the presets project: book + album


Presets are pre-programmed and electronically, magneto-electrically or mechanically saved settings of a device such as a synthesizer or an effects unit: factory stock sounds, equivalent to stock photography or preset filters in apps like Instagram. Audio presets provide a library of “typical” and supposedly desirable sounds – thus enabling a consumer to bypass individual programming and get quick results. Every modern electronic instrument or software comes with presets – which people use heavily. As a result, time and again, entire genres have evolved unintendedly from arbitrary decisions and limits set at production level.



For his first book, PRESETS – digital shortcuts to sound, Stefan Goldmann has talked to industry leaders, programmers, producers, musicians and fine artists for a comprehensive description of the world of preset audio: from synthesis to sample libraries, from instrument emulations and gear cloning to automated composition and performance. The effects of digitisation on electronic music are covered in detail, and so is the rapid digitisation of rather unexpected fields: classical and traditional music, guitar rock and fine arts. The role of inherent traits of specific electronic instruments in the emergence of genres such as techno, house, hip hop, synth pop and, most recently, US ‘brostep’ and EDM is discussed in detail. Disruptive gear and iconic presets, their background and impact – from Korg’s M1, Yamaha’s DX7 and Roland’s 909 to Ableton Live, Native Instruments Reaktor, sidechain compression and Auto-Tune – are discussed in unprecedented depth, with some of the key agents speaking out for the first time.

Featuring interviews with Robert Henke (Ableton), Mike Daliot (Native Instruments), Michael Wagener (producers – Metallica, Janet Jackson, Ozzy), Cory Arcangel, the original Korg M1 developer team and many more.



INDUSTRY sheds all personalized effort and tests how far you can get by using presets only. All sounds are obscure factory presets from three obsolete 1990s Japanese workstation synths, all effects are presets, all notes are quantized and most panning is purely accidental (laid out in the presets themselves). INDUSTRY doesn’t rely on successful presets but on failed sounds of now obsolete synths – industrial assumption of where culture will go, but chose not to. The result is a surprisingly pleasant listening experience with effortless grooves and rich textures – and mildly demonic connotations. From smooth to kicking – a conveyor belt suffering from mood swings. As beautiful as the scheduled meeting of a pvc sheet and a thermoform mould on a workbench. 0% sound design.


album: Stefan Goldmann: Industry (Macro M40) lp, cd, ddl + midi 3.5″ floppy disk

book:   Stefan Goldmann: Presets – Digital Shortcuts to Sound (The Bookworm) book, 220 p. (fourth edition)

released october 6, 2014.