Fwd: [rumori] live performance

wobblyatcompcurr.com Fwd: [rumori] live performance
Sun, 14 Mar 1999 01:19:36 -0800 (00921403176, 199903141034.CAA28584atmail.currents.net)

Wanted to try to kick the discussion on 'live performance' that flourished
for a day or two about two months ago. There were a lot of great things
brought up, I'm quite involved in attempting to bring many of them into
personal focus, the more noise from you lot the better.

There seemed to be some confusion in terms in response to my perception
that certain aspects of live performance and studio work are merging.
Certainly, this century has confronted the line between improvisation and
composition and brought various elements of each back and forth across the
line to examine, but I'm talking about something different.

Basically, Varese composing 'Poeme Electronique' or Stockhausen composing
'Kontakte' in the fifties: (I contend that) these recordings are audibly
recognizable as 'compositions'. The laborous studio procedures at hand
took months to realize, so every second of the resulting sound was
subjected to several months worth of compositional decisions and choices.
There's also a heavy sense of 'play', of improvisational discovery within
the actual sounds that were perhaps discovered 'messing about' in the
studio, but the months of work that were required to place the sounds in
context are (I am contending) audible.

There was that one section of 'Kontakte' (I forget the exact min.sec
portion) that Stockhausen discusses in 'Stockhausen on Music', that took
him and an assistant several months to assemble, cutting several sound
sources apart into millimeter fragments of tape and reassembling them into
two tracks of linear sound. He knew the sonic effect he wanted to result
from this process. Two months later -- work done -- presses play -- his
heart sinks as he realizes that the tape-fragment-lengths were ever so
slightly over-long to acheive the ascending effect he wanted -- they have
to do it all over again. The second time, he got what he had been attempting.

Today, one could start the process in real time with MSP, and two seconds
in, 'hear' the overlong fragments and correct it _in real time_. I am
curious as to what this effect is having on music.

Part of the charge in listening to 'Kontakte', for me, is somehow 'hearing'
the investment of energy in each compositional choice. The sounds
themselves have a direct emotive impact, but on another level, my dim
knowledge of the techniques that the sounds must have required is as much a
part of the piece's _audible_ structure as the simple sounds themselves.

Now, today, one could recreate 'Poeme Electronique' by loading various
sounds into a sampler, and using DSP and a keyboard, retransform the source
material in real time before a live studio audience. It would be tricky,
mind you, it would take rehearsal and dexterity as a performer to realize a
faithful recreation. But it could be done 'live'. Is it the same piece?

More to the point: what is happening, is that performers are taking the
latitude granted by instant access to these labor-intensive studio
techniques, and 'learning' how to improvise with them. No point beyond
fetish value recreating Varese in real time; what is interesting is
learning exactly how to bring these techniques into real-time play.

So this all makes, sense; composition is still composition, it's simply
that improvisation has been given a whole new realm of technique to
explore. Recording technology brought on a brief historical division
between 'live music' and recording-specific compositions, and several
decades later the technology has sufficiently progressed to overcome the

Still, vertigo all over. For years now, I've learned much from carefully
re-editing tapes generated in improvised radio performances. As Vicki
said, radio is different, it's a unique meeting place of the live
environment and the studio, so I didn't notice the phenomenon quite so
consciously until I made the transisition into live performance before
crowds, and then took the tapes home for listening.

Documents of live performances are often invested with a very strange,
intangible charge, are somehow self-evidently 'live' recordings. Editing
radio I often noticed how one minor 'edit' to remove or modify a 'mistake'
would have the side-effect of completely ruining the recording's energy.
I've gotten better at learning what to leave, but this live aura is still a
bit of a mystery.

Now that I am collecting recordings of music performed in full sight of an
audience, the aura is extremely audible. I'm presenting to the audience my
studio proficiency; how well I pause a tape, cross cut two sources, loop
or layer a rhythm, crossfade a record. At home, most of the techniques I
would use to carefully edit the recorded document of the live show are
already in evidence on the recording itself. This isn't 'doctoring',
editing out bum guitar notes or overdubbing better backup vocals,
post-editing instantly enters into a severe confusion with the identity of
the recording as a document. Increasingly, the vocabulary of live
performance is merging with the vocabulary of recording-only compositions.

Very simple and very baffling paradigm shift here; there's no difference
now between using a guitar to slowly piece together/compose a song, then
using the guitar to play it through in real time, and using a studio
patched through a mixer. We've dealt with the existence of acoustically
impossible sounds (and the paradigm shift that forces between live & recording) simply by admitting the reproduction of them on stage into the
paradigm of 'live musical performance'.

I'm not sure what my final point is yet, but I do think that there's
something that I (and the increasingly wide audience) is missing during
this paradigm shift; i.e. the line between live and recording being erased
simply by the rise of live music based on recordings, that would be an odd
thing for the listener to lose conscious track of. There seems to be no
end to the microscopic diffusion of Benjamin's 'aura' that seems to be
happening with each new technological impact on artistic expression.

How to keep track? Impact on the music itself? I'm curious if any of you
have seen any of this manifest in your stuff, if you've managed to avoid
this logical loop altogether, anything to help me fall back to sleep.

Also, from the last round, Vicki, Steev, Lloyd, Mark G., Bob, all had
specific responses I am trying to collate a response to, which will
probably be much more usefully concrete towards further conversation than
any of the above muck I had to pass, next time.


Sender: wobblyatmail.compcurr.com

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>Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 23:50:50 -0800
>To: wobblyatcompcurr.com
>From: wobblyatcompcurr.com
>Subject: [rumori] live performance
>Going to try to spark a discussion that might be a little more 'shop'
>oriented than the average detritus skree.
>I'm guessing there's a number of us on this list involved in or moving
>towards various modes of live performance. Every year there are more and
>more real-time tools for playback and manipulation of a wide variety of
>recorded sounds -- the high end stuff just gets more powerful and the low
>end stuff keeps getting more inexpensive, and there's been an explosion of
>music being produced in a live environment that very recently could not
>have been realized outside of a studio.
>Many of the techniques and working methods Varese used to laborously
>assemble 'Poeme Electronique' are now available in real time -- same sound
>palette, even style and structure, but the studio vocabulary is now
>available for an improvisational approach. Audiences are getting used to
>seeing mixers 'performed' live on stage, recognizing its presence as a live
>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, my
>relationship to/reaction to/recognition of the recording seems to unfixed
>itself in a way I haven't quite got the hang of yet. There's an advantage
>to blurring the (cultural) distinction between composer and performer, but
>there's a lot to be worked out now that the element of 'live performance'
>is centered within the editing of pre-recorded audio.
>This 'issue' is either more pointlessly obvious navel-gazing or
>unanswerably profound -- I'm interested in what any of you for whom
>composing is say 50-100% editing are encountering, internally, externally,
>results, new musical goals, etc. as a result of incorporating your studio
>vocabulary into live performance.
>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.