So, this project has been on the back burner for a while (over a year since the last post!). I have been working a lot on music stuff, and making work, and doing art shows. Recently I have been re-considering what I am doing with music, especially performance. I have always used a specific set of tools both on recordings and in performance. I have been trying to create the same thing in both situations. This has been challenging, as at home I tend to exploit the opportunities that recording offers. Most "songs" i make evolve as a series of happy accidents, self-collaborations in the moment, and sounds I record, forget about, and make sense of months later. In order to accommodate for this in performances I've tried integrating pre-recorded over-dubs as a way of doing things that would be physically impossible as one person. It doesn't feel the same, as the pre-recorded things are static, and sometimes don't feel right in the given setting. For example, often in my recordings there are background sounds that end up being in the recording... the sound of cars going by, the kids playing next door, crazies shouting in the street, the church across the street, etc. In recorded form these sounds make sense to me, and it serves not only as a document of the music that I am making, but the sounds that inevitably influence me. When I play these pre-recorded things live, in the way that I had been using them, it feels sort of cheap. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm also playing a few instruments on top of it, and using overdubs makes me feel like i'm trying to fool the audience into thinking it's all live or something. Or maybe it's that I'm not devoting enough reverence to these captured sounds?
I've been thinking about ways to simplify what I am doing to the point where performances are little meditations on one simple idea. To focus very specifically on these collected sound artifacts, and give them more space to be appreciated. I decided to delve back into this computer project, as a computer is a tool which offers many possibilities for sound, performance, and interaction with it as an object. I started working on the computer this blog was devoted to, only to discover that it was broken.
I tried fixing it for a while, but faced with an impending performance I decided to figure out how I might use a laptop as a vehicle for performance. In performance situations I'm really not all that interested in laptop music, or "interactive" audio synthesis. I think that a lot of it never really gets past the medium, and down to really exploiting it, rather than letting it dominate what it is that you do. Certainly there are exceptions, Lucky Dragons being a shining example. Luke uses computers in a very thorough way that really exploits what they can do, yet a lucky dragons performance is an intensely human experience. The laptop is there, and yes audio gets chopped-up, and compressed over and over, but it still feels completely natural. This is due to a few things: the intimacy and excitement of strangers touching each other as a form of audio synthesis, but also the simple and open, child-like wisdom the music possesses opens people up and frames the interaction they are having with each other. Paul Slocum is another somewhat relevant example. He makes music with obsolete, vintage computers from the 80's & 90s that sounds incredibly lush, and not at all 8-bit and computery. But really Luke is the best example of what I'm talking about here. Human computing. Read Richard Brautigan's "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace".
So I've been thinking about how to use a laptop as a tool in performance, without letting it become the focus of what's happening, and without falling into typical laptop defaults. I decided to use the reinvigorated 70's keyboard i have, and turn the laptop around to face the audience. I'm interested in opening things up and thinking about how I can be more engaging. Here is the first, and most recent performance I've done:
cool! I'm pretty excited about the possibilities, and I'm psyched to see where this goes! I'm playing a few shows coming up, they're listed here.
Now that I have this project where I have focused specifically on these pre-recorded artifacts, perhaps I will next try approaching the guitar in a similar manner. Focusing solely on one thing, to allow it room to breathe. Someone who is doing just that with pop writing, and instrumentation is Lullatone. So many people! ahhaaaa :D