Workspace and Environment: Stretta

After another trip to L.A., I'm still not seeing it's charm. I'm beginning to think that there is none and the people that have moved there are semi-masochistic, voyeuristic, apathetic or all of the above - particularly the ones around the Hollywood area. Someone did bring up a good point which is that Californians get more out of the year than us Midwesterners. We're confined to our holes for 3-5 months out of the year while they're scalawaging out in t-shirts in January. While the idea of having more time outdoors is somewhat enticing and the fact that my L.A. people are some of the most endearing folks, I just think about how I saw Ron Jeremy and Donald Trump at an event I was a part of and that just kills my boner. That place is nuts. Enough with the rant here is Stretta.

I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. I left for Berklee in Boston when I was 18. I moved around a lot since then, but returned to the Boston area to work at MOTU in 1997, and I've lived in Cambridge ever since. My Dad was a fairly serious photographer. A side project of his photography habit was composing sophisticated presentations using multiple synchronized slide projectors controlled by a huge dedicated hardware 'computer'. Some of this multimedia gear was audio, so I had access to some interesting recording equipment growing up. From a documentary standpoint, I have compositions dating back to 1984 because that is when I started saving files from MusicWorks. With computers, everything clicked into place and I haven't stopped composing since. I'm a compulsive creator. I get irritable and unpleasant if I haven't made something recently. I love existing in the work-trance state, focused on an idea, and forgetting everything else. If I don't have time to execute an idea, I describe it as well as I can in words and save it in my ideas file for future use. It bothers me tremendously that I don't have the time or resources to realize 95% of what I wish to create. So, my output consists almost entirely of very simple and easily-accomplished projects. I like to think that someday, upon retirement, I'll have the time to dedicate to the realization of serious, large-scale works.
'Archetribe' is a world/electronic collective I had. I create compositional outlines and send the tracks to friends around the country to add overdubs. Then I merge the disparate contributions into a cohesive composition, add some more overdubs and mix. There are two Archetribe releases, 'Waterworks' and 'Earthtones', both available from Amazon and the iTunes music store. 'Escape Philosophy' is an alias I use for solo Creative Commons releases, and is freely downloadable. Escape Philosophy releases can be found at stretta.com, bandcamp.mu and jamendo.com.

On Hardware and Software
There are few reasons for hardware outside of controllers anymore. All new advances in synthesis and sound processing will occur in software. That said, I haven't found anything in software that can replicate the experience of working with a hardware modular. I enjoy working with my hands and I find using a modular is, well... fun. The modular keeps me honest; software instruments are outstanding, but it gets to a point where I feel like the result is more of a showcase of a talented sound designer than a unique musical statement that I created. Software instruments, in an effort to out-sell the competition, are becoming very rich and layered, providing instant music at the touch of a single key. I feel complex sounds such as this, 'crowd out' personal musical expression. A simpler sound, powered by human performance and expression will stand the test of time.
I like software and I see useful and innovative ideas from all corners of the industry. I don't hold a religious attachment to my chosen platform because if you look past the latest wizz-bang-feature-leap-frog game, you'll understand that, at its core, every offering is an extraordinarily powerful tool. It wasn't that long ago I was delighted with a cassette four-track. What we have access to today is staggering.

Workspace and Environment?
I strive for an uncluttered workspace, but the busier I get, the more disorganized it becomes. I try to put seldom-used objects out of sight in an accessible storage area. Ergonomics is an issue I've continually struggled with. The move from 19" rack frames to a monstercase completely transformed how I relate to my modular for the better. The addition of the monsterbase gave me more room for modules, but it also pushed the monstercase further away. I recently brought my monsterbase to work and sat it on a keyboard stand to my left and I immediately noticed an improvement. Later I brought in the monsterbase, and that few inches became quite noticeable again. Isn't that weird? I've tried numerous arrangements over the years. The more gear you try to shoehorn into your work space, the less pleasant the result will be. Thank goodness for software. I still have an absurd collection of various stringed instruments and hand percussion.

What was the first piece of hardware you remember obtaining?
My first keyboard was a Casio MT-40, which I dearly loved. My first MIDI keyboard was a Casio CZ-101. My most recent purchase was a second used Doepfer joystick.

What is on your current wish list?
I'm very interested in the Plan B model 30 triple digital oscillator when it becomes available. In the realm of the reasonable and achievable, that is about the extent of my wish list. In my dreams, I'd also have a Buchla 200e.

How many studio setups have you found yourself in?
Heh. Many. http://www.stretta.com/~matthew/resources/studio/history.html

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