Beat Manifesto

Wired, 2 janvier 2002

Musicians sound off on their fave tech toys and the future of music.

On my last album, Vespertine, I became obsessed with my laptop and my laptop speakers : I was trying to make a bubble you could exist in, a paradise.

For the string and music-box arrangements, I used a classical program called Sibelius, where you have all the instruments of a big orchestra in a laptop. You get a picture of sheet music and a mouse that operates as a pencil, so you write it out and press Play, then print it and hand the music to the orchestra.

I recently got a thing that’s become a favorite called MOTU 828. It’s a firewire rack that replaces the soundcard, which means I can plug my microphone straight into my laptop, and it’s got the best recording quality there is.

A gorgeous thing is happening now as technology becomes more common. It’s like years ago, when there was a piano or guitar in everyone’s home and everybody would know how to use them. It’s excellent, because if one’s human spirit wants to write a song, it’s more likely to be captured now. Good music always wins.

(Nortec Collective/Fussible)

We started using sequencers on computers about 13 years ago. We weren’t even using Windows, just straight operating systems like DOS.

Ten years ago, I was working with a sampler that had only 1 megabyte of memory. Now I have one that has almost unlimited memory. That’s insane. But it’s good to have the old school, because sometimes, when you limit yourself, you can become more creative. Technology has a way of making people lazy.

I have different toys I like. I work with hardware instruments like drum machines that I build myself. One of my favorite software gadgets is called Live, made by Abelton of Germany. It’s an audio sequencer that allows you to sample your software instruments and assign all the keys on your computer keyboard to trigger all the samples, so you can create a track on the fly. The other one, which will revolutionize music for DJs, is called Final Scratch. You can record your vinyl and MP3s on the computer, then connect the interface to your turntables. And you can put physical vinyl on the turntable : It has a digital code that triggers the MP3 on the computer. Both will be the big thing this year and in the future.

Since I’m a singer, my favorite tool is the microphone. A microphone is an instrument in and of itself, different ones that go well with your voice and different ways of using it to make yourself sound a certain way.

Technology is making the creative process full of options. There are so many ways you can make music now ; you have a million and one things you could do, which doesn’t necessarily make it better.

Now everyone uses computers and programs like Logic and Pro Tools to make records in their home studios, which is still pretty new. It’s so at-your-fingertips. Everyone has the ability to make a whole record - not just demos - that will actually be played. I’ve got a whole studio setup at home based around computers, though I use real amps and instruments combined with the computer-generated stuff.

Technology is changing music sonically - instead of a band in a room with some mikes, it’s a lot more digital sounding. Everybody and their mother uses technology to mix old music samples with new music. The difference is how you use it.


The more powerful the machines are, the less they obstruct your way or dictate what you have to do. Most of the synthesizers I use are basically sampled or sound-generated, so they are all computer based. A lot of the effects are old stuff, but all the recording and sound generating is done on Macintosh computers.

publié dans Wired