Mission Accomplished, Thanks and Farewell
A Brief History of Controllerism.com
November 24th, 2015
I initially created controllerism.com in 2007 as part of my endeavor to coin the words “controllerist” and “controllerism”. Over the years since, the nature of the website and my relationship with it have changed several times. Earlier this year I decided to permanently end its development. I am writing this history to summarize my experiences running the site, and clarify its role in the development of controllerism.
In 2003, inspired by the new generation of software instruments born a few years prior, I began a side project, performing solo using only a laptop computer and different combinations of controllers. In 2005 I cofounded a monthly event called The Warper Party, to help build a community of music makers interested in evolving these new kinds instruments and to help me push forward the art of performing with them. By 2007 my solo performance project had grown substantially and become my career’s primary focus. I knew that the collection of concepts I had gathered and the systems I had designed held significant value for electronic musicians and digital DJs outside my local community. Following the example of other artists who choose to openly share their techniques, I began organizing a performance and demonstration video with a comprehensive breakdown of everything I had done. With encouragement from my manager DJ Shakey, I selected controllerism as the new word I would use to encompass the work. I decided to present controllerism not as a thing I invented or that was unique to me, but as a term to describe this craft that I was certain would grow in popularity, and would benefit from a carefully chosen name.
The three major steps I took in 2007 to coin the term were, founding controllerism.com, seeking out the technology columnist of Remix Magazine (Ean Golden) to publish the first comprehensive article about my work and controllerism, and posting the well-loved Moldover’s Approach to Controllerism video. I immediately began evangelizing the word by using it consistently and casually in interviews, at shows, workshops, and in conversation.
The original controllerism.com site (partially archived here) offered a definition of the word, downloads of the software templates I used in the video, resource-lists, and a discussion forum. As I hoped, the forum grew into a strong community hub, but since I was the only person maintaining the rest of the site, the other areas did not change or grow very rapidly.
Around 2010, friends of mine began approaching me with concerns about a perceived misappropriation of the term controllerism. The success and popularity of Ean Golden’s company DJ Tech Tools, combined with their frequent use of the term, had created a demographic of digital-DJs who seemed to think that Ean was the originator of the term, creator of the surrounding culture, and that the idea of controllerism was confined to a specific set of digital DJing techniques.
Around 2011 I adopted the concern of my friends, and resolved to re-launch controllerism.com as a blog which would focus on sharing information in support of a broader and more inclusive idea of controllerism. To celebrate the new site, and to establish its relevance by generating new content, I organized an event called The West Coast Championship Controller Battle. Help producing the event came from San Francisco’s LoveTech event-community (a parallel to New York’s Warper Party), and from a long list of sponsors. The Controller Battle videos include performances by myself, Ean Golden, and over a dozen other controllerists, showcasing the extreme talent and diversity that I believe represent the true spirit of controllerism.
In the years following the battle, LoveTech event producer and journalist Justyn Myers took on the role of Editor in Chief for the controllerism.com blog. Justyn organized an eclectic group of contributors (including myself) to generate regular content, and brought a high level of professionalism to our collective output. In early 2013 Justyn moved on to pursue other things, and I took this as an opportunity to orient the blog in a direction that would incentivize content creation for the site. I re-wrote the website’s mission statement, accepted a sponsorship from Novation, and together with our new editor Vladimir Coman-Popescu, we re-designed the site and expanded our range of content. With a lot of hard work from Vlad, we produced videos, interviews, podcasts, and other forms of content, growing our viewership to well over 30,000 hits per month. Our new vision included plans for ongoing sponsorships, but it gradually became apparent that both Vlad and I were primarily interested in creative output, and neither of us had serious interest in monetizing the site. The rigorous level of work necessary to keep this variety of new content flowing began to wear on Vlad and at the end of 2014 he decided to move on. I am very grateful to Justyn, Vald, and our hardest working contributor Sunny Haair for producing so much excellent content, managing other contributors, and helping shape the site in recent years.
Now in 2015, I am looking back on the evolution of this website, the culture it was founded to help support, and all the people around the world that have helped make controllerism the popular idea it is today. The site has done far more than I ever hoped or imagined it would. The term controllerism has been used countless times in blogs, videos, books, advertisements, product literature, and research papers. It was some 4 or 5 years ago when I first started seeing and hearing controllerism referred to casually in contexts that had nothing to do with myself or the other people who helped establish it. This is when I started to feel that the big changes in music I foresaw and worked so hard to help create had finally come to pass.
As my own work, and the work of other pioneering controllerists has continued to branch and expand over the years, I am no longer concerned about the term being being misunderstood or misappropriated. Controllerism is firmly embedded in the zeitgeist and it carries a meaning far greater than the definition I first gave to it. It has a this meaning because so many in so many places have done what I did and simply stated, “I’m a controllerist”.