Matt Wakefield > Orientation #106 // Studio3 Free Improv and personal development

Absolutely blown away by Robert van Heumen’s talk on ‘Electro-instrumentalism, live sampling and split-second decisions’ yesturday , it has been exactly what I have been looking for in regards to his theorizing in approaching composition as a process and performance!

With emphasis on my university work; I have been looking for tools to approach composition as a consistent process, and attempting to find a method of blue printing compositions. It turned out rob had done a project like this called ‘Stranger’ that has given me a few ideas to hep with brainstorming out some sketches. John Zorn’s Cobra (1984) a text for musical improvisation, came up in discussions today as well which shares a similar link to Rob’s ‘Stranger’ project and another piece written by him ‘Shackle’ that used supercollider. Zorn’s ‘Cobra’ uses a series of descriptions to guide you towards a particular sound using all sorts of focus points such as feeling, texture, use of body parts, physical instructions to others… The great thing about it is that you can choose to decline some of these descriptions, much like the set up you can achieve in supercollider which Rob used for his ‘Shackle’ piece. Although these process’s are geared toward mixing up the regular format for free improvisation, its approach can easily be applied to fixed composition. Whether a series of instructions that could be used for writing compositions would be of any use at all is uncertan? I definitely think it adds another layer of communication between the composer and the device they use to compose. Which could be a good thing,helping themes and evolving concepts to flourish in translation.

All of us from the Orientation Workshop (Abdullah, Erik, Hannah and I) got together for a Free improvisation session in Studio 3 yesterday evening, we set up a live stream (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/10496263) using the on-board mac isight camera and mic to capture the event. Hannah was playing Saxaphone and triggering presets on a launchpad, possibly the two were linked and she was sampling sections of her playing, but I am unsure of this.. Abdullah was using Lisa and a Joystick to control some minimal samples, I used two softsynths within the sampler and pre-recorded drum hits from my kit at home in a sequence, cutting and automating them by ear using ableton live, as well as a few basic loops on lisa to add further texture. As for Erik, he was playing his usual set up with a deck and mixer borrowed from Toku and ableton lieve with a mixing processer interface.
It was a long improvisation, many ups and downs, but all in all a great session! There were some really cool parts that happened with in the piece, I really enjoyed playing with hannah’s sax parts especially, she is a naturally equal player who predicts changes with ease. Also it was good to test a live set up with Lisa as it definitely allowed me to see what i need to learn about it. I’m beginning to feel a bit more comfortable with working with it, it was enjoyable to use a basic set-up with it in the free improvisation yesturday. Although, for now at this stage of experimentation I am leaning towards spending more time with Junxion. I’ve learnt enough to map selected movement recieved by the on-board isight camera to some parameters on ableton, I was very impressed by the logical way the program is layed out and really enjoyed the end results.. Some great examples of automating envelop filters happened, sounds I am usually unable to achieve on the fly with a regular controller.

Thursday was also a great day, we had a chance to talk with Taku around his chosen topic ‘Thinking about new instruments’ it opened up an interesting set of discussions surrounding the issue of ‘virtuosity’ – To what level is it important? How can we get a good balance of it? Also, how do we embody the thing we are playing? How do we achieve a sense of autonomy? and.. How do we make our instrument nessessary?

Hopefully more workshop improvisations to come – I definitely want to minimize my workflow for next time and focus on just one or two things; either simple automation via Junxion to sounds within Ableton Live, or a repetitive and concise selection of audio to sample then edit within Ableton as a standalone devise.

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