Erik Spangler > Orientation #106 // Embodied Practice

Dubble8_Pre-Dawn Artscape

Back home now in Baltimore, I am eager to begin mapping out some new templates for improvisation that will inform my next large composition project with turntables. I would like to be less dependent on predetermined sequences of audio clips, focusing instead on mastering a signal processing and live-sampling/looping network into which I can pour any audio that I select in performance.

While aiming to minimize the time I spend stroking the laptop track pad while performing, I am very interested in using the built-in camera on my laptop as an instrument. Having purchased junXion, I have had a lot of fun using the video object tracking controls to manipulate samplers and synths in Reason or Ableton Live. I have a head lamp that is very useful for this purpose and could provide an interesting theatrical element when playing on a darkened stage (surrounded by the multi-colored array of LED lights from my APC40, Kaoss Pad, and padKontrol). Alternatively, I am thinking about having the laptop screen face toward the audience or other performers, inviting them to come closer and affect the sound through their movements in front of the iSight camera.

In the immediate future I am also planning to incorporate some audio sensors through junXion, using piezo discs attached to various objects to trigger samples in Live. I will have to explore how to build in a variety of sample responses from each piezo disc, either randomized or dependent on frequency content or amplitude. I would like to use a piezo disc audio trigger on the “tone arm” of a Fisher Price music box record player that I have had since my childhood, using my finger on the underside to activate the various resonating prongs. The idea of using this toy turntable alongside my usual DJ turntables feels like a natural extension of my interest in exploring personal audio history, and is slightly amusing.

Along with the great discussions and improvisations that I had with fellow orientation workshop participants Matt Wakefield, Abdullah Benabdallah, and Hanna Schraffenberger, I am very thankful to Taku Mizuta Lippit for taking the time to meet with me and letting me test out his Max-enhanced turntable setup. I especially valued his thoughtful responses to my ideas for a network piece connecting two ensembles playing simultaneously on different continents, with a turntablist/sampler in each ensemble capturing and manipulating sounds from the opposite group. Beyond some of the abstract concepts about global surveillance that I mentioned as subject matter, Taku encouraged me to probe more deeply about what the role of the net would be in this project. I haven’t yet discovered exactly how I will integrate the streaming audio and video in a structural and meaningful way for all participants, but I look forward to this investigation and hope that I can continue it in dialogue with STEIM.

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About Erik Spangler

Erik Spangler (Ph.D. Harvard University, 2004) is a composer and electronic musician working within a wide range of listening environments. His compositions have been performed across the United States and internationally from Canada to China, by ensembles including the Atlantic Brass Quintet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and International Contemporary Ensemble. Expanding upon turntablist performance practice, Spangler performs “fizzy, angular susurrations” (Ann Arbor Observer) and patterns on diverse electronics, creating music ranging from “a skillful merger of recorded Arabic phrases flecked with DJ turntable effects” (Washington Post) to “rigorous … improvisatory” (Gramophone) compositions with a range of chamber ensembles. His music may be heard on Innova Recordings, indie hip-hop label Nonsense Records, and live in spaces ranging from academic concert halls to art galleries, from clubs to sidewalks. Performances include collaborations with duYun, Rare Degree, Oxter, S.K.I.P., VJ Art Jones, Cornell Symphony Orchestra, and Ithaca College Percussion Ensemble. Spangler works regularly with saxophonist Brian Sacawa as the genre-bending duo Hybrid Groove Project. Along with Sacawa, Spangler is also co-founder of the Contemporary Museum's Mobtown Modern music series in Baltimore.

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