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Re: Ravel as a looper
>Hey, lets keep these threads going! The list has swerved way into
>gear-nerdism lately; and this is a welcome relief. What are some other
>parallels in western classical music? I admit to being fairly ignorant
>about much beyond the obvious pieces everyone listens to in music
>appreciation classes. Could one of you guys give us a little tour of the
>uses of repetition-as-compositional device in classical genres? I'd be
I agree about the importance of this thread eventhough I am a tech culprit
myself with the VG-8 thread...
Repetition-as-compositional device in classical genres....
Boy that is hard a hard one. It seems to me that all good composition is
the proper balance of repetition and variety. Repetition is necessary for
consistency and variety is necessary to intrest the audience. The amount of
repetition or variety is a matter of personal taste.
It seems that the modernist movement, which is entrenched in the academic
setting, which is where classical music resides in the US, feels rather
strongly against being obvious in your compositional process. Consequently
direct repetition is almost always frowned upon by Modernist music theory
and composition professors. All of my composition and theory professors
have always stressed the theme and developement concept of music
composition (basically a Beethoven mindset). This means that you never
state the same thing twice but always changing melodically, rhythmically,
harmonically etc. There are other ways of composing but this is the so
called "classical way".
There is a big rift between the modernist folks and the minimalist
composers of the 60's,(post modernists mabey??) because instead of
developing themes these composers(minimalist) create a slow but
recognizable process of change throughout a piece. There is really no
concept of theme/development, rather it is conveying an recognizable
process that is important. The division also comes about because the 60's
"minimalist" process is usually simple and recognizable in contrast to the
extremely complex processes of integral serialism, stoachastic, and
computer musics which are the avant guard of the modernist movement.
Direct repetition is certainly a big part of Reich's and Glass's music and
consequently it sounds very different from Stockhausen and Boulez.
For classical compositional techniques I suppose you could start out with
canons as being a technique that is certainly relavent to loopers and is a
common thing found in classical music and almost any kind of music. Row Row
Row your boat....:-)
A passacaglia or a ground could also be a type of composition possible with
looping. Create a melody that loops, then create a different context for
the melody each time it comes around. Or create a chord or harmonic
progression that loops and create melodies and counter lines as the
Ostinatos are another repetitive technique used by classical composers
although people in the real world call 'em grooves.
Canon, passacaglia and ground are common in any contrapuntal style. That
means Rennaissance, Baroque, 20th century.
There are the looped compositions of the 60's minimalist and electronic
music crowd, Riech, Glass, etc. I think that Pauline Oliveros used tape
loops in some of her tape compositions. Tape loops and the various
techniques of reverse, speed change, were and still are mainstays of
electronic music even when not using a tape recorder.
For me, trying to perform live looped music on electric guitar is a bit
different than composing a "classical" piece for an ensemble of acoustical
instruments. Since we are very reliant on technology to help us create our
works we have to make compositional or improvisational descisions that work
within the functions of the technology.(a form of algorithmic
In my opinion, classical compositional techniques are rooted in the
germanic concept of theme and development and they would be really
difficult (but not impossible) to pull off in a live looped context.
Trying to change something melodically or rhythmically that has already
been recorded in a delay unit or phrase sampler is almost impossible. You
could use the tape loop techniques(reverse, speed change,signal processing)
but that is about it. Not much room for theme and development in the
"classical way". I think that the 60's minimalist process is more in tune
with live looping than the "classical" theme and development way. (I guess
that is why live looping more or less comes from that music) In addition
since the "minimalist" way was influenced by african and eastern musical
thought then mabey these musics are fertile ground for looped compositional
Gamelon music is based on a heirarchy of repetative patterns. The higher
pitched instruments play fast subdivsion patterns while the lower pitched
instruments play slower subdivision patterns and help to articulate the
form of the composition.(over simplification)
African and Latin american percussion music is a complex web of repeating
rhythms of differnt lengths creating complex polyrhythms.(over
Enough ramblings....I will give it some more thought and try again.
I would like to hear how other loopers create a sense of form, growth and
change in their music by using repetition.
-Do you plan your music in advance or is it always spontaineous?
-What do you consider to be the your most effective compositional
technique(s) when creating live looped music that relies on technology to
produce the loops?
(how about gear independant comments on this one)