and breaking out of the boxes; and the engineering/systems thinking allure of synth/patch building, which can threaten to completely occupy your mind instead of music theory.

I’m not even someone who thinks music theory is inviolable and absolute or anything - if you’re an experimentalist, noise musician, droner, ambient drifter, whatever, and you feel like throwing out harmony or melody or traditional rhythm or what-have-you, do it. But in my listening and creation of noise, drone, ambient, generative, experimental, etc. I’ve found that no matter what you discard, the difference between “good” and “bad” still comes down to a few traditional things. You’re 100% focused on the sonics and timbre, which is a big part of the enjoyment, but it’s easy to let things slip like dynamics, movement, some sense of rhythm (even phantom or nearly-imperceptible rhythm), and some sense that a track is moving from one place into the next, if not in an entirely-deliberate way, at least in an engaging way. That you’re creating sonically dense, nebulous, experimental music just means that you have to pay attention to these things that much more to create something listenable.

People forget this stuff in recordings, which is bad because you can actually sculpt things exactly how you want in non-real-time if you want to. But live in front of an audience? Modular crowds are usually very attentive and respectful, but their time and attention is valuable and shouldn’t be taken for granted, so you better have an idea of where you’re going and why, even if it’s 100% improvised, even if it’s self-patched generative stuff, even xyz. My two (controversial) cents.


I take issue with the idea that Richard Devine is some sort of universally appreciated musician in either computer stuff or modular. So even that as a starting point is debatable :slight_smile:

But that just illustrates how subjective art can be.


I think so much depends on where the audience is and what they’re looking for too - as much as the mindset and goals of a musician. That opens up the variety of layers to appreciate/analyze. I might enjoy the timbral explorations of a set that is generally unsatisfying melodically. Or I might really appreciate the boldness of what the performer was trying to do without feeling like it was fully successful. As a performer, I certainly take some chances intentionally. I know those chances might lead to ‘failure’ or audience irritation, but it keeps me interested and I think is worth pursuing to grow as an artist.

I generally agree though, that music across the board has to have some of those basic elements if it’s going to be listened to and enjoyed. Then you get the artists who are respected but not listened to because perhaps their philosophical frameworks are important but the music doesn’t deliver on those elements you suggest are foundational.






Like him or not, he knows what he’s doing.

Amen brother Ben.

Yeah, no arguments there. Regardless, I just feel like he’s bandied about as a universally sort of ‘good’ artist. I’m not interested in teasing this out, but thought it seemed worth noting to only further illustrate the point that this is all incredibly subjective.


Fair play

Technically yes, musically I’m not so sure.

1 Like

Can’t tell you the last time I listened to RD’s music but I respect the hell out of him for his technical knowledge, not to mention his ability to earn a living doing what he loves - respect just for that. I’m jealous.

1 Like

Ok, feel free to replace RD with your current favourite modular god-like genius.


I’m with OP on this I’m afraid.

There’s very little music I’ve heard produced on a modular that floats my boat.

A great tool to use for voices or sound design within a track but I can count on one hand the modular based records that I’ve enjoyed.