Happily Ever After

Truth-telling time: I’m kind of burnt out on fiction. Both reading it and writing it. The thrill is gone.

As a reader, I’m too much a writer. When I read, I notice the holes in the plot, the atmospheric digressions that don’t really add anything, the occasional bit of slipshod syntax.

On top of which, I don’t care about the characters. I can’t think offhand of the last time a character’s struggle or situation aroused a stronger reaction in me than, “Oh, that’s interesting.” When something highly dramatic happens — a fight to the death, let’s say — I’m painfully aware that my emotions are being manipulated by the author. The fight is agonizing, but it’s also supremely annoying, because it’s both a horrid cliché and not real.

As a writer, I feel I’ve said everything that I want to say. And who cares? Nobody. I have a really interesting fantasy whodunit on my hard drive, and I’ve submitted it to several agents and a couple of indie publishers, without even hearing a whisper of interest. This makes no sense at all, because it’s a good story and I’m a perfectly decent writer. But there it is. Why should I keep on beating my head against this particular wall? Writing novels is not that much fun.

So the Oblong Blob may be about to pivot and become my electronic music blog. I do have a music blog, but I haven’t used it much in recent years. I could import a bunch of stuff from over there and also write about new discoveries.

Synthesizers are a kick, folks, and that’s the truth. We’re living in a golden age of electronic music. Computers are fast enough to do extremely complex processes of sound synthesis, and several dozen manufacturers are hard at work producing amazing new instruments.

Twenty-five years ago, on the staff of Keyboard, I was well immersed in the world of electronic music, but at that time the softsynth revolution was only a dim and flickering light on the horizon. After I got laid off in 2002 I continued to write reviews for Keyboard, and also for Electronic Musician and other magazines. But then those magazines’ parent company (by then they were both owned by the same corporation) dropped a new contract onto their freelance writers that I found unacceptable. So I drifted out of the reviewin’ game. Fortunately for us all, the industry has managed to thrive even without my tender attentions.

One advantage of writing reviews is that you get the software for free. For the past few years I’ve been paying normal consumer prices for the new goodies I pick up, because I had no legitimate reason to request special treatment, and it would have been both arrogant and unethical to do so. (A few companies still lay stuff on me, and I am extremely grateful!)

Today I have more software synthesizers than I could ever conceivably use. But the endorphin-producing activity is not composing music, though I do that from time to time. (I also have four extremely capable digital audio workstations, which is fairly silly, because you only ever need one.) What’s exciting is learning new software. Most people may find this baffling, but it works for me. Of course, if the software makes beautiful sounds that’s vital too. I have at least one amazingly powerful synth that I never touch because its sound is, frankly, butt-ugly.

Today I downloaded a demo of the Arturia SQ-80 V. The original SQ-80, which resided in my living room on loan from the manufacturer for a while back in the ’80s, was clever at the time but quite primitive by today’s standards. So why would anybody revive it? Well, what’s old is new again. Arturia is not the only company whose recent instruments are directly inspired by vintage designs — generally with a generous side helping of 21st century features. Annoyingly, Arturia’s demo times out after 20 minutes, but that was long enough for me to realize it’s a great-sounding instrument and to wonder who might like me to write a review of it.

Because I don’t want to keep shelling out the bucks for all these instruments. There are too darn many of them! I may in fact have to buy a new hardware controller; manufacturers don’t give those away. And maybe new speakers — my midfield monitors still sound good to me, but they’re more than 30 years old.

See, the thing is, this stuff is fun. And if it ain’t fun, why do it?

This entry was posted in fiction, music, random musings, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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