“If you always do just the same thing, what more are you then a consumer product?”
With Infinite Spaces & Beyond, Martijn Comes has recorded a remarkable electronica album: refreshingly ambitious, just as complex as it is engaging. Undertaking studies in music composition and research in Amsterdam plays a large role as well as the confidence to really do what you want.
Beat. How do you typically create your work?
Martijn Comes. When a project has a certain level of urgency which was definitely in the case of “Infinite Spaces and Beyond”, then the initial phase is always a little manic. Rational arguments do not play a role anymore. I turn endless buttons and click with the mouse around on my machine until I discover something interesting. This goes on for days. What I have learned from this is that in the initial stage you should just keep on creating one idea after another, making sketches. Although sixty percent of them ultimately end up in the trash, each one has its merits in technical or compositional ways. Sometime there is a seed; it grows and you cling on to reap the ideas and suddenly there is a concept. On other days you have the necessary motivation and a great idea and it results in nothing. That’s just how it goes.
What is your current studio set-up?
I work with a MacBook Pro with Ableton and plug-ins. In addition, I have a Roland Juno-60 and a MIDI keyboard. You might find this funny, but as studio monitors I use the KEF 104AB. Their technique was developed in the 1970s for the BBC. The atmosphere, the honesty and personality of the monitors are very important for me. One of the main creative points for me is toe able to work anywhere. It’s important to get into the spirit and style of creativity every day. That’s why I use a laptop as the basis for my tracks and to construct the foundation for the music and sound design. Because I am slowly but surely incorporating more acoustic elements into my work, I sometimes have to outline the track on paper, so that the musicians have a score for recording certain passages.
Infinite Spaces and Beyond sounds incredibly futuristic. What is the role of technology in your music?
Ableton for me is still a great, versatile platform to work efficiently and intuitively while allowing for experiments. As a computer user I’m not especially progressive. I do not use MAX/MSP for example, and I also think it’s not that important that my compositions aren’t the most experimental, innovative or demanding. I prefer simplicity. Maybe I am also a little stubborn, just like my father. If there is a better idea that results from the combination of various hardware and software applications, then that’s great. At the same time you have to trust occasionally the logic or sub-logic of the machine, as well as the other way around, by destroying what you have, when it is required. For me, the products from the Innear Display series are really very innovative and smart. And I’m still a big fan of Smart Electronix VST stuff.
What exactly does it mean for you to do music “research”?
To me studying music comes with research around concepts and collaborations. When I analyze ideas in more detail, it gives me the confidence to do what I want. And every time I rediscover anew what it means to do what you want. I ask questions such as: why should not be possible to combine concepts from dub and techno with contemporary classical music, microsound, acousmatic composition or field recordings? Or: would it would not be exciting if I could explore, within a particular musical landscape or lineage, all that has been lost to its history? From such questions, there could potentially arise something big. Of course, I am still far from that as my techniques are usually quite simple. But it’s about the process. It is a good thing to be in a state of personal and perpetual curiosity around sound. If you always do just the same thing, what more are you then a consumer product?