An Approach to Composition Based on a Minimal Techno Case Study:

An Analysis of Liine and Plastikman Live


Shortly after moving to Berlin in 2008, I was head hunted for a PhD through MySpace. I received a message from Dr Rupert Till asking if I might be interested in music graduate studies at Huddersfield University. Over the next four years in Berlin, I used my music production and music software projects as practice-based research to support my dissertation.
Following a background chapter which establishes a history of minimalist compositional techniques, the thesis provides an in-depth description of the software controllers Liine built for Plastikman Live, as well as a detailed analysis of the Ableton Live set used during the tour. I transcribed one of those songs, Plasticine, into traditional music notation and I analysed the score, demonstrating how many of the composition techniques relate to earlier minimalist Western musics. Additional materials include an ultra high-resolution composite image of the Ableton Live set, graphs of the drum routing, a recording of Plasticine and an interview with Hawtin. A chapter on political economy is based on Jacques Attali's "Bruits". I analysed certain aspects of the relationship between music and money in the global techno scene from the perspective of a producer.

The dissertation combines aspect of musicology, music theory, music technology, and also composition. I composed approximately 6 hours of new music as part of my dissertation work. The music was composed in direct relationship to the theoretical issues with which I was wrestling. Some of the music sounds like techno, some of it sounds quite different. Some of this work ended up as the basic riff in Ellipse, a collaboration with Max Cooper on Traum Schallplatten, while some other tracks are scheduled to be released on Trapez. A simple and very personal piece emerged as a simple score, in the style of La Monte Young's Fluxus period instruction pieces.
The download contains the full thesis text as well as all additional Plastikman Live analysis materials. The mp3 and score for Plasticine (Live in Madrid 2011) are included in the download.