In the previous instalments of Modular Spaces we’ve been looking at all sorts of places for musical creation: wardrobes, corners and even people’s workplaces. This time, it’s the most obvious location you can imagine: the desk.
The two people featured in this article have one thing common: their desks are clean, minimal and focused places of musical creation. They are also polymorphic, in the sense that they change over time and can host different activities.
Björn Carlstedt aka Word Salad
For Björn it’s mostly been a reductionist journey. He used to have quite a bit of gear – synths, guitars, even a small drum kit – set up in his garage.
Then, things changed. “One day a friend and I packed my old Korg Poly-61 and went to his friends’ studio, to play around a little”, he tells me in the interview, “I felt I needed to add a small mono synth to this two-man party and bought a used Microbrute. To my surprise, the seller sent one of those 32 HP Doepfer systems, along with it. That was the beginning of my Eurorack journey”.
Since going the Eurorack route, his setup has shrunk down to just the modular, a couple of guitars and some tape-related devices. Now needing less space, Björn decided to repurpose the house’s guest room as a studio. Initially everything was set up in an improvised and not very ergonomic fashion, but then he decided to mount some shelves on the wall, one becoming a sort of small desk.
Since setting up this little corner, Björn finds that making music is a more joyful process. But it’s not just about the productivity boost: the room has a nice bed sofa and bookshelf on the opposite side from the gear. Björn likes to make a soothing patch, then relax and read a book while listening to the music or have a drink with a friend.
Of course there’s also some practical aspects: “Nowadays I can have all my stuff connected at all time – which wasn’t possible earlier – and even do some wiggling, without getting a sore back”.
It took Björn 3 years to build this little corner and he’s now pretty happy with it, but of course, it’s a bit like a living creature: it keeps evolving and changing.
Lately things got moved around and the desk became an upright piano. “I’m getting back to guitars and piano to integrate with the modular and I am trying to focus more on playing live with it” he explains.
Björn’s focus with the modular is getting away from the more technical, gear-related aspects. He likes to let the music be just music.
“I used to be an oil painter a while back” he tells me, “and I think the workflow [with the modular] is somewhat related. You need to stop before it all gets muddy.”
Sometimes, when passing that threshold, he just gets frustrated and starts over. This doesn’t change his love and fascination for the instrument though. He likes that the modular is an ever-changing entity: “melodies can be saved but everything around it will never sound the same. There’s always a hunt for something that just feels right in the moment.”
I interviewed Matthias almost a year ago for this article about his musical process and work as a module designer/developer. I was immediately captured by how his music desk was organized and clean but also extremely inviting. It was perfect for the Modular Spaces series!
Actually I could have included this in the Work/Life Balance Article, because Matthias’ music desk is located in his and his partner’s office room, but it seemed more fitting here.
The room isn’t big, and the desk is also being used for software development, building things and other work-related activities. For this reason, he had to hang the modular on the wall.
“It’s not very practical, because I have to bend over the desk to patch” he tells me in the interview, and explains that he’s planning to have a new, more narrow desk made. Fun fact: his case is made out of scrap wood and gaffa tape. For this reason Matthias is also looking for a more durable and portable casing solution.
One peculiar aspect of Matthias’ music corner is the abundance of speakers, even though you can only see two pairs of them here. As he tells me in the interview: “I recently went through a phase of compulsively buying speakers and amps; there are now more pairs of speakers than there are rooms in my apartment”.
The Klein+Hummel hi-fi speakers you can see in the photo below, are from the 70s. Matthias uses them for reference and casual listening. Not only do they look good and lend a special vibe to the desk, Matthias asserts that they also sound great.