a digital breakbeat artist? Forget 303s, MIDI keyboards and software synths. If you want get down and dirty with sequenced music, tracking and MOD files is where it’s at. Often thought of as a hacker’s approach to music, tracking started in the Amiga demo scene as a barebones way of programming sound. It’s a bit like writing MIDI files by hand.
The arcane art of tracking takes what I like to think of as a hacker’s approach to making music. The interface is primarily numeric, notes are entered via the keyboard, length, parameters, effects are often entered in hexadecimal notation, and code flies across the screen as if you were looking at the opening credits of The Matrix. What’s not to like?
Kuro5hin has a good article and how-to on cutting up breakbeats with tracking. It lists possible software (such as Renoise) and gives a step-by-step breakdown of how to go about murdering the Amen Break (the biggest drum’n'bass break of all time…) For more insights into the origin of tracking culture, Salon.com has an article called MOD Love.
The Salon.com article points out that the analogy that tracking is to music what code is to software is a but of an overstatement. Tracking, which involves writing notes and effects in hexadecimal code, is still much like sequencing. Its true significance seems to stem from the fact that tracking started as a DIY culture, by kids who had no access to professional equipment (and frequently, no musical training). But tracking also allows a mechanical approach to music that makes it attractive to practicioners of drum’n'bass, breakcore, digital hardcore or plain old noise.
Go forth and track.