piecework

I’ve recorded 33:46 so far for the next album (and bits that are going to be used in the next section), with no concept or name in mind for it. But it’s flowing along nicely.

Mylar Melodies recently did a video titled “Thoughts on Designing Live Modular Systems & How to Play a Live Improv Modular Synth Forever.” It’s a mouthful, but gets the point across, right?

I’m contemplating the gap between a set-length performance (about 30-90 minutes) and my current process (“movements” of about 6-10 minutes recorded live, but edited and stitched together outside of real time).

Mylar plays dance genre stuff. For him, it’s a matter of:

  • Setting up a smallish, flexible and playable system, that allows for continuous variations but not too much complexity.
  • Patching it in a “semi-permanent” way.
  • Practice as if playing a live show. Get to know what the patch can do, take notes on tricks and on things to avoid, practice graceful recovery when things go awry. Get used to the way time flows and feels during a performance.
  • The performance itself is a slow juggling act with two or three voices. Voices and patterns are slowly evolved, dropped out, changed silently and then brought back in as something new.
  • At some point he makes changes to his live rig, or builds a different one and practices with it, etc.
  • There’s not a lot of planning involved, just more of a general outline.

To adopt my own process to this, obviously patches would have to live a bit longer — right now I patch from scratch for a single recording session, then unpatch.

Things are complicated somewhat by using effects chains in the DAW. Overall it less nimble than Mylar’s simpler rig, with only a Mimeophon for FX and a significant part of his case dedicated to mixing. I would have to prepare a bit more in advance, and perhaps juggle a bit less than he does.

But I do think I could approach this incrementally. Instead of readying a 10–minute recording, I could add a bit more stuff to be layered in and get to 15 or 20 or beyond without even juggling much. In fact, having the DAW is also something of an advantage in that regard, because I can set up a number of software voices and looping samples as well. So perhaps my own approach to this shouldn’t try too hard to imitate what the modulator techno improvisers are doing.

I still do have that extra space in my rack. There are “programmer” or “preset” modules which can shift or morph several CVs together, and ways to change routings and so on via switches. I could also do some of this with Bitwig and the ES-3, and a little of it with Teletype.

Naturally, if I really wanted to play live outside my own studio, there are other concerns. My setup is not at all portable! But that’s not really my goal; it’s to see whether this different approach appeals to me and serves my music well. And since I very much enjoy my current process, I’m not really in a hurry to switch it up. I might just naturally push those session times longer with my current process, and see where things go from there.

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