Tuesday, 26 April 2016

ETM: Electronic Texture Music

ETM: Electronic Texture Music - what's that then? ETM is something I have just created, something I have decided it is what I do now. Of course, this is not creation from nothing. Nothing exists in a vacuum (except all the heavenly bodies that exist in the vacuum of space) but, more particularly, nothing creative is without forbears and influences. These forbears and influences can often be controversial or a matter of dispute. But they are always there. The story of electronic music is one of such forbears and influences. I am currently making a podcast series about it and, in episodes yet to be published, I intend to suggest some lines of influence and say how, for example, music made by Germans in the 70s leads to Trance and Techno in the 80s and 90s. But this blog is a little piece by me about what I imagine ETM to be as I have been making it for the last 6-8 months. I have come to see it as a style of music but one that comes from certain ways of seeing and being in the world. So I think that not everyone could make it because not everyone would be in the position to do so.

I begin by saying what ETM is not. ETM is not about tempo as some forms of music are. Its not House or Drum and Bass, music which needs to be at a certain speed. Indeed, as we shall see, ETM may not even be about a beat, at least not simply so or as the main focus of the music. (Nearly all music has rhythm, however, even if its subtle and in the movement of sounds.) ETM is not about melody or harmony either. As with rhythm, pitch is not the focal point of ETM. But, again, this is not to say that pitch doesn't matter. What doesn't matter is the conventional use of pitch to achieve conventional melody or harmony. And so this means that, thirdly, ETM is not about making "a song". This is another conventional notion that ETM politely avoids. 

So what is ETM about? Well ETM is fragmentary, its doesn't conceive of itself as created wholes, fully-formed or otherwise. ETM is pieces of sound. ETM is also abstract and this deliberately so. ETM has a need to be amorphous and resistant to fitting into conventional form. To ask of a piece of ETM "What is it about?" or "What is it for?" is to find few answers being given you directly from the music itself... and yet, on the other hand, all that you will ever need to answer such questions is there within it. ETM does not give itself up without a fight. It is music you struggle with to know, experience and understand. For this reason ETM is layered, a spatial form of music existing in a physical universe. This suggests that perspective is relevant to appreciate it and that it can be approached from differing angles. What do you find in it when you listen? Well where are you listening from?

ETM, sonically, is about timbre. It is timbral music focused on the mixing, contrasting and creation of timbres. This is in open distinction to music (which in the Western tradition is the norm) based on tones or pitches. This is why ETM is not tunes with melodies. Its just not the focus. Instead what is sought is timbrally interesting music that creates atmospheres or textures. The texture of the piece is the point and primary musical concern. Texture is what is being exploited here and is the musical interface for a human interaction with sound. For this reason all of sound is taken to be equally valid. There are no good or bad textures like there might be good or bad tunes. All textures are equal if different and nothing within them recommends one above any other. They are all just experiences of sounds. 

ETM, certainly as I have been making it, is often pure improvisation or the disconnected juxtaposing of sounds in an electronic context. It is a non-deliberate, anti-authorial type of music (compare free jazz). Sound is all around us. It doesn't have to be conventionally created and its creation ascribed to a writer for it to be valid. In my making of ETM I have deliberately gone out of my way to avoid responsibility for how things sound, for example, by just throwing things on a timeline and letting them be or arranging them at random and without concern for where they stand or with what. This lack of responsibility, this deliberate letting go, will upset the conventional for they then have no one to blame for the sounds they hear. Consider the uproar, for example, when John Cage "wrote" 4'33". This is a founding piece of ETM. Cage also foreshadowed ETM when he stated that "dissonance is just a form of harmony we haven't got used to yet". ETM is often dissonant, as it must be since it is created to create textures and without conventional melodic or harmonic concerns. In a way, and in one sense, we can see ETM as a kind of free jazz for those using electronics.

Why is ETM like this? For me ETM is about experiencing the world as it is rather than as we want it to be with the comfort of conventions. It is, as a must, anti-conventional music. ETM is based in a way of seeing the world. It is stream of consciousness music that does not look on things as they have been falsified and fixed but as always moving and ever-changing. There is no permanence in ETM (it cannot be notated or directed) and it is not a final word or a finished object. It is a moment that cannot be grasped, something just passing through. ETM is about noises and sounds. These things may only happen once and be forever thereafter unrecoverable. Often this is the point and much of my ETM is things that happened at one time only that I could never recreate again. ETM exists in a world just like this and gives it substance but never permanence. Noise music is an extreme form of ETM in my mind but ETM does not have to be simply noise. ETM is a means to describe the breadth of human experience through the timbrally rich world of sound. 

Where does ETM come from? Musically, I think it comes from John Cage, who I've already mentioned, Pierre Schaeffer and his experiments with Musique Concrete and the German Kosmische musicians. ETM is at its core anti-conventional. All these people created new music that stepped outside of what was expected or accepted. All received ire as "not producing proper music". And they should have. ETM is not proper music either. It is new music, music which eschews the modern day, mainstream conventions about what music should be. It is an experimental music in a world where humans must experiment to learn and progress. This makes it necessary. ETM is the desire to work with sounds and noises in unconventional and anti-authorial ways, to make things that aren't regular or conformist because it is only by not conforming that the falsity of conventional forms and standards is revealed. It is about the experience of everyone who makes it in distinction to a professionalized discipline or notion. ETM is circuit bending, soundwashes, shouting over noise, birds singing in the outdoors, abstract, bland sounds and much, much more. It is a primal connection between sounds and their human apprehension.

ETM is also ineluctably electronic. It is ELECTRONIC Texture Music. Electricity is necessary for it is the power to create (manipulate) the unreal and make it real (or vice versa). Many electronic sounds are not found in nature and yet it is nature itself, our natural world, which makes all sounds and enables us to hear them. In the electricity is the being of the sounds electronic music creates. They are an electronic moment that exists but briefly and, before you know it, is gone again. Electricity, like sound itself, is always in flux, a constant oscillation. ETM is about this natural oscillation. ETM attempts to capture and manipulate this on-going electronic succession of moments. So oscillators and samplers, electronic tools, are what ETM is made with. Electricity and electronics, the means to manipulate it, are the heart and soul of ETM.

These are but preliminary thoughts on what I take ETM to be. It is, of course, not new. Were I to write a historical piece I could flag up many forbears. It is my name for what I am doing and it has some theory and ideas behind it. It is music about embodying ideas in sound and about sound and sounds. It is not for entertainment but you can certainly be entertained by it. ETM is about experiencing what you hear more than about being entertained by it though. It is about realizing that human beings exist in a world of sound and taking each sound seriously... and then letting this tell you something about the world that is always passing away.

ETM is the sound of things constantly passing away, a reminder that things never stop, a testimony that fixity is illusion.

To hear what ETM sounds like you can go my to my Bandcamp at https://elektronischeexistenz.bandcamp.com/ 

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