Sunday, October 23, 2011

An interview with Todd Barton

Tell us about yourself.
Cut my analog teeth on my friend Doug Leedy’s Buchla Music Easel in the late 70’s.  Couldn’t afford a ME so hocked the house and got a Serge Modular Music System in 1979.  Remember going to Haight/Ashbury and picking it up from Serge.  The only book/manual at the time was Allen Strange’s Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls  which I ate, drank and slept with. 

I came to electronic synthesis from Early Music (Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque).  Have always been fascinated with timbres!  My days are still filled with listening to, exploring and creating new timbres.

My day job for the past 40 years has been the Resident Composer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.  That position has given me endless opportunities to delve into all kinds of musics, both acoustical and electronic.  In the 80’s I wrote a lot for the KRONOS Quartet and did a little encore piece for them called “Galaxians” with a musique concrete tape accompaniment.  In 1983 they recorded my Dracula score for the Festival.

It seems like I have always been experimenting and exploring music and sound, from performing Electronic Valve Instrument with Anthony Braxton’s Pacific Northwest Creative Orchestra to local free improv groups: Trapezium, T2 and sonoluminescence

For more about my musics:

Your new release Analogie is recorded using the Buchla 200e. How long have you been using the 200e? 
I’ve had the 200e for about seven years but in the past year I have devoted daily practice to exploring and deepening my understanding and technique of this amazingly open-ended, complex instrument.  The hope was to finally be able to at least harness a bit of this instrument in service of my express needs and desires.  This new album, analogie, is a step in that direction.

What is it about the 200e that inspires you? Do you have a favourite module.
It’s endless potential for patching connectivity and its responsiveness – it is like a finely crafted acoustic instrument.  My favorite module?  266e Source of Uncertainty – I routinely get lost in it for hours.

Is it your weapon of choice for anything synthetic when recording or do you use other synthesizers? 
I tend to obsess for months or years on a particular synthesizer in my arsenal.

There was a period of 4 months in 2004 where I just woke up every morning and created a new piece of music on my Moog Voyager in response to the daily photo send down from NASA’s Mars Rover.  Eventually, Edmund Eagan in Canada emailed me and suggested he do a visual re-mix of the image each day.  Thus we began posting a daily image and one minute soundscape.  As it progressed Edmund began to animate and do marvelously creative morphings of the daily images:

Lately, I’m returning to my Serge and VCS3.  I feel an obsession coming on.

What have been some of your favourite synthesizers over the years.
Besides the one’s mentioned above.  My other favorites are my Jupiter-8 which was the second synth I got after my Serge.  And I really love the Steiner-Parker Synthacon and Synthasystem – something magical about Nyle Steiner’s filters.

Do you use computer programs to create sounds or just modular synths?
I use computer programs to sample both the synth sounds I create and the strange sounds I get from my instrument collection: waterphones, hiciriki, anklung, gongs, sho or the environment.

What do you like to listen to?
It changes.  Lately, Risset, Subotnick, Stockhausen, Mumma, Takemitsu…yikes, stop me! I’m sonically omnivorous!

Do you have a favourite sound, natural or synthetic?
White noise and all its derivative sounds: wind in the pines, the sea, interior jet hums, rain, rivers, explosions, breathing. . .

Is there anything you wish for that has not been made yet?
I’ll have to think about that.

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