TECH AND TECHNIQUE: Q&A:
A friend of mine after a recent performance asked me,
“Was your live set improvised or composed?”
It was an interesting question that gave me pause before I could answer. In truth, there’s quite a bit of grey area, so it’s best to break it down a bit. In this situation, where I had a fairly comprehensive set up (more details on that soon!), utilizing multiple synthesis, compositional, and improvisational techniques and processes that were applied in the performance.
For instance, I had previously recorded a 2 minute piano composition, which was put into a Morphagene sampler. I had played around prior to the show with this piece, so had a general idea of musical direction, however it was up to me in the moment to decide the ultimate fate of the piano piece, which ended up chopped and blurred, shifting between distant chords freely. In this way, a composition was deconstructed and improvised upon through electronic means.
In another instance, I played a short piece I had written for keyboard on a Moog Grandmother (synthesizer), which I then live looped and layered with multiple digital sampling devices (Morphagene, Mimeophon, Timeline). This is another way in which something that is composed can be removed from it’s original context and musically repurposed actively, creating a new interplay between the creator and what is created, and between the formality and experimentation of composition and improvisation.
Of course, this raised many more questions for myself – at which point does a loop achieve the status of a composition, be it a recording or a repeated musical phrase? At what point does process in musical creation become more intrinsic to musical creation than traditional means of composition or improvisation? Many of these questions entertain me regularly, and it seems to me a wide section of Minimalist, experimental, and music concrete musicians in the last century have explored. Here’s to a hundred more!