Composing with performance in mind

As I approach the end of my career at Mills, I have to begin formulating an idea of what my final “Magnum Opus” will be for my graduate recital.  Since becoming involved in Electronic Music a few years ago it has always been my goal and desire to make performing a big part of my studies. This desire has really fueled my progress as a producer/composer, but has also left me with two very distinct ways of writing music: For the studio, and for the stage. Of course these two aren’t mutually exclusive and I have found ways to take my studio work to the stage, but when writing a piece that is rooted in performance, the approach is most definitely different.

I have been working over the past few weeks on a performance strategy that involves a bass guitar, Ableton Live with M4L, and two launchpads.  This setup affords me a lot of freedom and, with that freedom comes decisions. Tough ones.  How much playing will I be doing with my instrument? Am I going to prepare loops and material before hand, or generate it all on the fly?  How much control do I want over sound parameter? Will there be improvisation, or do I want every performance to be identical? Getting these things out of the way early is extremely important to becoming comfortable performing within your system, and allows you to become proficient much more quickly. It also limits the musical freedom you have after you make these decisions.

When speaking to a professor of mine about the nature of ‘writing for performance’, he mentioned that it can sometimes be very helpful to play through the piece a few times and record these, then go back and listen carefully. Sometimes you can get stuck when working on a piece like this and critical examination of the performance after the fact can reveal where you need to go next.

Here is one of those recordings: 

In the coming days I will be discussing some of my compositional approaches, choices, and techniques used in this piece.

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Composing with performance in mind

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