Analysis and recreation of key features in selected Autechre tracks from 1998-2005
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 21:54 authored by Alexander Nicholas Mesker
Autechre are contemporary electronic musicians from Suffolk and London. Having an active recording career since 1993, Sean Booth and Rob Brown are highly regarded in their field by academics and musicians alike, despite their lack of formal musical training. Whilst not limited to working within a particular musical framework, Autechre's works incorporate a range of musical approaches with compositional elements emerging from chance-based operations, atonal and rule-based techniques, to more contemporary methods of sound synthesis and sample playback manipulation. This thesis aims to explore the nature of Autechre's stylistic tendencies through an analysis of a selection of recurring themes throughout their work, including their characteristic use of percussive rhythmic complexity, irregular rhythm and dynamically changing tempos, complex evolving event control structures and melodic patterns, audio effects, and the combination of these approaches that makes their work identifiably 'Autechre'. This thesis consists of a written research project combined with practical recorded examples. The written thesis firstly gives an overview of Autechre's works prior to 1998 and isolates particular elements peculiar to Autechre. The next sections provide the core focus on the duo's works from 1998 to 2005 during which sample manipulation, spectral manipulation and more radical effects and signal processing move to the fore. The author's own background in popular music studies is used as a basis for the analysis of Autechre's works. The results of this analysis are discussed with regard to technical methods for (re)creating Autechre-like works. Focussing on Autechre-like material and processes, the practical recorded works use the Max/MSP software environment as a compositional aid to texture musical input (both MIDI events and audio) and to generate musical output. The musical content generated is used to drive synthesis hardware and software, as well as to manipulate and rearrange audio samples. Examples of the programs written in Max/MSP are discussed and their musical output is illustrated throughout the thesis, facilitating discussion of the use of algorithmic processes in musical generation. This research on Autechre's creative practices aims to highlight examples of contemporary electronic music practices that expand traditional compositional methods and resist traditional Western musicological methods of discussion and categorisation by focussing on abstracted techniques for musical creation such as meta-level pattern control. As such, a focus on process as compositional aesthetic emerges over and above the discussion of surface-level musical text.