BlipVert > The BlipVert Method: developing and exploring performance diversity

My name is Will Northlich-Redmond, aka ‘BlipVert.’  I’ve been using this moniker for a long time for the composition and performance of my own brand of electronic music.  I think it suits the music I make; extreme, dynamic, ultra-developed electronic music incorporating all kinds of genres, instruments, vocals, and hardware and software programs.  My recent artistic residency at STEIM (May 31 through June 6, 2011) focused on utilizing STEIM’s LisaX and Junxion programs together with my live performance rig.

Procedure

My live sets usually involve a great deal of movement and manipulation of four pieces of equipment: a Pioneer CDJ-400, an Alesis AirF/X, a Digitech Vocalist/Vocal effects processor, and a small Eurorack mixer. Ultimately, I use my composed material – mixed and edited in ProTools – as vehicles for improvisation, feeding them through the aforementioned pieces of hardware.  The music is often energetic and erratic, and when combined with the effects of the CDJ and the Air F/X in addition to improvised vocal accompaniment, the resulting live experience is very dramatic and kinetic.  An accurate description might perhaps be of heavily edited electronic music combined with the spirit of 60′s and 70′s free jazz.

After presenting what usually constitutes a live BlipVert experience for Frank Balde and Takuro Mizuta Lippitt, it was suggested that setting up a LisaX/Junxion combination that could be manipulated with a controller would be an ideal endeavor.  It was observed that I was more or less ‘triggering’ certain effects and sounds, and the furtherance of this concept seemed to fall directly in line with STEIM’s mission.  Frank Balde set me up with LisaX and Junxion programs that were controlled via Wii controller.  I found this not only to be highly original, but incredibly accessible.  Frank also introduced me to other controllers that could be used in conjunction with STEIM’s programs, such as an iPhone and iPad.  I hope to be able to learn about the intricacies involved in programming LisaX and Junixon in the future.

Practice

Thanks to STEIM’s incredibly generous offer to use one of their studios for the duration of my stay, not to mention the unrestricted hours in which I was able to use the studio, I experimented with utilizing my new STEIM setup with my own live performance components.  I also created a 6 speaker surround-sound environment to widen the sonic impact of my stereo recordings.

I found that using the Wii controller in conjunction with my ‘triggering’ of the CDJ, Air F/X and vocal effects processor worked very well.  Essentially, I had another element of “triggering” hardware that I could incorporate into my live experience.  Dovetailing off of my experience working with Troika Ranch and the NYU New Music Ensemble, this idea of triggering seemed to offer unlimited possibilities in the areas of stage setup, movement, and refining performative elements.  For example, my ancillary movement onstage – often the result of emotion and adrenaline – now had an anchor of sorts.  I could re-focus that movement to another trigger, thus creating a purpose for this ancillary movement.

I also found that I had to develop a new level of concentration when working with the Wii controller.  With each movement of the controller and operation of its components, a different effect and/or sound manipulation was enacted.  I’ve found that working in this manner becomes a veritable mine-field of accidents if the performer does not have a strong connection with and knowledge of their equipment.  Therefore, the Wii controller provided a challenge of not only remembering the parameters assigned to each movement of the controller (such as pitch shifting, sample speed, filtering, etc.), but focus and discipline when executing sounds (i.e. knowing how to stop and start the sample source when I wanted my other components to be represented).

Performance

I was very pleased with my performance at STEIM (with Juan Matos Capote) on June 5th.  After a great deal of practice in the studio utilizing these two environments, I felt confident enough to present them both in a live performance.  The samples used in LisaX were of my own tracks from my 2008 BlipVert album “stop:skronk;explode.”  The sample triggering with the Wii worked very well with the chaotic nature of the music, and highly sped up samples and pitch-shifting were fun to experiment with during sections between songs.  It almost seemed to be an carefully executed and controlled overload of information, which is exactly the place I hope to get to in all of my performances.

A few complications I noticed were balancing sounds (i.e. live mixing) and precise location of the cursor within the sample.  I would possibly spend more time working with sound mixing at another residency.  Perhaps there would be a way to work in sound mixing to the Wii controller operation.  I see this as ideal for someone in my situation, as two independent environments – sampling and mixing – would need some kind of regulation.

I also feel that I would need to practice more in positioning the sample cursor in LisaX.  Most often, it seemed that I happened on certain sounds or sample sections at random.  There were sections that I would have liked to identify and refer back to specifically at certain points throughout the live set.  Perhaps this could be accomplished by using shorter samples, or completely different samples independent of BlipVert material.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, my recent experience at STEIM has presented me with new ideas and possibilities for performance.  I feel as though I’ve mastered my current setup, and I am looking to expand (compositionally and in performance) in whatever way is unique and inspiring to me.  Some of these ways have been composing new styles of music as BlipVert with live bands, free improvisation sessions, and experimentation with using different ethnic instruments and cross-cultural composition.  I believe STEIM is one of the best institutions in the world for providing ideas and inspiration for artists who wish to expand and develop their performance ideas.  I hope to continue to work with STEIM in the future.  I believe (if the opportunity presents itself) I could work with STEIM to develop a completely unique live performance environment for my BlipVert project.  This of course would raise questions as to the kind of venues acceptable for said environment, technical requirements, and length of time to develop components.  I look forward to the future having seen STEIM’s ideas and opportunities for electronic music performers.

I would like to thank Nico Bes, Frank Balde, Takuro Mizuta Lippitt, and all of the wonderful STEIM staff for their help and support during my recent residency.

-W/Blip

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