the first and last

By February 18, 2016Words

I recently bought a swanky piece of new hardware, Maschine, made by the German company Native Instruments. It’s aimed at the beat-making demographic, that is to say hip-hop and electronic dance music and their derivatives. I found Hip-hop somewhere in the year of 1986, or 1987, who’s to say really. The thing was, I remember it being the first music that I could probably say I loved and knew about. I could talk about it with all the authority a grade 7 kid could muster, and it made me feel smart to say that  I knew who the big players were, that I could recite some obscure verse off an obscure track from an obscure artist. It made me feel special to go to the one record store in Vancouver that would carry, not just the explicit material, but also just albums with such limited release that somehow, with the store owner’s ear firmly level to the thumping ground, would advise me on what the hot new record to arrive was going to be. I’d buy it with out question and with a little help from Rap Pages magazine, I’d hit the source. The store was Odyssey Imports in Vancouver, long gone now, probably a sushi shop. I at least hope it’s a good sushi place and imports nasty dirty fish, and fat rice. As I grew as a musician/guitarist, I veered away from Rap, and searched, as a young one does, for the most obvious and easily digestible inspiration and influence. Guitar music took over. And so ended my passionate love affair with Hip-Hop. Not because I didn’t love her anymore, simply because there was someone more my style, someone who was doing what I was doing. It is a sad fact of life that complacency and “been there done that” can ruin a healthy relationship. We had a few flings that were always good and we could return to (see: Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul)

Here I arrive again, buying a piece of musical hardware aimed at musicians in the camp that I left so long ago. I’m not looking to produce hip-hop, but something about the nature of this instrument, and the workflow, and the idea of making ‘beats’ even though I’m probably going to try and compose a Renaissance choral piece with it, evokes a sense of comfort and a return to a well-spring. As if, and I wonder, 20 something years later, have I been trying to play in jazz bands, experimental art rock, composing contemporary classical, all with a hidden voice of influence in my head? Stylistic variances in process, of course, occur throughout the infinite genres and sub genres of the musical art. So do similarities though. But I think it is safe to assume, and state, that a contemporary neo-classicist, influenced, and trying to write like Stravinsky, approaches the composition table from a different angle than an artist who looks towards Ice-T as an essential master of the genre. So this is what I find so interesting about this new piece of hardware, and my surprising enthusiasm, enjoyment and mothers milk relationship I feel to it; Have I, all this time, been unconsciously trying to write Hip-Hop in disguise?

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© Alex Formosa