Fascinating technology

Gábor Lázár: “Why do most musical technologies still offer almost the same techniques that we already had 30 years ago?”

It’s no secret that many of us use the same tools in our music making. These DAWs, synths, and plugins guide us down familiar creative paths, fostering conventions and customs that, in their familiarity, have perhaps begun to seem unmistakable. Does it restrict our creativity and stifle our imagination, forcing us to write less original and less unique music?

Regardless of your stance on this question, there’s no doubt that those who create their own tools for music creation, building their own instruments from scratch, often sound like no one else.

One of these artists is Gábor Lázár. Working at Max, he designs and builds “composition interfaces” that allow him to circumvent the traditional, linear working methods promoted by popular music software. Through these explorations, he develops a musical language all his own, arriving at unexpected and unfamiliar musical conclusions in the process.

Lázár’s latest album, Boundary Object, brings together the results of these experiments, featuring raw, never-before-seen snippets of the music his self-designed software instruments have dreamed up and spit out, recorded in real time.

Working with a basic laptop and speaker setup pictured on the album cover, he created some of the most adventurous electronic music we’ve heard this year, proving that with a decent computer, enough of ingenuity and a desire to do things differently, there’s not much you can’t do.

Could you tell us about the “self-designed composition interface” you were working with to produce these tracks?

“My intention was to build an interface that would allow me to create structures that would be very complicated or impossible to achieve using widely available software. music are designed to organize musical elements in a linear way, my interface was designed to deconstruct them in a non-linear way.

What do you find most creatively challenging about building your own instruments, or composition interfaces, in software?

“I think I just like being independent and creating my own universe of things. I remember when my dad wanted to show me how to do certain things in the garden or around the house.

“Most of the time I refused to do it the way he showed me – not because I thought his solution was bad, but because I wanted to explore the situation and find my own way. very challenging for me, I think a lot about why I make such decisions, why I make this kind of music, and it’s very interesting that I find the answer around everyday life and around personality.

We could radically change our understanding of music if we let music technology do what it can.

“There’s a thought that often comes to mind: why do we keep the music in these linear forms? Moreover, why most synths, drum machines, software or any musical technology still technically offers almost the same techniques that we already had 30-40 years ago?

“We could radically change our understanding of music if we let music technology do what it can do. Do the models proposed by certain cultures and traditions confine us to already known structures and symbols? This is a problematic topic and there’s probably no right answer, instead I wanted to focus on those creative and technical solutions that are moving in a hybrid direction.

You have already said that you are interested in generative techniques and the use of “musically irrelevant sources as compositional tools” – could you tell us more?

“I don’t know how to play instruments, I don’t have any knowledge that could be musically relevant traditionally. So basically every idea I have is musically irrelevant. For example, using visual content to create audible material. This is a very common technique, but a good example to show what I mean.

How do you think your music has evolved since releasing Source in 2020?

“Unfold and Source were both created in Logic. As a teenager, at the age of 15, I made a lot of music with software like Reason, Cubase and Nuendo, which are generally used to create widely accepted forms of electronic or electroacoustic music. At that time, I really liked using them – especially Reason.

I didn’t want to buy something that most producers already own and use. In Max/MSP, I can create my own musical language

“These programs are an integral part of the history of electronic music and at the same time are milestones in my early explorations. I wanted to use that kind of timeline-based linear software again and make music that would kind of expand my works into other territories than where I was before. Unfold and Source look back while Boundary Object looks forward, but they share common ground I think.

The Boundary Object press release tells us that the tracks were recorded in real time and unedited. What attracts you to this “one-take” way of working?

“Even though it’s computer music, things happen intuitively when I interact with my interface, decisions are made quickly when recording, and sometimes I can’t reproduce the same nuances. I think it adds some value, or at least puts the listener in a different perspective.

The Boundary Object album cover shows a room with a simple setup, a laptop and two monitors. What do you like about this minimum configuration?

“As a teenager, I couldn’t afford to buy synths, even though I had cheap gear, and I also made circuit boards and guitar pedals. Later, while I might have been able to buy some proper synths, I didn’t want to buy something that most producers already own and use. I think I just found a lot of creative outlets using software like Max/MSP where I can create my own musical language.

“It is essential for me to be able to work anywhere. I don’t want to miss this because of logistical issues and lack of space. This photo of the kitchen I took where I worked for about two weeks in Prague. I felt really focused there, even though it was a kitchen with the fridge and washing machine behind me. I think the photo carries the message that ideas can also emerge without expensive tools. »

gabor lazar

(Image credit: Gabor Lazar)

We can hear fragments of more conventional club rhythms in the tracks of Boundary Object. Where does your work fit in with more traditional strains of dance music?

“There is a close connection, of course. I did a lot of DJing in my late teens and early 20s. I’ve been playing vinyl, and I’ve been going out a lot since I was 14. My friends and I grew up in a suburban area, actually on the last street in town on the border with Budapest.

“There were no night buses at that time, so we stayed in the clubs until morning. So this period of my life probably left traces on my identity, on my personality and on my recent works as well.

The title of Boundary Object refers to a concept taken from academia. Do you think an understanding of the conceptual context or background of the record is essential to how you would like it to be received?

“Not at all. I’m definitely not the academic type and I don’t like to think about it too much at all, but there are definitely some interesting aspects around the title.

“My girlfriend once handed me a book on ethnography and cultural anthropology and I randomly opened it to a chapter called Boundary Object, which talked about how an ‘object’ can translate between different groups of people with different types of knowledge and backgrounds, so it’s something that connects different social worlds and helps them work together.

“I immediately connected that to the music, the different subcultures around music and the people who listen to different types of music and the artists who make different types of music and how something might translate between them.

“I chose this title when the album was finished, so there was no intention to synthesize the title with sound, but I hope this record can connect different scenes and different people.”

How do you approach playing this kind of material live? Do you recreate tracks from the album in your live show, or do you work with the same instruments and patches, or improvise new tracks?

“It’s a mix of those things. Most of the time I also work with stage lights. When I play live, I interact with rhythmic patterns and textures and generally I go further into deconstruction I guess. I try to explore further with my techniques.

“For me, playing live is not just about performance and composition, but also volume and physical aspects of sound, space and experience. You can’t get that at home when you listen to the record.

Gábor Lázár’s Boundary Object is now available on planet Mu.