These days as the final concert at the Nasjonal JAzzscene is getting closer I am in the process of finalising all the different pieces of the piece for my exam. Rehearsing and making the last decision as well as looking into whether incorporating live visuals could be of interest.
When suddenly no longer being in a band, but instead becoming a solo performer who relies heavily on previously made programming and live electronics I have had to further develop my production skills and learned a lot along the way.
When studying music production in my last year of my bachelor at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts I was largely working with bands in a band setting, using programs such as Logic Pro and Pro Tools and often collaborating with students studying at the schools sound tech degree. Therefore I had made some previous experiences (like the fact that the snare sound for some reason always seems to be a problem and is incredibly difficult to get right/get it to sound like it does in your mind), and I was familiar with the production process, but I was relatively new to looking at it from a beat-based direction and using Ableton Live.
I have spent time learning tricks to improve and set up my sessions, like loading clips into RAM to increase speed, using multi-core support, adjusting sample rate & buffer size and freezing and flattening tracks for instance. I have received som great guidance and I have also spent a great deal of time watching really boring youtube tutorials on how to EQ & mix your sets for Live performance. Instrument & beat wise I have always had a clear idea of what I want it to sound like and so a large part of the production process for me has consisted of exploring midi-instruments and finding out how to get there rather then contemplating to much time to thinking about what it should sound like.
I am very pleased with the current results and what the music now actually sounds like. I also feel like I have naturally developed some live techniques that are contributing to creating an own sound for this project, particular with vocals, as a direct consequence of doing a lot of improvising and natural part of the project
To show some of the starting points and how the piece and my own experience has developed you can see the beginning of ‘Hudløs’ (which directly translates to ‘without skin), which is the first part of ‘Memory Of Flesh’ ((KIME)).
Performed at Musikkbaren @ NMH, OSLO december 2014__
Also drawing inspiration from pieces such as Bjork’s “Enjoy’
The inspiration forming the piece ‘Memory Of Flesh’ came from reading two individual articles who have morphed together with a touch of my own thoughts and expression.
The first of them was Russian Dj Nina Kravitz writing for groove magazine on the topic of ‘Inspiration’. But the piece also speaks about the first touch, first light. How we as humans tend to form a thick skin for protection after being stung by bad experience, and how these layers of protective foundation that we put up may be keeping us from truly experiencing inspiration and life fully again if we cant bring ourselves to sometimes lower these walls and let the pains and pleasures that is a crucial part of life in.
Hence the lyrical lines:
‘Do you feel me, Shedding these layers of skin
Now do you believe me, will you let it in’
from the first part of the piece.
‘Your skin like armour corroded,
Hard like systemic Sclerosis’
(Systemic Sclerosis is an extremely disease that causes the skin to become hard)
from the second part.
You can read the piece in full here:
The second text was a piece by The Verge entitled “Memory In The Flesh” (where I also drew inspiration for the title of my piece’) on the scientific experiments of scientists James McConnel & Michael Levin, and the slightly morbid theory that memory has the ability to exist outside the brain, travelling through flesh. McConnel conducted experiments with the common freshwater flatworms who have a centralised brain. By training the behaviour of one flatworm to then cut of its tail and feed it to another worm to see whether the new worm would exhibit signs of the same behaviour he attempted to prove that memory, can in fact travel outside the brain. His research and findings have been disputed as showing to weak results, but interesting all the same.
You can read this piece in full here:
These two texts form the inspiration and background for the piece I will be performing for my exam concert at the national jazzscene, blending together with some of my own thoughts and development they form the lyrical background for ‘Memory Of Flesh’ ((KIME)).
One of the main goals with this project and what was initially one of the main things that I wanted to learn through participating in the Live electronics course was was to expand the possibilities to live improvise as a solo performer. I have seen numerous “electronic” shows that have felt static, boring and unoriginal where I have felt like there was literally now live aspect or feel and this is what I wanted to avoid. Its a criticism that the electronic field is often faced with, but for me the biggest reason for wanting to find measures to avoid this is that I find it boring watching, I find it boring playing. Its not communicating. Connecting with the audience. And for me that has always been the main point of and what I love about playing live. The raw energy and sheer presence that you feel when attending or playing a really good live performance.
I for instance find inspiration in performers such as Australian ‘Kucka’ and Mei Saraswati who are creating, performing and playing with similar concepts.
I also wanted to expand on the possibilities for live improvisation to keep live performing challenging, present and fluent. Where you can create something in an instant, that might never exist in exactly the same way again. I draw a lot of inspiration from Norwegian Jazzguitarist Stian Westerhus who largely freely improvises his live sets and by doing so for years is an incredibly experienced live improviser who creates beautiful and unique musical moments, that are present and then may never exist again. Some of his solo shows have been my favourite shows.
As someone who wishes to do a great deal of live improvisation I found huge opportunities and creative use of utilising the Ableton looper with mapping it to a controller. Layering mainly vocals, to create harmonies, rhythms and soundscapes, is one of the ground pilars forming the building blocks in the first part of my exam piece ‘Memory Of Flesh’ ((KIME)) entitled //Hudløs___ and something that has naturally developed through experimenting with improvisation. Though I also play quite a few instrument Ive always really liked using my voice and looking for new ways to use it and tweak how its sounding. By using effect tracks and the looper I can build the whole backbone for a song or musical piece only by using my voice, and utilising my voice with effects to almost make it sound like an instrument of it own. Its also something that enables me to make rhythms and harmonies really quickly, that sounds really raw and unpolished and has a tone that I really like, something thats become a crucial part of my sound and live expression.
Coming into live electronics as someone who is coming from a more physical instrumental background initially being pretty green on Ableton live and trigger pads and controllers I was starting from scratch with learning the basics and main functions of the program.
Through the year I have experimented with different ways of setting up my sessions and learning stuff like how to utilise return tracks (which I have ended up using to extreme measures and which plays a large part of my live concept.) Because of my extensive use of vocal improvisation, layering and live impro I have found through a process of experimenting that by connecting return tracks with different effects & a looper to my vocal track, and mapping them to a Nanokorg or Novation controller I expand the possibilities I have for improvisation and a larger playing field for also using my own vocals more like a traditional instrument.
I now have a basic set up that includes a certain amount of return tracks containing effects and a looper that I start with as a beginning point in every new session I create. Effects tend to be chosen on my background experience from working with guitar pedals, but also varies from project to project and different requirements for what needs to be achieved.
I have always been sweeter on the low frequencies and noise measures utilised by performers such as live improvising performers Maja Ratkje, Stian Westerhus and noise artist such as Pharmakon and SUNN O)). I believe my choices for effects comes from a background of looking into guitar pedals, effects and tones, being familiar with physical pedals and using effects that are often main when playing guitar tones such as reverb, delay and distortion. I like big soundscapes and have found through a bit of exploring that this is easily achieved and performed through adding large cathedral reverb layers to my vocals.
Controller wise atm. I am using a small not considerably expensive, but very useful controller with knobs and faders from Nanokorg. What I particularly like about this controller is that it has its own clear set up for looping that is very physically and visually compatible for mapping it with the Ableton looper which makes it really easy to use. The only thing about this controller is it tends to be unstable and several musical retailers have told me they have gone out of production. I am now therefore in the process of fading this one out for another similar controller from Novation.
I also use a Native Instrument Machine micro mainly for its pads & live triggering and my Microkorg XL as a midi keyboard for playing & sampling.
Today we had an incredibly inspiring workshop with Norwegian Live visual artist Birk Nygaard from Bergen.
Here I learned to use the program visuals XFEM. step sequencing, effect & layering amongst others & this clever little trick that you can bounce & export the visuals.
This has brought me a step closer to my goal of incorporating live visuals into my set.
I intend to either layer to pieces of video simultaneously so you will se them as a blend, or blend several still images over each other with a step sequencer set to the live BPM.