The music world is overloaded with people who talk about music – how it works, what has happened, what is happening. Few people can really delve articulately into questions of why. Susan Rogers is one of those few.
Her talk at Ableton Loop this fall was, in all three years of attending Ableton’s bespoke event, the one that has stood out for me the most. I instantly nagged friends at Ableton to release the video, not only because I wanted people to see it, but because I wanted to watch it again just to process everything she said.
She talks about trying to understand Prince’s genius and how he worked. (She was sound engineer on Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times.) She talks about how the brain works (she’s a neurologist) and why sometimes great music doesn’t find an audience. She talks in personal terms, and about how sometimes great people don’t find a partner. She does what I think great teachers do: she has something to say, and she gets to it directly. But there’s empathy in every insight, and each thought makes you feel a desire to go learn more – to do the homework.
I think whether we’re talking about machines or music or people, the further we go, the more we may realize understanding the mind is the key to all we want to investigate – of course.
I’ve got a lot more I’d want to talk to her about; I imagine you do, too. So – I’ll be rewatching as you rewatch, making notes.
Ableton shared this set of three videos, that take a look cinematic ambient artists Mattokind, and how they translate their music from studio to stage. The first video, above, captures Mattokind’s live performance of Scenescape. The next videos feature the group breaking down their setup and discussing their process for adapting their studio sound to… Read More Mattokind On Translating Your Music From Studio To Stage
One of them likes to solve Rubik’s Cubes, blindfolded, on tour. The other is capable of executing elaborate drum programs programmed on a computer, on live percussion. Meet Tennyson and learn how they work.
As we saw before, Ableton Loop is a place not just for learning about a particular product for musicians, but gathering together ideas from the electronic music community as a whole. And Ableton have been sharing some of that work in an online minisite, so you get a free front row ticket to some of the event from wherever you are.
Tennyson is a good example of how explorations at Loop can cover playing technology as instrument – and everything that means for musicians. Watch:
Tennyson are a young Canadian brother and sister duo, with a unique musical idiom they tested together in live acoustic-electronic improvisations in jazz cafes. Complicated, angular rhythms flow effortlessly and gently, the line between kit and machine blurring. For Loop, they’re interviewed by Jesse Terry, who is product owner for Ableton Push (and has a long history working with the hardware that interacts with Live).
And the sample programming is insane: you get Runescape samples. A baby sneezing. The Mac volume control sound. It’s obsessive Internet-age programming – and then Tess plays this all as acoustic percussion and kit.
In this talk, they talk about jazz education, getting started as kids, Skype lessons. And then they get into the workings of a song.
The big trick here: the duo use Live’s Racks, using the Chain function, so that consistently mapped drum parts can cycle through different sounds as she plays. (I’ll review that technique in more detail soon.) 24 variable pads play all the sounds as Tess is playing.
Working with Chains in Ableton Live’s Device Racks can let you cycle through samples, patches, and layered/split instrument settings.
Part of why the video is interesting to watch is it’s really as much about how Tess has gradually learned how to memorize and recall these elaborate percussion parts. It’s a beautiful example of the human brain expanding to keep up with, then surpass, what the machine makes available.
For Luke’s part, there’s a monome [grid controller], keyboard triggers, and still more electronic pads. The monome loops chopped up samples, sticks can trigger more samples manually — it’s dense. He plays melodic parts both on keyboard and 4×4 pad grid.
The track makeup:
Arrangement view contains the song structure
A click track (obviously)
Software synths each have set lists of sounds, with clips triggering sound changes as MIDI program changes
The monome / mlrv sequencer
Here’s an (older) extended live set, so you can see more of how they play:
Here’s their dreamy, poppy latest music video (released March) – made all the more impressive when you realize they basically sound like this live:
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