The Analog World of Yan Jun

December 25, 2015 2015年12月25日



Yan Jun is a ten-year veteran producer of Chinese contemporary music, as well as an electronic music producer with a penchant for vintage synthesizers. For Yan Jun, the synthesizer isn’t a passing trend – it transcends time as well as musical genre. Much like photographic cameras, synthesizers can also come in both analog and digital. While analog synthesizers require more maintenance, they are capable of producing rawer textures of sound that are very difficult to imitate with digital or software synthesizers.


“I believe that electronic music is a serious discipline, just like classical music. It’s not just there to be produced and consumed for instant gratification.”


“I’m not a collector of vintage instruments. Whatever I buy, I use for production, and I’ll get rid of instruments that are no longer of use to me. There’s no need for me to keep old junk laying around. Some of these instruments come in handy for producing contemporary music, but there’s a catch. A lot of these old instruments, they’re like senior citizens who are prone to illness at the end of their lives. They need extra care, but in return, they can tell you stories of the past. It’s a rewarding dialogue. When these instruments are completely worn out, I will take apart the components and put them into a box, like a symbolic burial ritual. But these old parts are sometimes given a second life when they’re needed as spare parts.”

“对于老乐器,我没有收藏癖,如果买了就是为了使用它,要根据自己的需要。一般我用不到的乐器也不会留着,摆一件废物在面前,看着也闹心,没有意思。喜欢的乐器有时在做流行乐的时候也一样会用,大量用。但不能避免的是,老乐器经常会出问题,如同疾病或者死亡,它们有时就像老人一样,需要被用心照料。同时,它们也会告诉你很多往事,这种交流挺舒服的,也会很有收获。要是乐器彻底坏了,不能再使用的话,我会将它的核心主板元件拆下来弄干净,放入盒子里,有点像骨灰盒…… 一来可以做个纪念,二来以后如果有相同型号的乐器出问题了,可以作为备用替换零件,也算是一种延续。”

From the end of last year, Yan Jun started looking into modular synthesizers.

“Many of the early synthesizers were modular synthesizers. At the time, they were bulky and could often take up the space of an entire wall. As technology improved and after microcircuits were invented sometime in the 1970s, synthesizers became small enough to carry around to live shows. The modern Eurorack modular synths is much more compact than earlier synths, and is easier to use. In China, not many people know how to use synthesizers. They are also fairly expensive, and there is a lack of information about them. I had to do all of my research on foreign websites and forums – it wasn’t easy.”



“The idea behind modular synthesizers is based on analog synthesizers, but allows for more customization. Individual modules can be connected with patch cords or a matrix patching system to produce some different textures of sound (a bit like electric guitar distortion pedals). The music sequencer also created new methods of making music and eliminated the need to rely on keyboards. It’s a great tool for creating electronic music. Recently these years, the Eurorack modular has become popular all over the world, it’s just that most musicians in China haven’t tried it out yet. I’ve spent a lot of time researching synthesizers, and I plan on completing my own system sometime next year.”

“模块合成器的概念和一般模拟合成器类同,但是它的方式更加自由多变,以一个个独立模块出现,你可以选择不同厂牌不同功能的模块,用跳线自由连接(有点像吉他单块),形成更丰富更复杂的调制方式,让音色多变,生动。然而模块音序器的运用也彻底改变了以往用键盘弹奏音乐的思维模式,特别适合电子音乐的概念。这些年Eurorack modular在全世界悄悄风靡,只是国内很多音乐人还不知道,也没有尝试。我花了很多时间在这个东西的研究上,争取到明年可以组建成一套比较完善的大型系统。”

Soundcloud: @offthenote


Contributors: Chan Qu, Jia Li 
Photographer: Chan Qu

Videographer: Jia Li


微博: @offthenote


供稿人: Chan Qu, Jia Li
图片摄影: Chan Qu

视频摄影: Jia Li