Music and Tech
We speak to LJ Rich, talented composer and TV presenter
QQWhat’s your main Mac hardware and software? LJR: My fixed kit includes a eight-core Mac Pro with a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet, fully-weighted Yamaha P90 and Roland FP-2 88-note keyboards, Blue Microphones Yeti and Tell us about yourself, and your career… LJ Rich: I’m a music hacker, techobsessive classical composer. I present programmes on the BBC ( BBC Click) with emphasis on music technology, maker culture and concept tech. I gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Music at the age of 12; I had weekly lessons using an Atari computer running Pro-24 music software. For the retro fans, I also used an Akai S700 sampler, a Korg M1 and a Yamaha TX81Z reverb unit! Years later it became apparent that my ability with music composition/reproduction could be due to synaesthesia. The condition is described as a ‘mixing of the senses’. For me, listening to and playing music generates colours, and when I taste things, I also hear music, mainly chords. a RME Fireface 800 sound card. I run Logic Studio and Final Cut Express on my Mac. When out and about, I use a 15-inch MacBook Pro with non-gloss screen, and Keynote for presentations. I’m always running music programs Logic and Ableton Live on there, and I take my iRig Keys MIDI controller to compose on the move. I use LIVKONTROL PRO, a remote controller for Ableton Live, and NoSleep (an app that keeps my MacBookPro on when the lid is closed). Most of my kit is quite old by technology standards; I generally wait until something’s been established for a while, for the bugs to be ironed out and the price to have gone down a bit before I commit.
QSo what’s BBC Click? LJR: Click is a technology show on BBC News, BBC World and it’s also on the iPlayer. It’s best described as a technology magazine programme. I find the story and then write, shoot and present it. As well as being given assignments by the editor, I also pitch ideas for stories, which tend to be music technology, maker tech or innovative (sci-fi-style) concepts. I’ve covered everything from the CEATEC Japanese consumer electronics exhibition to the ingenious low-cost tablet market in India.
QWhat do you think of the democratising effects of modern tech on music? LJR: When I started as a sound engineer, recording studios were expensive and exclusive. Now I can hear what thousands of people have created on SoundCloud, Spotify or another streaming platform. The democratisation of music and video creation has made the industry up its game. But as an artist, it’s as difficult as ever to get paid to do what you love; there will always be debate about the distribution of funds between platforms, artists and publishers.
QWhere do you think Macs and related technology will go in the next few years? LJR: Yosemite looks very minimalist and sleek. I think this reflects a general trend toward our choice of tech being less about the latest gadget and more about technology assisting us in achieving our own goals in an unobtrusive way. We’re seeing more wearable tech, personal monitoring/ personal recording habits, and the connected/learning home – all these scenarios are becoming more realistic as our computing power and connectivity increase. This phase is going to make a lot of us more reliant than ever on our devices. Couple this with printable circuits, open source tech and the imminent 3D printing revolution (it’s one user-friendly device away from mass adoption in my view) and not only will we be able to deeply affect how our tech looks and behaves but our tech will affect us back.