Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Means of Production (Pt. 1)

So Thursday was the Big Gig at Object+Thought in Denver. My first public solo performance with the modular+laptop rig, and it couldn't have gone better. The place was filled, I had an interesting reproduction system (amplified steel plates - think plate reverb and you'll be close) and everything was well-rehearsed.

The name of the piece was "The Means of Production", and I flipped the normal performance setup around: I sat with my back to the audience, and had them watch me work both the modular and the laptop to create the sound they heard. It was a bit unnerving, since it meant that I couldn't have any pre-recording backups or anything; I either got the patches running and active or it was going to be really quiet (and embarrassing).

In this entry I'll talk about the basic process, with more info (and photos) in upcoming posts.

The piece was written in five parts. I had set up my 2-cabinet modular so that each cabinet was a specific "voice". While one side was creating the current sound, I could be patching the other side - giving me space to work, and meaning that it was unlikely that I would unplug any active sounds. The final module used was a cross-fader, allowing me to fade between the two cabinets as the new sound became ready.

The output of the modular went into a Max/MSP patch (interface shown above) that I build specifically for this performance. It features four channels of loop capture, a master delay line, a loop shuffler (basically, the guts from the MFL Buffer Shuffler) and an 8-frequency morphing resonant filter. The filter was there for a specific reason: to occasionally "ring" the metal plates as a nod to the performance setup.

Now I know what some of you are saying: "If the analog modular is running through a Max patch, it isn't analog anymore!". That's true, but the point of the modular wasn't to create the phattest sound possible, it was to provide an interesting (and extremely variable) sound creation process that I could capture and manipulate.

The result was great, and certain parts (especially the end of the second movement) went better than it even had in rehearsal. Many people came up to talk to me, and were amazed that this wasn't a pre-recorded section; when I told them that even I was surprised, they lit up with a realization of what they had just seen. It was great fun, and I hope to do it again soon.

After my set, I had a chance to talk to a lot of friends and acquaintances that had made the trip out - including my old friend Ron Bucknam, a phenomenal guitarist and experimental musician. He and I had played and recorded together 30 years prior, so it was a shock to see him standing by the watering hole. Meeting new people, re-meeting old - a gig just doesn't go any better than that.

OK, so I'll provide more tweaky details tomorrow, but thanks for watching for now!


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