“Enjoy every day in the studio. I’m fifteen years in and I cherish it every day. Don’t cut those corners.”
For an evening focused on new technologies in sound design, the advice from producer Nick Hook (Young Thug, Action Bronson, Run the Jewels), was a return to the roots of artistic creation — the passion and the hard work.
The Native Instruments session, hosted by Red Bull Studios NY, brought together hip-hop artists, producers, and music writers to discuss new sonic identities of 2016. The demos and panels took place in a dim, club-like subterranean space. Upstairs, members of the creative community milled about with cocktails in hand, testing out N.I. hardware and software.
Jordan Rothlein, RBMA Radio producer, kicked off the night with a historical perspective. Gesturing to an image of a Roland TB-303, Rothlein described how a synthesizer marketed to guitarists as bass accompaniment for solo practice found success not in rehearsal spaces but in the development of contemporary EDM. The way an instrument is updated over time and defined by the people using it, Rothlein explained — “its use and creative misuse” — is one driver of the evolution of sonic signatures. To illustrate this point, Rothlein played a sample of Phuture, the Chicago-based group that used the 303 not to emulate the bass guitar but in what became a defining deep, squelchy sound of acid house.
Shareef Islam followed, describing his use of N.I.’s versatile FORM software to turn New York City street recordings into new synthesizer sounds. He played clips from subway stations and bodegas, all recorded on an iPhone, and walked the audience through his workflow for transforming those found sounds.
Next up was Butch Serianni, the West Philly beat virtuoso who goes by the moniker OddKidOut. Serianni demonstrated the use of MASCHINE JAM, describing it both as a tool and something with soul.
The evening concluded with a panel moderated by RBMA Radio host Vivian Host. Jordan Ullman of Canadian R&B duo Majid Jordan, producer Nick Hook, and music journalist Miles Raymer were asked to discuss how technology influenced the dominant textures and palates of 2016. But the conversation quickly pivoted from technology itself — Fruity Loops and Monark synths, among other tools — to general approach and ethos. “Don’t just worry about the technical,” urged Ullman. “What’s your true idea that’s inside you?” Hook half-joked about his gear embargo — he stopped buying new equipment so he could get deeper into what he has.
“Do things that make you feel things,” he concluded. It was a takeaway both pithy and wise.
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