Artist: Benjamin Mauch
Album: A (C)able Tethered to the Sky
How was this track born?
Benjamin: “(H)over” was initially a test for myself. I wanted to write a very long sequence, one that was melodically interesting, but also somewhat catchy. I was interested in changing up my writing style and not trying to stick to the familiar ambient format that I have used in the past. I wanted something with lots of motion. I also felt very inspired by artists such as Caterina Barbieri and Lorenzo Senni, both of whom do an incredible job at making music that is forward thinking, while also being accessible and melodically interesting. Honestly, Lorenzo Senni is mostly the inspiration for why I wanted to create this album with a single synthesizer. The work he does with the JP-8080 is unreal.
Once I had created the initial melody line, I realized I had what I wanted, when I literally could not get it out of my head for a week. I recorded it and started playing other parts over it and loved what I had made.
What was your process when creating this piece?
Benjamin: Everything on this album is played on the Novation Peak synthesizer, created through multi-tracking and effects. This track in particular was born with a bass line, to lay a foundation, and the long melody over it. Everything is sequenced with the Novation Launchpad Pro. I added some extra melodies to the initial one, counterpoint style, and filled out the sound with some pads underneath.
I pretty much only used the Launchpad standalone. I tried a couple of times to make clips in Ableton with the Launchpad, but it wasn’t as immediate and fun as just using the controller without the computer. I would basically just record each part separately on a track and then make sure everything lined up in Ableton. Maybe not the most intuitive way to work, but I had a lot of fun regardless.
How did the tools used for this piece affect the way it came together?
Benjamin: Limiting myself to using just the Peak as a sound source turned out to be a really great move. I ended up knowing how to use it really well, and created some patches that I am proud of, both on this track and throughout the album. It forced me to learn how to sync things in Ableton as well. I actually used the click track for syncing, which I have almost never done in the past, haha! So it was a great learning process for me and I plan on doing similar things, with just single instruments, in the future.
Having a focus point for creating has been one of the things that has kept me stable during this crazy year. I always want to be learning and growing as a person, as well as a musician, and trying out new ways of making music helps me with this.
What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about the track?
Benjamin: As stated above, I think the track has a really strong melody, probably the strongest on the album. When I played it to some of my friends, they also said that it would get stuck in their heads. I knew that I had something that I was happy with. I also enjoy the atmosphere of the track. It fits the space that I want to be in, when I listen to music in my own time. This has always been my goal as a composer (as with many others): to create music that I want to surround myself with.
I believe I still have some work to do with the mixing, mastering and eq-ing of sounds. I did everything myself, but it would have been useful to get more ears on the track before I put it out in the world. I hope to get more of my music “peer-reviewed” for my future releases.
Bonus question: what do you think about ambient music trying to be “ignoresting”* in relation to the track “(H)over”?
Benjamin: The genre “ambient music” has become such a broad term that it is somewhat difficult to show what you’re trying to achieve as the musician creating it. I think a lot of composers want their tracks to be heard and listened to with attention, but it’s hard when you’re creating music that most people will just write off as “background noise”, or something like that. Every composer works differently, and I think some do want their music just to be used for passive listening, be used for meditation or something similar. I have always tried my best to create music that involves some sort of active listening. In regards to the track “(H)over” (and the other tracks on the album), I tried my best to achieve this by creating a very recognizable melody, something that stands out within the background of what is beneath it. The melody thus grows and changes over time, because of the other melodies that are happening around it, similar to a fugue or contrapuntal music. My hope is that this process keeps the attention of the listener. I draw my inspiration from many other “ambient” styles, in the sense that it is still minimalistic and meditative, but I think that the prominent melody and the changes outside of it are what makes the track more dynamic and not as “ignoresting”. In the end though, I chose to write this way because I know it is something that I would personally like to listen to, and hope that the listener can listen to the music in the way that best pleases them.
Cover image: Album art by Zakaree Bryant
and as a little, additional bonus, here’s the video for the track “(T)arp”, shot in the same park in Virginia, seen above.