One of the beauties of social networks, just to follow up yesterday’s post, is watching musicians in action. Not watching them work, though there is plenty of video on YouTube, Vimeo, and elsewhere of just that, much of it with a social network component, in that musicians share tips, or compete for ingenious maneuvers, and that there’s often viewer feedback in the comments.
No, it’s a matter of watching them talk about their work over time, and watching work emanate, later along the timeline, from that talk. On a network like Twitter, musicians regularly comment on the equipment they use. Sometimes this is deep inside-baseball stuff, like the backroom discussions at a gearhead magazine, largely unintelligible to the general public. Still, even that information can be useful, in that it washes over you, and over time it gives you a sense of what group of musicians might generally employ what types of equipment: oh, virtual synthesizers are on the rise; oh, cassette tape loops are making a return; oh, there’s a cheapo version of the Monome that is infiltrating its development community, etc. (NB: Not every casual impression need be preceded by “oh” marker of a casual epiphany.) Twitter is a mainstay of so-called ambient communication, in which it’s as much a matter of finding patterns in quickly scanned information, leading to a kind of background sense of facts, as it is of strictly read-digested-collated facts.
One case in point, quite obviously, is the iPad, which since its release by Apple has been a subject of praise, concern, conjecture, future-gazing, and even, on occasion, just plain practical employment as a musician’s tool. Mark Rushton, who is based in Iowa City, Iowa, mentioned his use of an app called OMGuitar on January 20 at twitter.com/markrushtoncom. My memory tells me this wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned OMGuitar, but Twitter’s memory (i.e., its search.twitter.com/advanced page) tells me otherwise. (Which may serve as one knock against the ambient-knowledge theorizing.)
For a follower of Rushton’s music, which often involves a slow haze and a focus on field recordings as a sound source, the idea of his use of a virtual guitar app is an intriguing one. As it turns out, he has made it a tool for slow music. His brief note on a new track, “The Snowy Hill,” reads: “OMGuitar for iPad loops stretched, layered, and de-tuned into blissful goodness.” The result has a tremulous undercurrent which one might recognize as being source from guitar: