On August 26, 2016 I had the pleasure of adding generative electronics to the music of master jazz players bassists Matthew Garrison, Massimo Biolcati and drummer Nate Smith. The concept was to create music using only beats and sounds generated from Fodera basses (we were celebrating the release of Fodera’s new Imperial Mini MG bass. I started with an empty Ableton session. I had an audio feed where I was sampling Matt’s bass and creating sequences and loops with the sounds using the Push’s loop pedal function and ClyphX. The sequences were then chopped, effected, randomized and performed by the laptop – as a kind of mechnical improvisation – while the humans used it as the basis for more improvisation. We used Ableton’s Link to synch my laptop with Matt’s. Throughout the fall, I’ll be developing these techniques further at ShapeShifter Lab here in Brooklyn and hopefully performing more with some of these fantastic improvisors. ShapeShifter Lab is an amazing place to explore new techniques and sounds – one of NYC’s most creative musical spaces.
I’ll be doing a live set on Saturday, July 30 in San Jose, Costa Rica as part of the two Ableton courses I’m teaching down there. At the Feria Verde, San Jose, CR.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on this page. In the past year, most of my postings have been as part of the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory which I founded a year ago. I wanted to share my latest project which I’m beginning to perform live with.
Generative music is a term coined in the 1970’s by Brian Eno and it refers to music generated through an algorithm in a system. The artist then grabs what the machine generates and does their best to make art from it. I find to the concept fascinating because I see it as a metaphor for life and improvisation. Time and chance throw event and people at you and each day you essentially figure out ways to take what you’re given and make the best from it. Sometimes it’s beautiful, many times it’s not, but it is always truly original.
The instrument I’ve come up with (pictured above) I call a digital electronium in honor of one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century, Raymond Scott. Scott’s electronium was an analog machine designed to generate patterns that the artist could capture and alter and create a kind of duet between the composer and the music. This is my goal for this live set – to essentially compose electronic music so rapidly that to any listener it sounds like a live performance, and yet every single sound is generated either through random algorithms in the machine, synth parts I play in live and loop and external audio, from my own voice or that of other musicians, I sample into the computer.
The rules I made in creating this set are the following:
1. Absolutely no pre-recorded audio can be used at all.
2. I must begin with an empty Ableton set with no clips containing either audio or MIDI
3. All sounds can only come from the following: 1. Sounds by random algorithms generated by computer-based synthesizers. 2. Sequences on computer-based synthesizers that I play live into the computer. 3. External audio including vocals, electric bass, any other live instrument, a transistor radio etc. etc.
I have two purposes in creating this set.
Firstly to push the boundaries in regards to live electronic music performance and move away from pre-recorded audio towards sound created for the place and time of the performance. I say this without any disrespect for DJs. In fact, I would like my set to sound at times like a great DJ set. DJs are some of my biggest inspirations and it is an incredible art, but I am and have always been a live musician and have been making music on instruments since the age of 4.
Secondly, to learn to produce and make music so rapidly with Ableton that I can compose in real time. I’ve always wanted Ableton to become a true instrument – just like my bass – one that I can use to rapidly create music on my own and with collaborators.
I will be doing a series of performances at Brooklyn’s ShapeShifter Lab this summer and fall and hopefully getting ninja on this new instrument.
I’ll be doing a live set tomorrow night at 9:00 with Comandante Zero at the MediaLab Dance Party in downtown NYC. Live electro-funk and some PUSH.
For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a new Ableton PUSH set up for live performance. I’ll write a more extensive piece on this in the next couple of weeks, but this is briefly what I’ve been working with:
I’m seeing the whole set up as a complete instrument. It’s a hybrid – a DJ set up and live instrument matched together. In my left hand I have the DJ controls – volume faders, a cross faders and knobs controlling filters, delays and the sounds of the TB 303 emulator that I’m running. In my right hand are the live instruments I’m playing. I use the PUSH to program beats on the fly, use the step sequencer and play lead lines and bass lines. I also trigger samples with this hand and “play” the filters of the Moog Minitaur
My goal with this set up is to essentially improvise a dance set. Start with just a couple of sounds and loops and rock a dance floor for an hour. No set can or will ever be the same – it will depend on the night, crowd and how everything comes together.
I also have a random acid house generator spitting out patterns when I really want to take a completely unplanned detour and see what I can do with it. Kind of like life – taking what’s handed to you and doing the best you can with what the universe has given to you. : ) More on some of the details of the set up and tips on live performance with PUSH to come.
Here’s a little jam I’ve been working on.