This week I’ve been a little pre-occupied thinking about the Teenage Engineering OP-1. Actually, that’s not quite accurate: for the past five or six years, I’ve been a little pre-occupied thinking about the OP-1.
It’s something I’ve talked myself out of, dozens if not hundreds of times. But I keep being drawn to it, even as someone who’s by no means imaginable a musician, much less a professional one. The problem is that no rational counter-argument has worked for me because the draw is largely irrational: from the industrial design, to the UI, to the sounds coming out of it, to the advertising, it feels like an object made completely to inspire fun and creativity.
Previously, the argument that I always used to talk myself out of it — apart from the eye-wateringly, guilt-inducingly high price — is that I can just use GarageBand on my iPhone or iPad and immediately get better results, since I understand much better how the tools work. That’s still undeniably true, but it also misses the point. It’s not just that a well-designed device with tactile buttons and knobs and cows and gorillas on the display is more fun to use. The whole process of not knowing exactly what you want and how to get it immediately is the whole point of exploring and experimenting.
(To a point. Over the years, I’ve gotten several of the Pocket Operators. They’re super fun and appealing at first, but I’ve quickly gotten frustrated with them and tossed them into a bucket to sit while their batteries corrode).
Anyway, here’s some interesting stuff I’ve see this week!
- Composer David Bruce collaborated last year with Jeremy Blake of Red Means Recording, to do an orchestral arrangement of one of Blake’s now-iconic OP-1 compositions he does on YouTube. It’s a neat idea because it breaks down so many of the preconceptions about and divisions between different types of music and musical performance, suggesting that at its heart, it’s all about expression. Also an orchestral interpretation of an electronic beat drop is just rad.
- The other half of that experiment was Jeremy Blake doing an electronic version of a piece Bruce composed for orchestra. I have an almost visceral aversion to videos of “so and so REACTS!” but I’ll make an exception.
- op1.fun has a ton of individual sounds and sound packs available for downloading to the OP-1. (And other synthesizers, presumably). One of my favorites at the moment is the Lofi Hip Hop N Chill pack by “Lord_Shongo”
- Jeremy Blake also has a ton of patches you can download for the OP-1 for 5 bucks (or more)