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Loop Composition (was Re: Ravel as a looper)
>I agree about the importance of this thread eventhough I am a tech culprit
>myself with the VG-8 thread...
I'm sorry this thread got snuffed out by our server troubles, anyway....
What I find interesting musically, is the idea of exploring some particular
musical genre, extracting some important/unique/fundamental concepts, and
reapplying them in another genre where they are not so expected. Western
Classical may not very loop oriented, yet it is certainly ripe with well
developed compostitional techniques. So the question, a personal one
really, is how do these ideas apply in our own music? Where do they lead us
that we might not have gone on our own?
>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.
>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".
Constant change can be obvious in it's own way. In this case, might a way
of not being obvious be to do exactly what is not expected, and repeat
yourself? Perhaps this is an opportunity to apply techniques we develop in
looping back into the "classical way."
>A passacaglia or a ground could also be a type of composition possible
>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
Now here is an interesting idea. Often people use loops to supply the
context for other musical ideas occuring on top. What if we reverse that,
as you suggest? The loop is in the forefront, while the context is
performed and steadily altered. We can even improvise context in this way,
to change the mood created by our looping melody/rhythm as we feel it
>Ostinatos are another repetitive technique used by classical composers
>although people in the real world call 'em grooves.
James Brown taught me the basics of ostinato.....Bootsy, Mr. Clinton, and
Prince filled in all the details.....:-)
>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
>works we have to make compositional or improvisational descisions that
>within the functions of the technology.(a form of algorithmic
Orchestra is also reliant on technology. A violin is a remarkable technical
accomplishment, a piano even more so. It's just that the engineering
occurred long enough ago that we don't see it as such. All
composers/improvisers make decisions based on the limits of their available
technology, unless they compose entirely for voice. And even that is a sort
Don't limit yourself or lessen your musical approaches in this way!
>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.
Oh really? Perhaps it is merely a question of learning to use our tools in
a deeper way? Most of the more sophisticated loop devices offer ways to
alter and develop loops. Understand the possibilities of the tools and
develop the musical techniques to take advantage of them!
>could use the tape loop techniques(reverse, speed change,signal
>but that is about it. Not much room for theme and development in the
Again, seek the possibilities before defining the limits. There are many
opportunites for theme and development in looping.
>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)
For some this is true, but it is also a sort of limitation. If we extract
ideas from distant genres and reapply them in our own familiar territory,
they become fresh and innovative. All different musics have their own
fundamental concepts defining their uniqueness. Don't fall into the trap as
seeing looping as a continued development of the old minimalist scene.
Many people come to looping without ever having heard of Phillip Glass or
Steve Reich or even Robert Fripp. (Like me, actually) Lot's of paths lead
here. It could be Chet Atkins or Trent Reznor or Les Paul or the Orb or
Gamelan or Run-DMC or an interesting way to develop the repetitive speed
metal rhythms of the 80's into the industrial music of the 90's or who
knows what. They have all discovered and developed techniques for looping
and repetition that may fit brilliantly in a new context.
Explore outside of your familiar world, bring new things home.....
>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?
I prefer improvisation. I like to have lots of control and a deep
understanding of my instruments, so I can make them do exactly what I want
at the moment I think of it. It is really just an extension of where I was
10 years ago as a guitarist, where I just wanted to be able to play so well
that anything I thought of could be done with no preparation. I sure hope I
reach that goal some day!
>-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)
- Feedback control, to allow old things to disappear while new
- development of a melody/theme/rhythm by adding pieces over
multiple repetitions of the loop, so that the full idea
takes a while to come completely out.
- removing elements from a theme on each pass of the loop, to
break the idea down.
- Having several similar, yet slightly different loops available
to switch between and develop independently.
- Corruptive changes to the loop, where on each pass something
is done to damage and mar what was there before, in a somewhat
unpredictable way. My favorite is to use replace functions where
I replace a very small bit of the loop with something different
(or nothing, silence is good). The result is strange rhythmic
and melodic ideas that I would not have thought of and certainaly
- Extending and reducing loop times in uneven ways, to change the
rhythm and phrasing of the loop.
- Looping longer or shorter amounts of another looping element, so
that they play against each other in an interesting way. (a great
way to make a drum machine sound very creative)
- looping raw sounds and putting the processing afterwards, so that
processing can be altered in real time.
- loops of a loop, with a mix or crossfade knob to move between the
two. The second loop gets altered while the first remains the same.
- and of course, Reverse is Fun.
Kim Flint | Looper's Delight
firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.annihilist.com/loop/loop.html
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