Cameron McKittrick (theremin, laptop) & Richard Windeyer (drums, laptop) at ‘Wired’ (Laurier Music Festival, Wilfrid Laurier University, January 31, 2016)
Last January (2016), Cameron McKittrick and I revived our digital performance project ‘Finger’ for an alumni reunion concert at the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Music. Once upon a time, Cam and I were both composition students there. More recently, we both worked there as sessional instructors in composition and music technology — which is essentially how the Finger project came to be.
In this performance, Cam’s instrument consists of theremin-controlled piano samples which are activated and organized through MaxMSP software. My drum kit uses acoustic MIDI trigger data to manipulate a granular synthesis engine containing a vocal improvisation recorded by longtime friend, collaborator, and spoken word artist, Angela Rawlings.
Although our improvisation was brief, it seemed to succeed as a performance — or so it seemed based on post-concert conversations with audience members. This was (I suspect), partially due the fact that we intentionally chose NOT to focus our attention on the screens of our laptops, something which has become a persistent condition of so many laptop-based performances. Instead, we focused on anticipating, interpreting and reacting (sonically) to each other through our respective physical (especially facial) gestures.
It seems to me that one primary consequence of any performance that employs computers is that it renders far too much of the actual ‘work’ of performance invisible to the viewer. Our solution here, simply put, was to transfer the perception of that work to the interplay of two human bodies struggling to formulate — and then exchange — informational cues in realtime.
Much more to be explored here (I think, I hope).
For best results, listen on headphones. In this demonstration:
• The audio signal is fed through digital processing software via binaural microphones worn by the drummer. This enables the drummer to influence the mix of acoustic kit instruments to be processed – including the degree of sonic detail and relative strength of the signal as it enters the processing chains – by adjusting their physical proximity to the kit (i.e., head related transfer functions).
• A collection of household ‘foley’ sounds (stored in a granular synthesis engine) are activated by an acoustic MIDI trigger mounted on the kick drum. This offers the possibility of using drum velocity values to trigger looped and often unmetered textures which the drummer can then play in counterpoint with.
• The current ‘soundscape’ of this kit borrows from traditional ‘dub’ processing techniques (echo, feedback, band-pass filters coupled with envelope followers, ‘spring’ reverbs), yet also attempts to infuse each instance of a dub echo with different sonic information, such as discreet ‘foley’ sounds, voices or harmonic ‘augmentations’ generated by a vocoder.
• Gated ‘ghost tracks’ are also revealed through changes in the drummer’s loudness levels. In this demonstration, the ‘ghost track’ is an archival interview recording of early jazz drummer Warren ‘Baby’ Dodds for the Folkways album “Baby Dodds – Talking And Drum Solos” (Folkways Records – FJ 2290, 1951)
Hulaboom is an ongoing-series of original studio releases and instrument design experiments begun in 2014. Each track begins as an improvisation on a ‘hybridized’ (electroacoustic) drum kit, through which a variety of signal processes, samples and gated ‘ghost tracks’ are activated by the drummer.
In this initial phase of development, the compositional structure and sonic palette of each improvisation is expanded and shaped by studio production methods.
Subsequent phases of development will focus on:
- multichannel (surround-sound) diffusion of the electroacoustic material
- increased emphasis on improvised performer interactions with generative music systems (rather than entirely pre-composed content).
- integration of movement/body tracking data as a compositional determinant
- integration of triggered/controlled digital video as both image and light source
- amplification of the drum kit using binaural microphones (worn by the drummer)
- explorations of the drummer as cultural icon and storyteller.
A performance for live percussionist and responsive computer music system this Friday evening (April 19th, 8 pm, $10) at Musideum (Toronto).
This is the latest incarnation of a solo project of mine exploring the physical activity and cultural imagery of the jazz drummer, juxtaposed with the gestural language and technologies of electronic dance music. It looks at how human and machine-made rhythms and systems can most effectively shadow and complement each other, while straddling multiple musical genres (electronic dance music, ambient/soundscape, improvisation, ‘microdubb’, and generative computer music).
…this dream i had once where STEVE REID and STEWART COPELAND were driving a florescent orange schoolbus to LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY’s studio in the hopes of recording a drum battle remix for AMON TOBIN (as a farewell gesture before retiring to the Hebrides). Along the way. they start listening to a Japanese import bootleg of the early electronic music of KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN and begin to argue about the use of live processing on drum kits as a symptom of sleep deprivation. Suddenly the bus falls prey to a blinding SIANSPHERIC glare and swerves, narrowly missing the tall guy from DIRTY VEGAS, who was too busy losing himself in vintage Manga by the side of the road to notice. The bus comes to a screeching halt in the middle of the road (‘RA…TA…TAT…AP…PA….RAT’). STEVE and STEWART get out, nervous and sweating in the hot afternoon sun. They look around and realize that they are both wearing their FOUR TET tour T’s inside out. They share a laugh and a hi-five, unaware that in the back of the bus, STEWART’s last bottle of Hai Karate aftershave has smashed open and is now smothering STEVE’s last box of ENO tablets. Still, it really is the perfect day for a nation-wide evacuation….
An artifact of the now-defunct Department for Personal Sonification, National Exit Strategy is psychedelic dub and techno with a live drummer, microscopically amplified and re-computed to create a cosmos of soaring tones and colours fueled by heavy dance-driven beats and and geekable-tweakables.