Before I started my massively lucrative career in washing dishes, I spent four years of my life setting myself up for an endless series of shit jokes about painting pictures of blue hedgehogs by studying for a BA in Sonic Art. It’s art with sound, folks. That’s it. Art with sound. No, not music. Shut up.
One time, my coursemate Kieron and I decided to learn how to use the university’s expensive recording studio that we were apparently paying for. Being dickheads, we didn’t just take a few instruments in and jam for a bit; rather, we decided to see what noises we could make simply by chaining as many pieces of studio gear together as we could.
Any piece of audio hardware, no matter how expensive, is going to generate a tiny bit of unwanted noise. For the most part you’d never notice it, but if you hook a load of things up, those tiny bits of noise start to add up and become noticeable. So we thought it’d be a laugh to do that, but play around with all the settings on the devices - amps, equalisers, effects units, etc - and see what kinds of noises we could create.
And so we started a process of experimenting by tweaking things, one by one - adjusting a dial, flicking a switch, adding or removing a patch cable - sometimes just at random, sometimes because we actually thought we had an idea of what the effect might be. It was this strangely mercurial thing, trying to pin down the sounds we wanted; adjusting a filter on one piece of particular hardware might not normally be a huge deal, but in this case it was like changing one value in a maths equation that’s big enough to fill one of those fucking giant blackboards that apparently you’ll see if you study a proper subject at university.
I've already forgotten enough of the things I learned in those four years to tell you exactly what we were looking for, beyond "I dunno, just interesting noises, I guess?" But we knew the right sounds when we heard them.
A lot of the changes we made produced unremarkable results, and sometimes we’d kill the noise off completely by accident, but we had fun experimenting anyway. Occasionally though, we’d get something right - whether by accident or on purpose - and both smile and look at each other as if to say "Yep. Perfect."
And that is what playing Hohokum is like.