Live improv vs pre-made ideas balance?

Live patching, designs, and techniques that push the performance envelope.

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Post by versipellis » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:41 am

The Grump wrote:Interesting points all around, and it's good to see diverse approaches, but there are also some other factors to be taken into account. Space was mentioned, but kind of glossed over. Steevio mentioned some things of import, especially if you've got some f***ing massive rig like he does, as well as a reputation and following who are into him just creating what he does live. But most of us are not like that. We don't have the travel budgets, the weight allowances, or the following that's going to be as forgiving. And yes, some folks can say "Well that's just a sweeping generalization.", but the fact is that some of the generalizations asserted here, are that: A GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE MAJORITY OF APPLICABLE SITUATIONS TO THE TOPIC. Other points raised are exceptions, and curiosities, but they don't mean that the views for the majority of those encountered can suddenly be simply discounted.

And really, yes it IS TRUE that the majority of audiences DO NOT GIVE A SINGLE F*** ABOUT HOW YOU MAKE YOUR MUSIC. They just want to hear something that isn't distracting while they take selfies with their friends, and someone can reassure them that the music they are listening to is cool.

Most of them don't understand what a modular is or why it's cool, but their friend told them it's amazing, so they're all about it.

Personally, in the past I've done both completely improvised, and almost completely pre-recorded parts that I mixed live, and now I'm going back to more improv and hardware in my live setup. I'm just bringing out a little skiff, and some boxes that I will not repatch live, I'll just use them as effectively as I can where they fit, and then make sure that I'm not spending an inordinate amount of time wanking on them, because that can happen REALLY QUICKLY on modular gear. You think you're doing something cool, you look up and the floor is totally dead except for a couple of craft-brew sipping neckbeards who are thoroughly impressed with your self-indulgent silliness.

If it's ambient, sure do whatever, but if you want to keep a dancefloor moving, there is no time for wankery. Mostly pre-done parts, some recombination, a little mangling, and a couple of synth tones getting tweaked a bit live is usually plenty for a dance set, especially if you have programmed solid drums with really good sound quality and some interesting percussion. Good basslines are a must, too.

"If the drums and bass dance together, the ladies come to the dancefloor, the fellas buy them drinks, and daddy brings home the bacon." -Mike Banks
This, so this. Once I'm patched in the studio, I'll leave it patched or repatch it the same way just because I know "it works". You can get lost in a patch for ~15 minutes, but I can guarantee you that a dancefloor listener is gonna get bored if nothing changes by the 3 to 5 minute mark.
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The Grump
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Post by The Grump » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:16 pm

Modules like a Graphic VCO, or a Disting, with recallable settings are also extremely helpful for giving you consistent and recognizable jumping off points that you can also return to in an instant, which imbue your set with far greater immediacy and repeatability, which if you're trying to play out repeatedly and consistently, you MUST be able to achieve, unless you've already established that aspect of your musical identity. If you're hit or miss, a promoter can't afford to hire you, have you crash and burn and lose ticket sales on their next event.

Some folks have their "improvised" sets worked out (know their gear backwards and forwards, have refined their musical ideas and directions in their heads to the point that they can worry about what they will play far more than how), and have established themselves as being able to consistently create something that a particular crowd of fans enjoy. Please, please, PLEASE understand that those folks ARE EXCEPTIONS, they are a VERY rare breed, who have enjoyed very particular circumstances and opportunities to establish themselves, and on top of that, probably spent a pretty ridiculous amount of time just sucking, not being good at what they are now quite proficient at doing.

Personally, I've been making music for well over forty years live and recording, as well as engineering music for others, in all kinds of places around the world, and chose art over commerce (for the most part), and know ~some~ of my gear well enough that I ~can~ improvise a set live, that would sound okay, and probably move a crowd, but not like some of the more complex material that I've prepared ahead of time.

My overall suggestion, (I offer this because the OP has never played out live EVER) is to create lots of building blocks of material that one can combine live to create various combinations of ideas that are coherent and cohesive. As it is your first time out, make BIG blocks. As you become more proficient with your gear, and familiar with the ideas, and how to recall/recreate them, you can make the blocks smaller and smaller, and figure out ways to combine them in ways that are interesting for your audience.

The whole trick to making this stuff work live is to first figure out how to create things in privacy that will be enjoyable for others, then how to quickly either create or recall them or something VERY close to them in basically an instant. Sometimes, it's the journey of working into a sound whose settings and patchings you know PERFECTLY, but most of the time, it's about already having those sounds, or more importantly GROUPS OF SOUNDS ready to go, and then presenting them in a way that works, musically, transitioning into and out of them, then into the next group of sounds that work together to express an idea and feeling.

The more of those coherent ideas you can create (which others enjoy listening to), and the better your ability to work into and out of them, then into the next one, or combine ideas, the stronger and better your performances will be, and the more people will demand to see and hear you play.

Not only that, but looking at your rig, you have all of two voices, and pretty much ZERO processing. @AW198, if you want to do anything but basically fall flat on your ass, you're probably best to come up with a LOT of material in the studio to play off of a laptop or CDJ, because a couple of Mother32's and some envelope modules are going to get VERY boring for most audiences in about five minutes in even a best case scenario. I also see that for now it's ambient and textural stuff, which give you a bit more leeway, but really, your audience deserves the best of your ideas, not just an attempt at a dazzling show of twisting a couple of knobs, in the hopes that it will continue to sound interesting to others. You can do the ON TOP OF the brilliant ideas you compose ahead of time.

Caveat: These suggestions are all based upon the idea that you take music seriously, and want to play out more than just this once. If it's just a hobby and you're really not bothered, please feel free to ingore all of it, and just go have fun, not worrying about anything.

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Post by Claude » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:16 am

This thread is a great read with some good advice and sound thinking. My partner and I just about exclusively improvise and one takeaway for me is the comfort with risk that develops. It is also fascinating to listen back to my own parts from our live work, independent of hers, and realize that my choices are very distinct from when I'm playing by myself. Listening, anticipating, and reacting to a collaborator or collaborators is a really fun way to build live improv skills. Standing behind what you do is important too, so here is a clip, of us "going for it" on a "video shoot". Not meant to be instructive, just an example of what we did that day:


Thanks for the good reading!

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Post by szydek » Sun Sep 15, 2019 8:37 am

ersatzplanet wrote:I have a Tesseract Nutella module that is basically Ableton in a module and I could play a whole sone on it alone if I wanted to (or it can be a "safe" place to go to if there are problems).
Thank you for mentioning the Tesseract Nutella as a sort of replacement for Ableton in a purely modular setup. If I decide to wean myself from Ableton as the central nervous system paired w/Mutant Brain (my current approach), TN will surely be something to look into. That all being said, I haven’t yet gained confidence to take my rig out live yet (even with Ableton, prepared material, etc) - perhaps a topic for another thread...

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Post by Severed head » Sat Sep 28, 2019 5:23 pm

Your performing solo I’ll assume?
That’s a big determining factor for me really.

If I’m play with a group the music can get going and I can build a patch with out boring people out the door. And fade in after the other guys got things going

But if I’m playing solo I like to have a sorta basic idea that has the potential for expansion and evolving into a more complex group of ideas

Cuz a lot of people don’t understand that building patch is an evolution that stars from what the general audience will hear as a simple less interesting sound to a complex evolution of beauty.

I just keep that in mind
So I don’t bored people out the door while getting the idea to the interesting point.

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