What makes a live act visually interesting?

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

Moderators: lisa, luketeaford, Kent, Joe.

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

What makes a live act visually interesting?

Post by petersandbach » Sat Jan 09, 2016 4:52 am

I've played all sorts of instruments in all sorts of genres for most of my life but electronic music is my primary interest in terms of the music I make. I'm fascinated by the combination of factors that make an electronic act visually interesting in a live setting. Personally, a big name act fiddling win his laptop to a clever light show is not a turn on, no matter how much I love the songs (these kind of things still seem to pull the crowds though). In contrast a guitar band playing 3 chords may stir the soul deeply. I wonder what other people find interesting live, and how they try and incorporate that into their own acts?

User avatar
pulpum
Common Wiggler
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:45 am
Location: bordeaux

Post by pulpum » Sat Jan 09, 2016 10:56 am

stage question is one of the main "post-digital" aesthetic problematic .

one argument is that the concert is not ON the stage but IN the venue, so if almost nothing is happening on stage is it really a problem?

we still have a big heritage from the classical concerts, or even "pop" concerts. Do we still come to concerts to see people playing their instruments? is it more valuable to see a guitar player sitting with his guitar, than a modularist behind his thing? we should ask ourselves if musical gesture is part of the show too... like electroacoustic concerts which are played in dark... music first!

I have no answers to your question, only more questions ;)

User avatar
authorless
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:41 am
Location: Wilmington, NC

Post by authorless » Sat Jan 09, 2016 11:10 am

A sense of risk.

Visual affirmation that the performer's actions are related to the created sound.

Honesty.

Playfulness.

Passion.

Proficiency.

What isn't enjoyable: slopping your way through it. Half-heartedness. "Are they doing office work?" Obviously wasted.
"Wait a month and buy from a fellow wiggler who's desperate for new modules." - Johnisfaster

"It's oscillators are so precise and lifeless it's actually a digital modelling analog synth." - nadafarms

User avatar
ersatzplanet
Synthwerks Design
Posts: 6516
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:18 pm
Location: Seattle WA

Post by ersatzplanet » Sat Jan 09, 2016 3:09 pm

I was part of a three piece electronic music group back in the late 70's called Young Scientist. We did many shows around the Seattle area for about a decade or so. Always live improvisational concerts, NOT dance clubs but theaters and some outdoor gigs. We had lots of gear, tape decks and such but it was still 3 guys wiggling knobs and not moving much. The type of music we played was classical Electronic music - textural soundscapes, movie soundtrack music. We used to go to the Seattle library and check out 16mm movies from their collection, Often we would just get them by their titles and had never seen them before. Films with titles like "Cosmic Zoom" "Volcanos" "Machine shop equipment" - science and trade movie and art films. This was way before video projectors. We projected them behind us while we played. We would sometime look up at them and maybe make a sound to match the film, we had very loose scripts for 15-30minute set pieces, stuff like "5 minutes of nature, drone zone in C, industry, decay" like that. If the movie was doing something that fit and you noticed (we were busy most of the time - no presets then) you would maybe make a sound to follow the film. I can't tell you how many time people would come up after the show and comment on how well we played to the movie. The mind of the listener wants to be given the pictures to associate with the sounds and will make association even if they were never intended by you to be made.

Movies and visuals, and not just abstract video art stuff, really adds a lot ro the houses enjoyment. Now with video projectors and vast libraries of sources out there for visual content, you can easily make meaningful visuals that follow what you are doing. People WILL dig it.
-James

James Husted - Synthwerks, LLC - www.synthwerks.com - info@synthwerks.com - james@synthwerks.com
Synthwerks is a proud member of the Mostly Modular Trade Association (http://www.mostlymodular.com).
Always looking to trade for Doepfer P6 cases

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

Post by petersandbach » Sun Jan 10, 2016 9:47 am

Yeah, I have taken inspiration from alot of these thoughts. Connection between the artists action and the music I think is a must. I think that's what turns me off some laptop stuff.

Interesting about the video thought. I've wondered whether it would be worth investigating some simple projection/video synth stuff. Overlay with shots of the performance from close up and shot of old movies...

Thanks for the thoughts! Love to hear more...

User avatar
Steevio
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 893
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:31 am
Location: Wales, UK

Post by Steevio » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:45 am

standing sideways on to the audience so that they can see what you're doing.

i see a lot of modular performers standing behind a wall of cases, you sometimes can't even see them let alone see what theyre doing.

at the electronic music festival i organise Freerotation, we experimented last year with some performers in the middle of the dancefloor so that the audience were all around. Its was a storming success.

Of course there are security issues, and you have to be careful beer and such doesnt get spilled on gear, so its logistically challenging, but in the right environment its well worth the effort.
Our event is 'members only' so we never have a problem with anything being stolen or damaged, but it would be more risky in some less intimate environments.

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

Post by petersandbach » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:55 am

Steevio wrote:...performers in the middle of the dancefloor so that the audience were all around. Its was a storming success...
Sounds amazing!

artistcalled6
Common Wiggler
Posts: 127
Joined: Sun May 10, 2015 9:38 am

Post by artistcalled6 » Thu Jan 21, 2016 12:29 am

When I can see the artists having fun and putting in the work, I feel that is visually interesting. Youth Code is a great example, Ryan is back there doing some stuff on the keys and OT, but he is not just standing there swaying, he really get's into it, while Sara is all over the stage. No visuals, or costumes (although both of those things don't hurt), just raw energy.

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

Post by petersandbach » Thu Jan 21, 2016 3:12 am

No visuals but some pretty intense air punching! Just checked them out on YouTube - you're right, costumes and visuals aren't always needed. I reckon a few simple lighting tricks would really add to their act though - maybe they do already, just doesn't come through on the videos?

User avatar
mckenic
pew!pew!pew!kthnxbye!
Posts: 6382
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:05 pm
Location: Limerick, Ireland

Post by mckenic » Thu Jan 21, 2016 4:22 am

Couldnt agree with these two statements more - The audience gets what you get playing in a live situation... the risk of it going wrong and the buzz of excitement at that edge of failure. They want to see you succeed. Just as chords resolve, the performance resolves. That and the mind makes mental pictures to the sound anyway - when there are visuals there that remotely relate/react to the sound - the jump isnt too big and again, everything resolves!

(I think!)
authorless wrote:A sense of risk. Visual affirmation that the performer's actions are related to the created sound.

Honesty. Playfulness. Passion. Proficiency.
ersatzplanet wrote:The mind of the listener wants to be given the pictures to associate with the sounds and will make association even if they were never intended by you to be made.

User avatar
Liddlepud
Awfully Common Wiggler
Posts: 1495
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:28 pm
Location: Up me own arse

Post by Liddlepud » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:17 am

petersandbach wrote:
Steevio wrote:...performers in the middle of the dancefloor so that the audience were all around. Its was a storming success...
Sounds amazing!
It was an amazing experience playing there but the fact that it's a members only festival means that all of the audience were there because they wanted to be, not just because it was somewhere to go and drink beer. Even when the performers were back against the wall and not in the middle of the room there was no raised stage area and so you were on the same level as the crowd. I definitely got more into the physical side of the performance when I could see people dancing and responding to what we were doing.

User avatar
Joe.
Wired for sound
Posts: 4988
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:58 pm

Post by Joe. » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:45 am

Setup a fan at the front of the stage on the ground, pointing back at you at your face, wear a cape.

Matching cape and sweatband for bonus points.

Willowhaus
Common Wiggler
Posts: 107
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:12 pm

Post by Willowhaus » Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:24 pm

You forgot the fog machine. :mrgreen:

User avatar
Lineofcontrol
Common Wiggler
Posts: 248
Joined: Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:09 am
Location: Toronto, Canada

Post by Lineofcontrol » Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:13 pm

I've done 3 live performances over the last month or so and each time I had my back to the audience, but then they could see all my gear and what I was doing...

In an ideal world I would have had a video camera and screen projecting what I was doing and faced them. :bananaguitar:
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/364929

try and imagine a blind man dreaming...Bret Easton Ellis.

Sold:
Analogue Solutions Cv2midi
Cylonix CycleBox II
Doepfer VCDLFO
Intellijel Metropolis
Intellijel uStep v2
Kilpatrick K4815 pattern generator
Kilpatrick KMidi
Koma SVF 201
Lightstrip LS1
Mutable instruments Grids
Mutable instruments Shelves
Mutable instruments Warps
Make Noise Function
Malekko VCO2
Synthrotek Dirt
WMD/SSF Mini Slew

User avatar
Yasha
Common Wiggler
Posts: 93
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:22 pm
Location: Seattle

Post by Yasha » Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:16 pm

Here are two people playing handmade synthesizers:

[video][/video]

You will notice two things that make their performance visually interesting:
1. They generate the required electricity as they play.
2. They have engaged the services of a leek twirler.

Feinstrom
Common Wiggler
Posts: 224
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:05 am
Location: Northern Germany

Post by Feinstrom » Sun Jul 17, 2016 4:27 am

Good leek twirlers are hard to find, though...

In my setup I have a number of instruments/gadgets that require actions/gestures that can be associated with the resulting sound by the audience - things like a pencil that generates (well, it triggers) sounds as I draw with it, a Mike Matthews' Soul Kiss or a D-Beam-like thing to control a filter. Oh, and I even have something very exotic: a keyboard that I play sometimes!

In the future I want to add some visuals as well, such as sound-triggered video synthesizers, some LED strips and an LED candle (which looks way better than one would imagine).

Oh, and I don't use any modulars onstage, sorry (but my bC9/FAB-Echo/Ampliton chain can swim circles around your steenkin' Buchla :sb: !)...

Cheers,
Bert

User avatar
wsy
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2719
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:20 pm
Location: near Boston Massachusetts USA

Post by wsy » Sun Jul 17, 2016 6:08 am

ersatzplanet wrote:I was part of a three piece electronic music group back in the late 70's called Young Scientist. We did many shows around the Seattle area for about a decade or so. Always live improvisational concerts, NOT dance clubs but theaters and some outdoor gigs. We had lots of gear, tape decks and such but it was still 3 guys wiggling knobs and not moving much. The type of music we played was classical Electronic music - textural soundscapes, movie soundtrack music. We used to go to the Seattle library and check out 16mm movies from their collection, Often we would just get them by their titles and had never seen them before. Films with titles like "Cosmic Zoom" "Volcanos" "Machine shop equipment" - science and trade movie and art films. This was way before video projectors. We projected them behind us while we played. We would sometime look up at them and maybe make a sound to match the film, we had very loose scripts for 15-30minute set pieces, stuff like "5 minutes of nature, drone zone in C, industry, decay" like that. If the movie was doing something that fit and you noticed (we were busy most of the time - no presets then) you would maybe make a sound to follow the film. I can't tell you how many time people would come up after the show and comment on how well we played to the movie. The mind of the listener wants to be given the pictures to associate with the sounds and will make association even if they were never intended by you to be made.

Movies and visuals, and not just abstract video art stuff, really adds a lot ro the houses enjoyment. Now with video projectors and vast libraries of sources out there for visual content, you can easily make meaningful visuals that follow what you are doing. People WILL dig it.
Late 60's thing - turn on the TV, turn off the sound. Then do a "radio music" on an FM radio, just pick out
random 30-sec to two minute chunks of broadcast radio. Your mind will connect the dots that aren't even there
and get some great consonances / dissonances; comedies turn sinister, dramas turn farcical.

And that's without even drinking...

Other observation: people want to see you AND your instrument. Notice that Emerson usually played at an angle,
so most of the audience could see everything, all the time?

If it was good enough for Keith Emerson, it's probably good enough for me. :-)

- Bill
"Life is short. But we can always buy longer patch cords" - Savage

User avatar
noisejockey
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1565
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:15 pm
Location: SF Bay Area, CA, USA
Contact:

Post by noisejockey » Sun Jul 17, 2016 2:48 pm

In short: It's hard!

As far as performance, It's all about visible cause and effect, and a perceived amount of risk for the performer. I just performed live with a modular for the first time and the most frequent comment I got was, "It really looked like you were playing." I cheated my setup 45° to the audience, had an iPad, had a visible controller skiff that required human intervention to progress structurally through the piece, and had an OP-1 on the top of my open modular suitcase. The fact that the audience members said that strikes me as something to listen to, and to realize that you can have that kind of cause and effect without a traditional keyboard.

Failing that, live projected visuals become very important. DJ Shadow's "Private Press" tour had an amazing mix of this, in contrast to Amon Tobin's ISAM tour: The former showed the performer doing crazy things live AND amazing visuals; the latter was more visceral sonically and more polished visually, but for all I knew he was in his little cube checking Facebook. I've actually walked out of an Autechre show (!!!!) because I was bored, and they're one of my all time faves...

It's nerdy but IMO the approach of projecting from the performer's POV really helps people grok what's going on, and I think is a very smart thing to try.

I'm with Edna Mode from The Incredibles: NO. CAPES. :lol:

User avatar
strangegravity
A Big Knob
Posts: 1659
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 12:01 pm
Location: Cincinnati

Post by strangegravity » Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:20 am

Scantly clad and attractive dancers

A glass tank full of kittens

Rent Iron Maiden's giant Eddy

The boat tunnel scene from the original Willy Wonka movie on a loop

How about video synthesis?

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

Post by petersandbach » Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:06 pm

noisejockey wrote: but for all I knew he was in his little cube checking Facebook. I've actually walked out of an Autechre show (!!!!) because I was bored, and they're one of my all time faves...

It's nerdy but IMO the approach of projecting from the performer's POV really helps people grok what's going on, and I think is a very smart thing to try.
Yes. Cause and effect and show people what you're doing...

User avatar
c0rpse
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 289
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:54 pm
Location: Denver, Colorado

Post by c0rpse » Mon Jul 25, 2016 8:58 pm

When the music is so good the ladies can't help but dance.

User avatar
waveglider
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1169
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:49 am
Location: Los Angeles

Post by waveglider » Mon Jul 25, 2016 9:18 pm

I find that flaming patch cords always seems to provide the appropriate visual context for all my performances.

User avatar
lasesentaysiete
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1505
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2016 5:23 am
Location: Barcelona

Post by lasesentaysiete » Sun Jul 31, 2016 7:33 am

performers in the middle of the dancefloor so that the audience were all around
Although technically not a dancefloor, I've seen Francisco Lopez in a similar context. We were also offered blindfolds at the door. I took one.

Also been to a Tim Hecker show in a "soundproof" room with no lights.


Both of these artists, along with others, have expressed an explicit deisre to maintain a sort of "visual neutrality" in order to keep the focus on the sound. FWIW

Also, yeah, "you can't be neutral on a moving train", I know.

User avatar
petersandbach
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 265
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:07 pm
Location: Manchester UK

Post by petersandbach » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:11 am

lasesentaysiete wrote:
performers in the middle of the dancefloor so that the audience were all around
Although technically not a dancefloor, I've seen Francisco Lopez in a similar context. We were also offered blindfolds at the door. I took one.

Also been to a Tim Hecker show in a "soundproof" room with no lights.


Both of these artists, along with others, have expressed an explicit deisre to maintain a sort of "visual neutrality" in order to keep the focus on the sound. FWIW

Also, yeah, "you can't be neutral on a moving train", I know.
I appreciate that there is an aesthetic argument for no visual elements at all but personally I would find it so frustrating if I couldn't see what the artists were doing!

User avatar
lasesentaysiete
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1505
Joined: Thu Feb 18, 2016 5:23 am
Location: Barcelona

Post by lasesentaysiete » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:16 am

I appreciate that there is an aesthetic argument for no visual elements
For me it depends on the nature of the work. For example, I couldn't imagine an Ikeda piece without the visual element, be it an A/V piece or a sculpture-based installation.

But there's a fine-line with the whole "no-visuals" thing because at a certain point this stance becomes just as political and influential upon the spectator as any form of visual could be.

Post Reply

Return to “Play Out! Performance Modulars”