Composing Real-Time Electronic Dance Music: an improvisation approach to composing Acid Techno

David Haberfeld



This artist talk will discuss the practice-led methods of producing electronic dance music (EDM) by investigating: the macro and micro-decisions entailed by real-time composition through manipulation of music technologies; and how those decisions determine an improvisational approach to composing EDM. The talk will explore how the Roland TB-303 synthesizer gave rise to the genre Acid, and how it continues to inform contemporary EDM genres.

Roland’s TB-303 Bassline synthesizer was manufactured as an electronic bass accompaniment in the 1980s. Proving to be difficult to program than a drum machine, the 303 did not resemble the bass sound that musicians were seeking, leading to its demise.

From then DJs picked up the discontinued 303. The repeating sequences and its peculiar sound became appealing to the burgeoning producer. Manipulating the limited real-time controls they were able to produce a squelching bubbling bass that engaged dancefloors. The 303 has been cloned ever since. As much as Rock ’n Roll owes its existence to the electric guitar, EDM found its electric guitar in the form of the TB-303.

The talk will discuss how I set-up my studio-instrument comprising of drum machines and various synthesizers, and how I improvise. It will reveal how studio and performance based practices combine to inform an improvisational approach to composing electronic dance music with hardware only.


David Haberfeld is an electronic dance music artist, producer, composer, performer, DJ, academic and educator, since the early 1990s. Best known for his productions and live performances under the artist moniker Honeysmack. In 1999, he was an Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) finalist nominee for Best Dance Music Release for "Walk on Acid"—which sampled Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By" earning David a co-writing credit with the Grammy and Academy awarded songwriter. His work as an energetic and colourful live electronic act has earned him a rare respect on the Australian live rock circuit, performing live electronica at festivals nationally and abroad.

His dynamic performances and productions are purely hardware based and centre on Roland’s iconic machines of the 1980s including the TB-303, TR-909 and TR-808. These machines were pivotal in the development of electronic dance music, and David continues to push stylistic parameters and explore new contexts with these vintage machines through his research in composing real-time electronic dance music. His work strongly features modular synthesis and enjoys the creative possibilities each new configuration and performance can sonically provide. As an accomplished artist and academic he embodies a diverse mix of experiences and continues to explore and challenge new thinking around music, sound, media arts and creativity more broadly. David is in the final stages of his PhD in music composition at Monash University.