Street sat down with Doron Roberts–Kedes, a CogSci major with a passion for music and an intimate relationship with theory.
STREET: What do you do musically and what are you involved in?
Doron Roberts–Kedes: I’m a composer and a guitar player. I’m in a band called Sweater for an Octopus. That’s a cover band. A lot of the originals I write, I write on my own. When it comes to stuff I write I find myself being really controlling. When I first started composing I used what I’d learned about theory from my guitar teacher.
I work in Logic, a composing and production program. So I just got really used to having control over every detail of the music and that translates into my hesitation over forming a group that writes originals.
STREET: Why is it called Sweater for an Octopus?
DRK: I think it’s a hilarious image. Yeah, [laughs] eight tentacles of greatness.
STREET: In terms of where music is going, do producers have more merit than classical composers?
DRK: No not at all, just not less merit. There is an idea called timbre, it’s the idea that there’s another quality in music besides its volume, pitch and everything else. This music focuses on very interesting changes in timbre with synthesizers, like the wobble, the wubwubwub of dubstep, is a frequency filter that’s become a staple of an entire genre, and a genre that’s really taken off. The fact that this whole new phenomenon is not incorporated into classical music theory, as it shouldn’t be, it’s something different, but that’s another thing that dissuaded me.
STREET: So do you think dubstep is going to be regarded as a form of classical music?
DRK: This goes beyond dubstep, to electronic bass music in general, that allows you to have control over the timbre of sound, and manipulate it in ways that aren’t possible acoustically, I think that one day it will be understood by classical music theorists in a more formal way. There’s a stubbornness to accept that production takes just as much training and practice. It’s made it more difficult that there’s not really another type of theory behind it. It’s very experimental the way it is right now. I don’t think it will be considered classical per se, but there will be a more formal way to study it. The fact that there’s something called a wobble — it bridges the gap between the term timbre and any lay definition. There aren’t many of those things that exist yet for this type of music. Like major and minor, is that really a lay term? I don’t know. One day it will be regarded more formally.
STREET: Do you think you need theory to be a good musician?
DRK: I do. I wish I were good enough to not need it…I get that question that a lot. Guitar players are notorious for not knowing their theory. Definitely most people suck because they don’t know theory. That’s the rule of the thumb. If you don’t know theory, you might suck. I hesitate to make it a binary, like you know theory or you’re naturally talented. Like the quintessential example for guitar players is Jimi Hendrix. Did he know theory? No, but he definitely knew the blues scale, and he definitely practiced it and other good solos of other guitar players learning other music. You internalize it in a more subconscious way. I think that practice and deliberate practice is totally necessary. You can’t just have a lot of soul and expect to be good.
STREET: What do you think about autotuning in pop music?
DRK: It’s awesome.
STREET: Oh… well are there times when it ISN’T always awesome?
DRK: Here’s the thing: Voices are digitally manipulated in ways they have no idea are happening besides autotune, and they still profoundly affect the voice sounds. To me, yes I agree that it can get annoying, but I just laugh because people don’t realize that the one track they’re listening to is actually four recordings of one person singing, with different amounts of reverberation and panning, and all these things are happening, and without all of them it would sound like total shite. I have less of an issue with it because every time I hear a track I can hear all the tricks they’re using to digitally augment the voice anyways. But I guess it can be employed artistically or not, but when you’re listening to that kind of music, who gives a shit? People are just grinding and having a good time. I try and stay away from it when I’m not trying to do that.