Detroit’s founders of techno aren’t just cashing in on their old hits; they continue to lead the form in new directions. And watching Carl Craig, you can learn a lot about the potential of electronic music in scores and ensembles.

The Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble combines the collective talent of leading musicians and composer Francesco Tristano with Craig’s own imagination and musical output. Or, to put it another way, you get a whole lot of keyboards going on. The rig:

2x Dave Smith Instruments Prophet-6
2x Oberheim OB-6
Arturia MatrixBrute
Native Instrumente Maschine
2x Pioneer CDJ
Allen&Heath Xone mixer
Grand piano

I got to talk to Carl over the phone – which is, by the way, wonderful, I think the hardest part was stopping chatting! – in an interview for Native Instruments. (Maschine is a centerpiece of his rig.)

Carl Craig on humanness, improvisation, and his Synthesizer Ensemble

Carl connects these new ideas with the roots of his musical performance idiom. A highlight of that thinking:

“I was always inflecting this humanness to what I do, with the sequencing, with playing the solos on top, from using the mixing board as an instrument, and from combining mixes together.”

He also talks about the process behind this collaboration, and why it’s necessary to him to have both ensemble and solo playing in his life. I think that’s an important contrast to a world of electronic music that often focuses just on DJing, with live improvisation left out (solo or ensemble). (And, in turn, even DJing or back-to-back DJ sets might be better understood if we have that frame of improvisation at the ready.)

More to watch here:

A behind-the-scenes by Vinyl Factory from this fall:

An extended RA Live session from last year:

The stellar set at Berlin’s Funkhaus this year, from Electronic Beats:

And here’s a kid’s take – Lucie has a spot-on review as part of Barbican Centre’s Young Reviewers program – nice idea!

Check out the full interview on the NI Blog:

Carl Craig on humanness, improvisation, and his Synthesizer Ensemble

Carl’s official site: