Saturday, May 18, 2024

Mark Korvan’s Apprehension Engine

  1. I recently watched ‘Evil Dead Rise‘, a film so bad that I believe I may be the only person outside of cartoons to have had random punctuation spill out of their mouth. Amongst the inexplicable awfulness was a particularly bad score by Stephen McKeon, one so lazy and bereft of invention that I’m amazed anyone put their name to it. Of course, in recent years, the importance and artistry of the film soundtrack have become recognised more widely, partly as limited-edition vinyl reissues have appealed to collectors, and partly due to musical offal peddlers like Hans Zimmer becoming the equivalent of The Three Tenors – a ‘will this do?’ gesture which turned into an excuse to parade your cultured tastes [see also Ladysmith Black Mambazo]. I digress. It was particularly grating, often literally, with violin string glissandi, telegraphed stingers and Dolby-effects demos crammed in to take the place of actual sound design and – gasp – musical composition. Utter codswallop.

Mark Korvan is better than that – a lot better. He’s become particularly famous in the wake of his excellent, atmospheric scores to ‘The VVitch’ and ‘The Lighthouse’, achievements magnified by the fact he combined ‘eerie’ with ‘period piece’ without tripping over his shoelaces. So, it’s sad to learn he felt the need to make the Apprehension Engine, a Heath Robinson attempt to fix a problem that isn’t there.  Looking like an Argos do-it-yourself workbench that you’ve assembled incorrectly, it allows you to make spooky noises via bowed metal rulers,  E-bows, custom magnetic pickups and a hand-crank. Includes a free scream when you see the price tag of $10,000.

Many of you will be aware you can make a satisfying twanging noise with a metal ruler for less than that amount, indeed, it’s quite easy to make all these noises (AND MORE) without one, much as I have no doubt it’s tremendous fun to play around with. Korvan said he was driven to create this machine as he was fed up using digital samples, which is a noble reason – but surely, all he’s managed to do is to once again limit the range of what sound designers create? Attack a cabbage with a machete; fire a nailgun at a drum skin; fart in the bath. The only way we can escape lazy, recycled gimmicky scores is by freeing composers of a limited set of tools and rules. $10,000!

Buy one here. Buy two and send me one!

Daz Lawrence 

4 thoughts on “Mark Korvan’s Apprehension Engine

  1. Damn, I would love to have one of these as well. This could all be put together for under $500USD. The question is, who will actually do so and will it be worth the time? By the time someone would put it all together and make it all work, this may be a trend that will have jumped the shark. But seriously, Send Me One Now! Nice quick read BTW.

  2. I’m sorry that the Apprehension Engine that Mark Korven and I came up with bothers you so much and that you hold it in such low regard. Interestingly some of the most creative composers on the planet are using them a lot in both film and video games. I think of it as a gateway instrument for people, getting them used to the idea of using alternative sound sources than the mainstream instruments that have been around for so long. People have been making noises with found objects for millennia and the hurdy gurdy has been around for close to a thousand years in one form or another. We encourage people who have one to experiment with their own ideas too and we are happy to make add ons if they don’t have the time or skill. I have a long background in Fine Art, instrument making, music and film and we are having a great time working with the folks who get them. Obviously anybody who doesn’t relate to it shouldn’t get one. Hell I’ve never owned a set of bagpipes myself so I get it. On the other hand I know the dark side of humanity and have been around some horrendous events as had my parents and grandparents. People doing their worst to each other. Somehow it seems logical that I would end up making something like this and believe me, I know it is a crazy thing. Luckily for us there seem to be some incredibly talented people who are discovering that the AE is inspiring. For me that is a win any day of the week and lots of folks are making their own version which I think is brilliant. Remember most instruments are just a few pieces of wood glued together, some with strings some you blow through and others you just bang on. There’s room for it all and I suggest (if you play music) you have a go at designing and making an instrument yourself. It is amazingly rewarding to make stuff that you and other people can play. Again, sorry it pushes your buttons and neither I nor anyone else, can make everyone happy. Have a great summer!

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