Live ideas

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Some things that I don’t like about ambient / experimental performance setups I’ve seen:

  • Over-reliance on laptops. For all I know everyone who does a live show staring at a laptop the whole time has just hit play on iTunes and then plays World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy 18 for the rest of the time they’re on stage. It doesn’t make it much better if there is occasional interface with a mixer and Kaoss pad. Not to say I would exclude a laptop, just that it would have to be used in a way that required minimal attention from the performers.
  • Noodling around over a backing tape. This seems tacky. I can understand why someone would want to do it, but I don’t like this idea much at all.
  • Big drum beats in ambient / noise music. I’m thinking specifically of one band I saw, I can’t remember the name, it might have been one of the Origami Republika outfits… the opening was about 20 or 30 minutes of pretty interesting and challenging noise, then the big drum beat kicked in, and although the crowd loved it, the beat ruined it for me. Big beats are an easy way to please a crowd, it’s low-hanging fruit, it’s a cop-out. I might be interested in making live rhythmic or even beat music at some point, but surely in a different way than this.

Things I do like:

  • Homemade instrumentation / oddball instrumentation. I have a bunch of ideas for sculptural noise makers and it’s about time I start constructing some of them. I include automata in this idea.
  • Music played in the dark, or near dark. Who needs a light show? The dark is better.
  • Quiet audiences. I don’t think there’s anything a performer can do about this other than bind and gag the chatty sons of bitches. Then again, that might be a good way of going about it… hmm…

Something I wonder about that I don’t yet have an answer for:

  • How does an experimental artist on a tight budget decide on instrumentation and strategies so that the sound palette will be rich and diverse and not one-dimensional? (and not “ongepotchket” either)

I also remembered that there are two “live” performances in my catalog, although neither was performed in front of an audience. One is “the Long Defeat” and the other is Drone Forest’s “June 21,2003”. So I guess if I say I’ve never performed live as an experimental musician, that’s not necessarily true.


  1. I recall a while back seeing on Youtube some guy playing a MIDI Theremin, so he could trigger completely different sounds/effects on a synth and modulate/control it with the theremin. It didn’t sound at all like the usual swooping sine wave. Such a performance allows for movement on the part of the artist, possibly some showmanship if one can find clever ways to interact with the space around the theremin. Throw in some circuit-bent toys and PUPPETS and you’d get a show worth watching.

    Posted by CP McDIll | January 14, 2009 1:16 pm
  2. That sounds pretty cool. I’ll open for you!

    I think right now I’m leaning more towards metallic / industrial sounds.

    Posted by C. Reider | January 14, 2009 5:33 pm
  3. I was at a performance once where a guy had guitar (or maybe piezo-electric?) pickups attached to the tines of a garden rake, then run through reverb/delay effects, and it sounded powerful. He was striking at individual tines and sometimes slamming the whole thing against the floor. How’s that for industrial?

    Posted by CP McDIll | January 14, 2009 5:41 pm
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