The internet is a magnificent thing. Never before has such an exponentially expanding amount of data across an infinite number of subjects been available to the entire world. But collating valuable high quality information on a specialist subject is still surprisingly hard. You can’t tell Google to “gather all the data you can find about electronic music instruments, who made them, how they were created, and also add photos and text, and then logically break it all down into a coherent and indexed reference document — with interviews and photography”. Well you can, but all you’ll get (usefully starting with Wikipedia’s entry for synthesiser”) is a mass of unfocused web pages of varying relevance.
Luckily for you, Danish designer, author, musician, and composer Kim Bjørn decided to tackle this project logically, and created a book titled “Push Turn Move” all about it. For those of you unsure what I just said:
I know right? What was Kim thinking — we have the inter… oh wait. Suddenly you can see why books are still useful, even in the digital age of unlimited stuff.
Kim rather successfully used Kickstarter to fund the expansive project, being fully funded within one hour, and eventually 1300% (not a typo) funded, allowing for even more pages to be added.
SO WHAT’S THIS BOOK THING ABOUT?
The title imaginatively and succinctly describes exactly what the focus is. Indeed, the front cover is adorned with the following strap line:
“INTERFACE DESIGN IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC”
And this accurately reflects the contents too — not just in clarity of subject matter, but also in tone too. For Push Turn Move is a 352 page epic tome of academia, thankfully laid out in a more visually friendly way than the very formal strap line might imply. Being a graphic designer as well as an author has helped Kim present this subject matter in a visually pleasing way.
Essentially Push Turn Move is an analysis of electronic musical instruments from a design and usage perspective. The book carefully breaks them down in considerable depth — looking at the contents page alone shows why I use the word academia to describe this book.
But don’t let my rather formal description put you off — it’s merely to illustrate to depth of the content, and to draw you into the rabbit hole that is turning the first page of Push Turn Move.
Faced with such a daunting task, it’s hard to imagine how Kim felt when he started to plan such a thing. It would be all too easy to start with a timeline and pick out key classic units. But that simply wouldn’t do the subject matter justice. Instead, Push Turn Move has been broken down into logical sections:
User: How the person (or indeed people) interacts with the hardware and software.
Sound: Visualisation is key to musical instruments. This section looks at how.
Control: All of these units generate, manipulate, or trigger sound. In essence, this is the push, turn, and move bit.
Layout: When so much pushing, turning, and moving is going on, the look, feel, and usability matter.
Concept: There are many different types of instruments. From keyboard to controller, this section discusses them all.
Time: A very brief timeline of key moments in the evolution of the electronic instrument scene.
The basic flow is a few pages of Kim’s own analysis backed up with practical examples. Supplementing this are interviews with key designers and musicians, who describe in detail their own thought processes about products and music making in general. It’s a perfect flow of words and big pictures — Kim’s own detailed breakdowns plus the sage experienced words delivered by people walking the walk.
The only thing I’d like to see is an index. I know that in the page-free digital age, such things are somewhat unnecessary, but in a reference book it’s just something that’s still useful, if not essential. Clearly I’ve got used to the ubiquitous search button.
Being a DJ focussed outlet, it’s only fair to warn you that while Kim does talk about DJ gear, and there are interviews with familiar names, Push Turn Move isn’t DJ centric. For me however, I don’t see that as an issue. At a time where DJ equipment has already crossed over into the realm of controllers, there’s much to be gained from reading about how related equipment is designed and made.
THE SHEER VOLUME
Allow me to give you some context as to the scale of Push Turn Move. I estimate that if I were to publish each section as a separate article on DJWORX, I’d be delivering around 3 months worth of content, 7 days week, and that content would be class leading too. Given the quality, I could easily spread the load, and have a full year’s worth of work. Oh for the chance to have a full year of content ready to go.
On this subject, the above paragraph will give clear context as to how much work has gone into creating Push Turn Move. While Kim’s name is on the cover, there’s a team of people involved, not to mention the activity surrounding crowdfunding, Kickstarting, printing, and promoting the book too. And this reflected in the price of the book. It’s not a casual purchase, but give the specialised subject matter and content, I have no doubt that interested buyers won’t mind paying the price, especially as it’s a goto reference for many years to come.
If you hadn’t already worked it out, I’m in complete awe of Kim’s work. It’s not just the sheer quantity of the content, but the presentation, depth, and quality of said content is impeccable. I thought I’d seen enough gear content in my 15 years of online journalism to last a lifetime, but here I am pouring over 352 pages of outstanding work all over again, and loving every column of it. Perhaps it’s because it’s not presented in the tried and tested internet way of an unending stream of words laid out in the same blog style. Maybe because it’s a book, I can be disconnected from the internet while I pour.
The smell of fresh print helps of course. Being the son of printing and bookbinding parents, as well as being skilled in the ways of design, repro, and print, it’s a world I know and love dearly. And on a personal level, it’s cool to see my name in there as a higher reward backer, but also to see one of my photos and my very own hands fondling a Microsoft Surface for Algoriddim. I grinned like a Cheshire cat.
For me, Push Turn Move ticks more boxes than I expected it to. It is firstly an outstanding project, clearly made with passion from beginning to end. For most people, this will be the main reason to buy the book. But the fact that in the digital age, Kim made a physical book at all is quite remarkable. The response on Kickstarter shows that as a medium, printed works are still very much in demand.
An important thing for me is to always be challenged and to constantly learn. And Push Turn Move provides that perfectly. Despite your level of knowledge and exercise in this subject. I guarantee that you’ll get something a deep read, or indeed a casual skim too. And if I may roll out a trite cliché — Push Turn Move should be the bible for people looking to work in this industry.
The box I hadn’t expected to be ticked was restoration in my faith for Kickstarter. Having lost almost £500 on a project 18 months ago, I had sworn off the whole crowdfunding idea. But when we reported on the launch of the project, I’d already thrown myself at one of the higher rewards. And luckily, it panned out considerably better than I could have hoped.
Be under no illusion — no matter how much you think you know about the subject matter, Push Turn Move is an essential purchase. There’s nothing quite like it in the market place, and deserves to be on the shelves of the casually interested musician right up the most senior of product developers. If we did review awards, Push Turn Move would get a big fat gold star.
PUSH TURN MOVE is an outstanding resource, and a bloody good read for anyone interested in electronic music making stuff.