About the contribution:
If Friedrich Kittler saw rock music as the “misuse of army equipment,” then techno and other popular music styles of the 1980s and 1990s could be understood as founded on the misuse of the Roland TB 303 Bass Line. This instrument was intended to allow bass lines to be created electronically-synthetically, without the hassle of learning to play an instrument. The interface chosen was not a fingerboard, but a keyboard with filter controls. The obscurity of use and the unconventional way of playing initially led to the instrument proving to be a commercial flop. This is where creative misuse comes into play. Unsuitable or too complicated for the development of bass lines, it was possible to manipulate completely new, unheard sounds out of the TB 303. These didn’t sound like a bass at all, but like the spacey, machine-like sounds that the music of the 1980s and 1990s was looking for in its sound aesthetics. The TB 303 was used more as a kind of synthesizer, which it was in no way intended to be.
Thanks to its misuse, the commercial failure ultimately turned into an aesthetic success, prompting Roland to produce a new edition in 1996, the MC 303 Groovebox, which in turn became a considerable commercial and aesthetic success, not as a bass instrument, but as an artificial digital TB 303 simulation. Using video and sound examples, this paper focuses on the history of the TB 303’s intentional and abusive use, with various theories of creativity and innovation providing a contextual framework.
The text is the written version of a lecture, also held in the Media Design course: https://www.mediendesign-ravensburg.de/en/no-bass-2/
About the book:
We associate artifacts with concrete meanings and functions. As tools, they serve our daily activities. But what are the consequences if they are used “improperly”? How do “proper” and “improper” uses differ at all? By means of case studies from different thematic contexts and disciplinary perspectives, the volume takes a look at a broad spectrum of practices that revolve around the question of misappropriation. The common point of departure is the tension that emerges in the term “misappropriation”: On the one hand, we associate it with rule violations and norm transgressions. On the other hand, it is the ‘improper’ use that stands at the beginning of an explorative approach to artifacts and helps to make new meanings and readings possible. The aim of this volume is to uncover the creative and knowledge-creating potential associated with such uses.