[rumori] live performance

The Evolution Control Committee [rumori] live performance
Sun, 17 Jan 1999 15:54:28 -0500 (00916606468,

At 06:42 AM 1/17/99 -0800, you wrote:

>So I guess what I'm interested in hearing from any of you is any of the
>reactions you've had as studio musicians who are making/have made a
>transition to live performance -- because this really is a new environment.
> I'm taking home live tapes, i.e. documents, and since the on-stage
>performance decisions are IDENTICAL to my approach in the studio, ...

Good topic, btw. Like Steev I find that I can't really recreate my
studio creations live too easily, even with copious hard drive space or
whatever, because there's often too many elements that need simultaneous
coordination or whatever. My latest battle has been with a single I put out
last year called "Rocked By Rape" which basically is one long collage of Dan Rather speaking with AC/DC rhythms behind it. I can't play the Dan
Rather stuff live; there's just too many fragments. The AC/DC stuff is
possible, but it I perform that with the Dan Rather track I need to sync it
precisely or the whole song is lost... y'see? I don't really know what the
solution it for things like this, except perhaps to not play them live at all.

>This just occured me as the most likely list that'd have people who've been
>staring this thing in the face for a while.

It is something that I've had on my mind since I started playing live
about 12 years ago (wow, has it been that long?). And you're right in that
people have become more accustomed to people doing knob-twiddling on-stage;
back then people were much more mystified by a guy with his keyboards that
didn't appear to be pressing enough keys to make all the music they were
hearing. DJ culture, for better or for worse, has allowed us to be more
accepted by fickle audiences.
Even still, it would be nice if there was a way to perform more sample
oriented pieces in a more "natural" context. By this I mean that performing them from a sampling keyboard isn't natural because the keyboard is laid
out for tonal performance and not atonal samples. I like how Operation
Re-Information performs simply with a computer keyboard (which, btw, they
wear with a guitar strap). What I'd really like to see is something like a
computer keyboard hybrid, where you have individual non-piano-keyboard keys
laid out for different samples, but with extra controllers like the pitch
wheel on a synth keyboard, but also things exclusive to digital sample
manipulation -- a key to reverse the sample, to pitch shift it in realtime,
and things like that.
If I've learned one thing about what audiences want, it's that they
want to see the sounds being created. With "regular" instruments (guitar, drums, etc.) it's easy because they can observe the acoustical process of
the strings being plucked or drums being hit. With electronics, they have
no hope. Luckily people are beginning to understand that just because they
can't see the sound being created doesn't mean that the performer is
necessarily "cheating", but audiences aren't [entirely] dumb and they can usually tell when you're relying on a sequencer or backing track.
Probably one of the worst performances (on a performance basis only) I
saw was Trimpin. Trimpin does some incredible, incredible things -- he has
a prepared grand piano that is entirely computer controlled. He has an
array of odd instruments (drums played with water droplets falling on them,
etc.) all computer controlled. And for his live performances, he sits at a
laptop and presses Enter and sits there while everything plays. The
instruments and creations are incredible. But the performance aspect sucked.

Vicki sez:

>Radio is more fun because it is not restrictive. But playing live in front
>of an audience is a real CHALLENGE and I like that. Or least the idea of
>it. OK, I like getting paid.

I knew you were just in it for the money. :-) Playing before live
audiences can be pretty brutal, but there's a sort of appeal for it
nonetheless... it sort of "validates" one as a performing musician, perhaps, to be able to present one's stuff to people live, face-to-face.
When I perform I get a very real high out of it... after the performance
I'll just be floating for the rest of the night.


>there has always been a marked division between my live
>music and my studio music. They've been by neccesity 2 completely
>different things, because I still can't really do what I really want to
>do live, whereas I feel like I have reached that point in the studio.

More and more I want to keep the two quite separate. I have a side
project called The Weird Love Makers (that is, until we change our name to
avoid confusion with the Tucson punk band of the same name); TWLM's
material is entirely sample-based but much more geared for a live context
than my studio (Evolution Control Committee) material is. Allowing TWLM to
be the live component and ECC to be the studio one keeps things nicely
separated and avoids the thorny problem of trying to make one work in the
other's context.
Even still, I do try to do the occasional live ECC show, and it's
usually done with lots of backing tapes... not my preference, but I haven't
come up with many better ways of conveying the material. I do try to do
things like puppet shows to add some variety though.

>However there may fundamentally be an impossible chasm that i cannot
>bridge - free improvisational, on-your-feet thinking may not ever be
>compatible with the sort of semiotic, meaning-rich sorts of pieces that
>I'm most interested in producing. So the live/studio question may boil
>down to the aesthetic priorities I've set for myself.

It could be that the studio is an instrument which violates one the one
rule that makes music such a unique form of art: its timing. That is, you
can't play a studio in real time, and because of that one may not be able
to take a studio on the road, since it would be pointless for live
performance. But there are studio tricks that can be done in real time
which could accentuate a live performance, if one had an appropriate
interface for making these tricks happen:

>yes. thanx for bringing this up, Jon. (I hope Bob Ostertag weighs in,
>since he's just finished a new live instrument that's been in the works
>for months.)

... which makes me all the more interested in what this could be. Bob?

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