Reflection 2- Narrative of Electronic Music Synthesis

Reflection 2- Narrative of Electronic Music Synthesis

After researching many different forms of electronic music synthesis, I have realized that it would be impractical to include all of my findings in a catch-all timeline as I wanted to before. One large timeline with all of the researchable types of synthesis would be a huge undertaking. With the amount of odd and/or underused forms of synthesis a timeline like this would have with scattered pieces of anecdotal information and would be lacking an easily accessible “story arch.” Instead, I have decided that it will be more feasible and effective to chose a few types of synthesis that have made significant impacts in music and music industry. I will use a scalar book to portray each different type of synthesis in an interactive semi-linear narrative with each form of synthesis as a chapter, containing a digital representation/ explanatory model explaining how this form of synthesis works, a composition demonstrating the sonic character of that form of synthesis, and an interactive timeline highlighting key historical points in music pieces and music industry.

I have had difficulty choosing some of the forms of synthesis to represent in my narrative. Because I will be constructing a narrative of synthesis that is inherently incomplete, I must be very careful in choosing which forms of synthesis to include so that they represent reality as nearly as possible. I have already identified most of the types I will use because they are clearly seminal to this narrative and easily distinguishable: Analog Subtractive synthesis, Frequency Modulation synthesis, Sample-based synthesis, and Physical Modeling synthesis. However, I have a general confusion about the distinctions between Digital Waveguide synthesis, Advanced Vector synthesis (Wavestation synthesis), and Wavetable synthesis that I need to reconcile. These forms are not only similar in name but also in the sounds they create and the basic technological principles at work. Digital Waveguide synthesis seems to be closely tied to Physical Modeling synthesis, while Wavetable synthesis is a real-time form of Additive synthesis in effect. I am still trying to find the proper terminology to represent the essence of these technologies in one simplified section.

I have discovered a general trend in the most popular forms of synthesis in my research. Each popular form of synthesis became popular largely because it could create new and more realistic sounds than its predecessor. The trend is true for the progression from Analog, to FM, to Sample-based, to Physical Modeling. While electronic musicians have been known to rush to the “next-big-thing,” in recent years there has been a huge industry shift catering to the widespread nostalgia for “that classic analog sound.” The most technologically advanced form of synthesis, Physical Modeling synthesis, is used to replicate the sound of analog synthesizers in ever-increasing detail in both hardware and software synthesizers called Virtual Analog synthesizers. With the release of the Yamaha Montage and Korg Volca FM this year, the market is also moving to cater to the growing nostalgia for the FM sound that dominated the 1980s.

Older forms of synthesis such as analog or FM do not exist compartmentalized into different periods of time. Writing about synthesizers as if they exist in one singular form in one era is similar to writing in the ethnographic present in anthropology. These older technologies are integral to the current state of the music industry. Companies and musicians alike are actively searching to replicate the classic sounds of previous eras and innovate upon these technologies. I have chosen to represent each popular form of synthesis in chapters to create an easily accessible and comprehendible narrative of the progression of synthesis but this could create the illusion of each form of synthesis compartmentalized to an era. I will use the interactive timeline in each chapter to show the different incarnations and innovations of each form of synthesis up to the present in order to dispel this illusion.

Leave a Reply