“Symphony for Moogfest” is a four-movement recorded work I created to celebrate Moogfest 2016.

Instead of the usual notes, here’s a FAQ:

Q: This doesn’t sound like most music, especially in the rhythm. What’s going on?

A: It doesn’t have a regular beat. Most music made with synthesizers, or even with digital editors, does have a precisely regular beat. You can hear that kind of beat in EDM, Hip Hop (usually), highly produced pop music, etc.

Q: Why no regular beat?

A: Nothing wrong with a regular beat, but I also love listening and playing along to a different kind of rhythm, which is only sort of periodic and happens when energy flows through a system with an inherent equilibrium. We hear this kind of rhythm in heartbeats, breaths, surf, seasons, and in multi-year swings of culture.

Q: How do you make these rhythms?

A: People can learn to play this way, but it’s hard. In this case, I patched my modular synth with four equilibrium rhythms. In each movement you’ll hear a different surging to and fro, speeding and slowing, skirting equilibrium; the resulting rhythms are coherent and yet not regular. The patches approximately emulate the feedback structures in heartbeats, surf, and so on.

Q: We’re gear sluts. More about the synth, please.

A: It’s a eurorack format monster, with modules from about 22 vendors, collected from the earliest days of the format.
The synth has grown to look a little like the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It has terraces, is big and broad, and tapers as it soars. So it’s called the Potala. You can see a picture below.

Q: We’re used to music serving a specific role, like dancing music or stage music. What’s this stuff for?

A: I find it sooths my brain. In particular, I can work well to it. I also just like listening, doing nothing. Try closing your eyes.
In order to dance to it you have to dance kind of wildly. Try that?

Q: It’s not just synthesizer; there’s something acoustic going on. What is it?

A: Yes, I play acoustic instruments in each movement as well:
Movement 1: Clarinet
Movement 2: Oud
Movement 3: Pennywhistle
Movement 4: Hardanger fiddle, piano, and serpent.

Q: How did you record this?

A: Believe it or not, the first three movements were recorded live with a stereo mic. So you’re hearing live performances. (The Potala was playing through some monitors.)

Q: The instruments sound like they’re being processed through the patch.

A: Each of the acoustic instruments in the first three movements has a pickup, so indeed the instrument was playing through the patch. The patch was being controlled by the instrument, and the instrument’s sound was being processed by the patch. But, you also hear each instrument’s live sound through the mic, so that’s why you hear a mix of processed and acoustic sound. The fourth movement is different. Only the fiddle was recorded live; the piano and serpent were overdubbed.

Q: You really personally played all those instruments?

A: Yes.

Resources related to Jaron's headlining of Moogfest 2016

Jaron's keynote talk (YouTube):
- "Moogfest 2016 | Future Thought .: Jaron Lanier"

A festival overview from The New York Times:
- "At Moogfest, a Demonstration of What Human and Machine Can Accomplish"

Coverage of Moogfest by Billboard, including Jaron's Keynote:
- "Moogfest: Techno-Optimism and the Wide, Wide World of Weird Music"

Jaron discusses North Carolina's "bathroom bill" with The Guardian:
- "North Carolina reels from business backlash to anti-LGBT law"

Go back to Jaron's home page.