Trackpacking: Fennesz

by Keith Savage · 2 comments

Christian Fennesz

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

I still have all of the equipment: The acoustic guitar, the Novation Remote and M-Audio Trigger Finger MIDI controllers, Ableton Live and Logic software, the purpose-bought MacBook Pro that I now use to blog. There was a time not long ago when I threw myself into making music without a lick of musical training. If my Trackpacking choices are any indication, you’ll know what kind of music I sought to create – glitchy, ambient, electronic pieces suffused with emotion. I hacked together a couple dozen tracks over the span of five years. You can even listen to one of my favorites here.

One of my character flaws is that my desire to reach a finished product trumps my willingness to trek the requisite long, hard road of patience, practice, and learning. My songs started to feel samey, and I started to see myself as little more than a monkey banging away on keys. My lack of understanding musical theory prevented me from creatively and intelligently branching out to new compositional methods. It didn’t help that I was discovering artists making the same kind of music, only a thousands times better. So my equipment started gathering dust and my music library became a lot richer. Christian Fennesz, you are the straw that broke this camel’s back.

Fennesz hails from Vienna, Austria where he’s been making music for 40 years. His classical training led to interest in the Austrian techno scene, and he’s been burying pop melodies beneath layers of glitchy electronic noise for the last two decades. Fennesz brings a lot of “found sound” into his compositions that give them a rich, earthy feel so different from the stock sample libraries available in today’s software and synths. There are scads of blips, bloops, and washes of white noise in his music, but every sound serves a purpose in the building of melody and mood. Fennesz isn’t your garden-variety electronic musician; he’s a composer and moodscaper.

Christian Fennesz in Concert

It feels very appropriate that Fennesz is this month’s Trackpacking choice given I’m sitting on the lanai at my in-laws’ condo in Florida – on Christmas day – and his magnum opus is called Endless Summer. It’s an album of songs written around a singular mood that seems to emanate from warm, breezy days relaxing in the sun. An acoustic guitar repeatedly strums languid melodies that have been bitcrushed and glitched. Finding them within the songs is like pausing to appreciate a sunset in the midst of a New York City rush hour. Fennesz’s music feels like a mirror of our modern world: the minutiae of everyday life nearly blinding us to the simple beauty of being.

Maybe one of these days I’ll dust off the music equipment and mash out some new melodies. Maybe understanding is overrated, instinct underrated. Maybe I’ll use the message of Fennesz’s music as a paragon for my own noodlings. Maybe in the meantime you can give Fennesz a listen and see what I mean.

Pack These Tracks

Create a Moment with Fennesz

  • Chill on the lanai with a handy drink.
  • Hang out in the loft in Tokyo, London, New York City.
  • Moodscape at the art gallery or the museum.

Which musicians fill your iPod when you travel?

Original photo by daveknapik and atonal, respectively, via Flickr under Creative Commons.

adamNo Gravatar December 30, 2011 at 12:31 AM

Perfection, I think, is always misjudged by the artist. Where you see perfection Fennesz probably recognizes flaws. My ability to create is also paralyzed by the search for perfection but I don’t trust that there is a perfection or that I would recognize it were I to stumble on it; so to me it seems that the artist should strive not for perfection but for the escape from perfection. Blah blah blah, I know. But my own frustration with being creative stems not from being unable to make something beautiful but from simply being unable to make. I think the only way around it is to make, make, make. What will come of it we can’t ever predict and that is probably why we enjoy it.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 22, 2012 at 8:38 AM

I hear you. I tend to edit in the moment of creation, which is a huge obstacle when you’re just trying to create. Being judgmental in that moment is not helpful.

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