Traveling with Electronics : Liminal Austin : 2016
liminality.....betwixt and between
I just got back from a wonderful week in Austin Tx, where I had the good fortune to participate (for a second year) in The Liminal Sound Series teaching Conduction to an ensemble of exceptional musicians over a four day period - Two Electric Guitars, Two Pedal-Steels, Two Electric Keyboards, Violin, Acoustic Piano & Live-Sampling.
The Workshop / Concert was held at MoHA (Museum of Human Achievement)
The Liminal Sound Series is a live concert performance series dedicated to the commissioning of new works and collaborations between visionary composers and Austin based musicians and performers.
MEET THE AUSTIN ENSEMBLE
Bob Hoffnar - Pedal-Steel (Bob runs the series and is one of the finest musicians I know)
Will Van Horn - Pedal-Steel
Chris Vestre - Electric Guitar
Lauren Gurgiolo - Electric Guitar
Michael St. Clair - Synthesizer
Sarah Philips - Electric Piano & Organ
Justin Gortva Scheibel - Violin (I was live-sampling Justin)
Zac Traeger - Piano, Synthesizer - Live Processing Max/MSP (piano & violin)
Zac took an interesting approach for the workshop - he talks about it here:
The approach I took for conduction worked off part of my general artistic practice at the moment, which is treating the computer and its informed decisions as an equal creative voice in various modes of expression. I personally wish I could've expanded on this idea further, as in my opinion the setup I ended up with for Conduction was mildly generative, and I think the idea could be expanded upon.
The performance itself moves very fast and requires eye contact so the things that ended up working were those which required minimal maintenance.
The generative/max driven components of the setup involved mainly reinterpretation of midi, broken into two categories.. polyphony and monophony aka sustain and solo in the ableton session. My goal for sustain was to be able to use the same key to trigger a curated but always changing stable of harmonies with variables on density, spread, and root of the chord with dynamics and note length being controlled after the harmony. This was achieved with a group of LFO's set to random, controlling a harmony generator that I like called Xeno chord explorer.
I modified the patch only slightly to receive a square lfo to randomize most of the parameters (chord type and density) depending on the rate of the lfo. The other two lfo's are randomly changing root and scale. All the Lfo depths were mapped to a single knob, as well as the "random" parameter of the original note, in case I wanted to retrigger the same chord. This chord data then comes out sometimes into a very fast arp set to only repeat once (to give the notes a more human/not all at the same time sorta landing), then a bit of random velocity (again to reintroduce some human elements) and sometimes a bit of miditax (which is exactly what it sounds like, and I use it all the time), just "taxes" some of the midi and gives you less notes depending on how high its set.
For the most part that was it, that channel was routed to a master mid channel, in case I wanted more control of the general performance, and then to a sampler with a bowed piano patch that I thought was appropriate to the ensemble and my pairing with a violinist.
My monophonic/solo patch is just an event generator with the same midi tax and a few other controlling parameters, with a random LFO on note length, that I would send to a kontakt patch with a variety of samples that I picked out for this session.
I did a bit of granular delay and some live-sampling of both piano and violin.
I used a midi controller so I could get to knobs, faders & mutes without looking, which was really key to moving as fast as the music.
I also utilized a Moog Multipedal that sends both CV and midi to control the main volume of ableton as well as the volume of a Little phatty that I would use sometimes as a synth and sometimes to play live samples as a midi controller.
We recorded every session at 24bit 96k with the very impressive ZOOM H6 six track recorder, using an AKG 414 and a ROYER 121 in a Mid-Side Configuration, placed in front of the ensemble to capture the most detail in the stereo field and then added a matched pair of NEUMANN 184's facing left / right (placed directly in the center of the ensemble) to add more presence as well as depth to the recording. In post - we added just a touch of EQ and a gentle compression to the mix via a PORTICO 5043.
I find that simple recording techniques (rather than multi-tracking everything), using the best mics you can get and paying attention to every detail regarding layout, amp placement (as well as amp size and volume), mic placement and "dynamics" is the most effective way to capture a Conduction Performance. I hope you enjoy this one.
Not unlike the early field recordings of American Folk Music, the recordings of my Conduction Workshop / Concert from the Liminal Sound Series 2016, are replete with all the sonic accoutrements of the twenty-first century urban environment.
As with every conduction ensemble performance the music is discovered by all, in the moment and is unique to time and place and to each constellation of musicians.
until next month then, enjoy the music below.....and safe travels.....dino