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.

Composing with performance in mind

A summer of performances and Live Racks

This summer I am doing a few shows around the area, and one that I am most pumped about is the West Coast Controllerism Battle. Moldover, Ill.Gates, Mochipet are all doing some things there. And the judges are all total badasses in their own right- Zappan, J.Tonal and Laura Escude.

In prepartion for this I am going to be refining my performance strategy.  I usually prepare 30-60 minute sets which are made up of tons of audio clips from precomposed material. I will still use my pre written material, but there will be a lot more slicing, mangling and butchery involved.

I will be using two launchpads with the control schemes I’ve programmed previously, and hopefully in the next two weeks I will be able to put some new things together. But what I am I controlling with these you ask? That’s a very good question, and I will be sharing my devices with all who come through this blog, however few that may be.

To start things off I am going to share a beat repeat rack that I made when I first started performing. This is best used with at least 4 knobs, but it was initially designed for use with eight of them.  It is a chain of two beat repeats and the knobs are mapped to useful parameters in useful ranges. The first repeat is more subdued and is used for some strait ahead repeating/glitching goodness. The second is a bit more crazy and has pitch decay and a built in dry wet, so you can control how much effect you’re hearing.



Download HERE

A summer of performances and Live Racks

Ableton Live Performance Template

Here is what I used for my performance two weeks ago. It is set up to be used with a bcf2000 and a novation launchpad.

Split into 6 channels of instrument groups (drum, bass, lead, pad, other, perc) One for live input of MLR, then these seven are all routed to a sub master chanell for global effects, eq’ing and dummy clips. If you want to get started jsut drop some audio files down into the chanells and start playing and tweaking knobs. It is a clip firing based performance setup with most of the improv done by chopping up things in mlr and butchering the audio via effects chains.   It still needs to be cleaned up a lot, more labeling and so on. I know what everything does but others might not. Feel free experiment, adapt, or destroy it as you see fit.  Any questions or comments will be answered/taken into consideration.

Hopefully someone will find this useful and interesting. Enjoy!

Performance Template Download

Ableton Live Performance Template