The Cinematic Laboratory

This website is dedicated to my Cinematic Laboratory, a modular setup with four specialized sections that should be able to operate on their own. This makes it easier to prepare so called ‘scenes’. The Laboratory is designed to play live and tell improvised stories.

The music I love most
I was born in the 60’s and raised in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. So my musical taste is strongly influenced by all kind of styles. I’ve never been a fan of guitar bands, I just loved the tight beats of a machine. In the beginning there was no 808. People recorded gate ticks on tape and synced their gear to it. The music of Kraftwerk came from a laboratory, far away from mr. Buchla and mr. Moog. Mr. Moroder created the world’s first techno disco track with the help of ms. Donna Summer. I felt love for the synthesizer. It was rare and special. Bowie used one. Brian Eno used one in the early years of Roxy Music. I understand the synth was born in the US, but electronic music was born in Europe.

The Tingle Scale
Did you ever have that special feeling of goosebumps when you heard a piece of music for the first time? A song or track that resonates so strongly, you can feel some kind of rush? Tingles? A song you want to hear over and over again?

Probably not, because these are different times. Songs need to give away all elements of surprise in the first three seconds, otherwise people will swipe to the next track. We live in an era of throw away fast food music. Music needs to be as loud as possible to demand attention. A synth used to be special and priceless in the early days. The legendary Synclavier featured on many big albums (e.g. Bad – Michael Jackson) and was is in the same price range as a house. Now you can download it as a VST. Everybody can make music now. You can just collect some presets, make a beat and publish it. And since we all use the same gear, it all sounds the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, we just hear more of it because of the Internet. There’s always been bad & terrible music. There’s always been little masterpieces nobody’s ever heard and nobody will ever hear. SoundCloud is full of crap, but it’s also full of gems. The big difference is, there’s no record company mining them through careful selection. You have to find them yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with simple electronic music. When you grow up with Kraftwerk, you’ve learned to appreciate it. Technology made it possible to move the production process (the skill) from a science lab to an iPad. But all this technology also enables you to explore any musical style, to use any thinkable instrument. You can even use a full symphony orchestra if you wish it.

A year ago, I decided to try and create music that would make me feel those goosebumps again. I managed to find a recipe that always works for me. Minor chords. Symphonic strings. Semitone changes. Drones and driving beats. Music that triggers your imagination. A Big stereo stage, cool sound effects and lots of cool stuff moving around. Relaxed vocals and unexpected changes. And finally, the long intro. Here’s a track that ticks all my boxes:

The Cinematic Laboratory
I don’t mind using music and themes that have been done before, because that’s kind of inevitable. But I love to add unexpected twists, fuse different styles and tell stories. I turned out to be pretty good with the DAW, the VST collection and excellent hardware from Native Instruments, but I really want to play live too. I am confident enough my music will be loved, but I just can’t play my music live without pressing ‘play’. I am not that good. My music is in my head, not in my fingers. So I decided to go modular for live gigs where ‘not really playing’ is widely accepted. However, I really want to bring that cinematic ‘tingle scale’ sound to the modular.

Modular music is one big intro. It has drones and driving beats. It can trigger your imagination. I think it needs to be stereo, with cool stuff moving around. Cinematic music needs a soundstage, not just impressions. So I need a sequencer for drums and some cool drum sounds. However, it needs to feel alive. No ever-repeating patterns. It needs some kind of human randomness. A beat that can go on for a long time without getting boring. The same applies to drones. A deep tone in the background, moving slowly through space. Weird sounds in the background, shimmering reverb from the heavens. A cool bass line.

The Cinematic Laboratory must be able to handle all that. But simple things will be difficult, like controlling two or more voices, creating chords, transposing a melody or changing from verse to chorus. At the time of writing I haven’t figured that out yet. I just learned about sequential switches, but that would require a different sequencer for verses and the chorus. Isn’t that crazy? An obvious solution would be to add something you must actually play with your fingers.

I want to express my thanks to MylarMusic on YouTube who goes beyond the individual module reviews and really shows how you can set up a live modular for improvising. To use his words: It can be done. But these four little words also imply that it isn’t easy. One great source for inspiration is Steevio. Here’s a video you may like.