Music, Mathematics and Madness

I did write a somewhat pretentious article about expertise in musicianship. But it was I decided not to post it.

The gist is that a bedroom composer like me has the choice to either become expert in a few highly configurable synthesisers (Subtractor, Slayer 2, Rapture), or adaquately aquainted with a large number of specialist synths (Crazy Diamonds, Organ One, Cello Fan).

And that there are some parallels with mastering one complex instrument (piano, acoustic and electric guitar) versus being a multi-instrumentalist on several simpler ones (picolo, double bass, glockenspiel).

It was inspired by my trying to move away from the flexible but closed studio of Reason to the multispecialist open world of VSTs.

Reason is absolutely brilliant for making all kinds of music which sound like they were made using a computer. But I'm getting interested in synthesisers which don't sound like synthesisers - or which do but don't sound like ordinary ones.

All this reintroduced me to the build-it-yourself synth domain of Buzz, Audiomulch, and in particular SynthEdit. And therefore into the Gormenghast-like field of C++ programming.

On the one hand, designing your own custom synthesisers - with the exact controls, filters and look you wish your generic synth had - is obviously tempting. On the other hand, it's so complicated and never-ending that you don't have time to make music.

There's a completely not-synthesised gig by Strict Machines on Thursday. I invited CW to come and see them with me, and he said he'd love to but...he's in Belgium. Now I've got nothing against Belgium. It combines the grandeur of Venice, the sophistication of Zurich and the excitement of a wet Tuesday in Slough. But...why on earth is he in Belgium?

A small item on the TV news about the government giving posthumous pardons to soldiers shot for "cowardice or desertion" in the first world war.

The thinking seems to be that the reason these soldiers refused to fight wasn't that they didn't want to get killed in the war. Rather, they were suffering from shellshock, and so not responsible for their actions, so in effect not guilty by reason of insanity.

An army kills deserters as a warning to the others - "honourable probable death in the trenches or dishonourable certain death by firing squad, your choice" - and nothing in the pardons questions the ethics of doing this.

A few soldiers individually decide they made a mistake joining up and really don't want to die, so they refuse to fight or else run away. Their defence is not that self-preservation is a human instinct, or their likely death is pointless, or even the battle they're fighting is unwinnable. It's that they've gone crazy enough to do what any sane person would do in the circumstances.

Speaking of the barking mad, Jesus is Dog is updating again.

One of my guilty pleasures is leaving messages on the websites of people who are both clinically insane and very, very stupid. TedJesusChristGod is back, and Project Freedom survives in mothballed form. There's the classic TimeCube, and Factum Non Fabula - the site of a man who says he can prove he's the lovechild of Julie Andrews...and Adolf Hitler.

Anyway, excuse me while I go and mock the afflicted in a way that is probably quite shameful and certainly un-PC.


  1. I'd love to see you playing with your organ.

  2. When we meet (as I'm sure someday we must) I'll let you have a go on it.

  3. Hey, Kapitano! You posted a while ago on my blog it seems and I missed it. Come back! Current entries on Tommy Sheridan and what happens next in the Lebanon. I'm trying to get people arguing about things in my comments boxes.

    Oh and I wrote a piece on the first two seasons of the new Doctor Who. Check it out!