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photo of MoldoverMoldover is a well-known controllerist.

Technology Convergence

Ean Golden demonstrates controllerism in Tokyo while using a custom Vestax VCI-100SE and Native Instruments' Traktor Pro.

The decade of the 2000s see several technologies converge to create the dynamic landscape of electronic music we enjoy today. Music software has become more advanced and is represented by applications like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reason, and many more. Computers are now powerful and relatively inexpensive: most of them can easily host the music software applications needed to quickly create electronic music. The internet has evolved to allow for online collaboration and distribution of music. These three leading technologies have democratized the music making process, and power that was once the domain of multi-million dollar studios can now reside in a standard laptop computer. An artist in a dorm room has just as much chance for artistic musical expression as an artist working in a major sound studio. This idea can be demonstrated by a YouTube video of controllerist Ean Golden performing in Tokyo: Golden maintains a fantastic blog all about controllerism. Golden exemplifies how the internet, music software, and computers have converged to create an evolution of Electronic Music.


photo of jazzmutant's lumur midi controller
Jazzmutant's Lemur is a touch screen controller.

DJs have been at the forefront of the electronic music scene since the 1970s, and today have evolved their skills along with what technology has to offer. For instance, a DJ in the 1970s or 1980s relied primarily on records to play music in live settings. Thus the term disc-jockey: they handle discs during performance. Today, many DJs are embracing other methods of control. MIDI interfaces have been designed to control music software that only bear a faint resemblance to traditional mixing equipment. A DJ today can choose between a wide array of control surfaces: a MIDI keyboard or drum pad, a specialized MIDI device that replicates traditional turntables and mixers, or even turntables loaded with "timecode" vinyl to control software. These vinyl records contain no sound, only timecode that is fed into a computer interface which in turn controls music on a hard drive. Since this new generation of "DJs" are no longer tied to the use of traditional records, a new term has emerged to describe them: controllerists. They are controlling the music in a new way, with new equipment. The creative possibilities for live manipulation of sound are now as endless as the people who participate in this art.

The End: Just Another Beginning

photo of metasynth music software
MetaSynth has been around since the 1990s,
yet still represents cutting edge music software.

New software is being developed at a rapid pace and enables musical artists to explore electronic music in ever expanding ways. Aside from traditional music software applications, more specialized applications take electronic music to new dimensions of creation and performance. For example, an application called MetaSynth allows the user to create electronic compositions via a strictly visual interface. The sound artist can "paint" on the computer screen and create a composition from start to finish. Existing photographs can now be represented aurally. A more extensive representation of music software can be seen on the links page of this site.

Electronic Music has come a long way since the days of Luigi Russolo's noise machine. Now we have millions of people each with their own noise machines, creating and sharing their work globally. I think the Futurists would approve.