[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

unexpected gear behavior (was: improvisation and performance)

Rick said:
> loop) or your
> gear suddenly throwing weird unexpected things at you (which seems to 
> to me an inordinant amount
> of time).

There is a distinct charm in gear doing unexpected things, and a few 
methods to create them:
(Note that in this discussion, I will treat anything which is 
"pseudo-random" (e.g. random numbers created by a computer) as random. I 
will also not focus on how to work with these things in a performance, 
only on the technical aspects of how to effect this behaviour).

Most of the tools (instruments, effects including loopers) we use are 
deterministic (i.e. a certain action or set of actions will trigger a 
certain response) and a lot of them are also time-invariant (meaning the 
response to a trigger now is delayed by five seconds if I trigger it five 
seconds later).

There are basically two ways to obtain unexpected behaviour from our tools:
   a. make their behaviour (their transfer functions, i.e. which output 
they generate from a given input) statistical.
   b. introduce time variance.
   c. make their transfer functions "weird" (highly non-linear).

ad a.: use a keyboard that does sometimes not react to key presses, or 
plays notes without keys being pressed, or induce a random delay between 
key press and sound. Use effects which change their behaviour randomly. 
Use a sampler that randomly selects new samples, etc. etc.

ad b.: If you put a pitch shifter controlled by an ADSR envelope into your 
signal chain, the amplitude of which is controlled by an LFO. Although 
this behaviour is strictly deterministic, the outcome will be rather 
unexpected most of the time, especially when the function controlling the 
parameter is very complex.

ad c.: Say you got a pedal to control the frequency of a filter in your 
signal path (e.g. a wah pedal). Normally, heel down means frequency 
minimum, toe down means frequency maximum. You could change that 
characteristic linking the pedal position to the filter frequency into a 
very complex function with lots of up and downs in between and perhaps 
even a edge-time dependent component (pressing the pedal faster gives a 
different result). Again, although this is strictly deterministic, and you 
may stil retain some "base camps" in your curve (e.g. by retaining heel 
down=fmin, toe down=fmax), this will also give way to some pretty 
unexpected behaviour.
Also, using a never-heard before effects device with telling patch names 
like "023" or "323" would fall into that realm.

So, how to do that?

For all of these, some modularity in the device you're using is really 
helpful. One (hardware) piece of equipment which comes to mind is the Nord 
Modular series of synths (which also work great as effects btw). You get 
random signal sources, you get envelopes and LFOs, and you can patch about 
anything to anything. In the computer/software realm, all of the modular 
things are king: Reaktor, MAX (at least I suspect so), Bidule. 
Some other very specialized plugins also allow for that kind of fun, 
though mostly only for case a). The VSTi Sun Ra and the VSTs SupaTrigga 
and the dfx VSTs are great examples here. SupaTrigga is an especially nice 
example: it's a VST effect meant to hack/break up beats. It does so by 
slicing a bar into a number of segments and then rearranging, repeating, 
reversing them, playing silence or doing some kind of "turntable stop 
effect". For each of these six ways of affecting the signal, you can 
assign propabilities.
In Ableton Live, there is also the possibility to define propabilities for 
different clip transitions, e.g. you can assign propability whether a 
certain sample or MIDI clip keeps playing or just jumps to another 
(randomly or deterministically selected) one.
Btw, has a "random" function been integrated into the Mobius script 
language yet?

Another way is to integrate new sensors into your devices. 
Photoresistors/transistors, RF circuits a la Theremin, stock quotes 
transmitted via internet...

Is this also possible with more "traditional", analogue gear? The short 
answer: it's much harder to do, and takes up more space. What is true in 
the computer/digital world works here, too, though: using modular analogue 

And now, I decided also to write about how to integrate it into your music.

For a lot of those effects, I found it works best with my way to make 
music when I have quite high a degree of randomness, yet am able to turn 
the randomness on or off (or fade in/out) at will. So while normally I 
play rather deterministically, I will sometimes hit a few "Chaos" buttons 
and hope that something interesting happens. Examples? Again, I'll point 
you at some moderate weirdness on the y2k6loopfest.com web page - in my 
track "The Streets", you both hear Mobius' "Shuffle" function and the dfx 
"Skidder" plugin on the loop taken of the initial guitar theme, and later 
on, the drum breaks are created using SupaTrigga. And on some of the 
kybermusik tracks available on Krispen's site (www.krispenhartung.com), 
you can hear Sun Ra in the background let loose on some hardcore porn 
sound samples.