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RE: SoCal LoopFest

Hi all

This is a longish post because I'm posting text from sources at the end.

The "Fifth Business" of live looping is the anonymous French technician from Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française who implemented Riley's desire for an Echoplex with a long delay as a pair of twinned machines with an cabled feedback.

Riley's genius was in conceiving of the utility of the long duration regenerative loop (he had worked with prerecorded long loops in Mescalin Mix), and equally importanly, on its realisation, he immediately knew what could be done with it in terms of performance - he shifted from the idea of a cut-up version of Chet Baker's jazz to what we now know to be live-looping. That's what great artists do. Look what Matisse did with the idea of cutouts. And there's a certain wow emotion I think everyone here remembers getting the first time of becoming aware of the possibilities of Riley's "phantom band" in their own praxis.

But the anonymous French technician, he keeps on returning to my mind, about his identity - he wasn't surprised by the request (he hadn't heard of the Echoplex) but thought about it and presented a solution.

We know that for more than a decade previously the GRM under Schaeffer had been experimenting with such things as the Morphophone for experimenting with delays, and the amazing tempophon with spinning heads that could do real time pitch shifting with heads that rotated in the same or opposite direction of the tape to make the apparent speed of the head at tape slower or faster for the same moment in time. Now if this anonymous engineer worked in Paris for ORTF, then he will certainly have known of it, and may have even worked there. Given the number of experimental art musicians with a day job, he may have even been a musique concrete practitioner himself.

I've not been able to figure out who he was, with all the online material available. I made a ridiculously long short list by getting the name of every French sound engineer associated with ORTF around then (I was going to try to write to them), but that wasn't much help as with the number of possible identifiable addresses for each name the line of research kind of petred out.

So that's about it really. Who is that guy? Look at the extracts under the sig.

If anyone is interested in New York, Ken Dewey's archives for the period are available to look in. It includes his accounts and correspondence, so the name of the engineer might be in there

Alternatively anyone in Paris could inquire if employment or contractual records at ORTF go back that far.

If there's anyone in the looping community looking for a research project for an honours or masters project in musicology it might be an intereting lead

Of course someone may know who it is, but the name is nowhere on the internet and I am tired of seeing this blacksmith to the gods go without a name.



From SF Tape Music Center by Berstein

Riley: Ken got me into a small recording studio at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris. We took Chet Baker and his hand in. and I gave him some ideas about what to record. Mainly. I wanted him to play, a modal piece, and they picked So What? by Miles Davis. I told them to play the solos separately, without the whole hand. So that I could cut it up and put it back together later. And so this was the first project I’d done in two years. Up until that point I had not been in a studio. I had not had any equipment, nothing. So it was very exciting for me to finally hit something that I could put my teeth into and feel real exhilarated about working on.

Bernstein: Was the studio part of the French National Radio?

Riley: Yes, it was the French radio, but they had studios in different places. It just happened to he the Sarah Bernhardt studio where we did the recording and used their studios for mixing.

Bernstein: And they- showed you a way to do tape delay?

Riley: Yes, the recording engineer . . . it was funny because I had Mescalin Mix and the Echoplex loop in my mind. I think I first asked the engineer, “Do you have an Echoplex?" and he said. "No.” So I said, “Well I want this kind of sound: RRRRRRRRrrrrrRRRRRR that’s got a long loop, and do you know how you can do that?" and he said, “Oh, yes!" He stretched the tape between two tape recorders and voili! and I thought, oh, this is incredible, exactly what I want.

Bernstein: I really like the way you use tape delay in The Gift.

Riley: I used some small tape loops, of course, and John Graham's voice. It was interesting because I was working with an engineer who was a very straight guy in a white jacket, you know [laughs] who looks like he’s wearing a lab coat. I had to tell him what I was trying to do without having my hands on the machine, which is a little bit frustrating. But it was so wonderful to have really high quality, even though in those days I guess it was mono, hut just to have these really high-quality machines to work with, where you really could hear what you were recording.

Notes to the Gift by Riley
The accumulation technique hadn’t been invented yet and it got invented during this session. I was asking the engineer, describing to him the kind of sound I had worked with in Mescalin Mix [an earlier tape composition]. I wanted this kind of long, repeated loop and I said “can you create something like that?” He got it by stringing the tape between two tape recorders and feeding the signal from the second machine back to the first to recycle along with the new incoming signals. By varying the intensity of the feedback you could form the sound either into a single image without delay or increase the intensity until it became a dense chaotic kind of sound . . . The engineer was the first to create this technique that I know of. This began my obsession with time-lag accumulation feed-back.

From Terry Riley's In C by Robert Carl

"Ken rented an old chateau in the Valdoinois, south of Paris. All the actors and everybody lived in it while the show was being put together. There was a big barn connected to the chateau. We rehearsed in the bam I'd come to the chateau at night and bring back the tapes I’d been working on. We'd listen to them, and the actors would try to get a sense of how to relate to the music. Occasionally Chet and the band would come out to the chateau and we'd have a full rehearsal with everybody. Ken would watch the whole thing and would try to get the actors to interact more with the musicians, and try to get the musicians to be more involved with the action.”

Riley decided to use his looping procedure as the basic compositional technique, returning to electronic media for the first time in a couple of years. [...] Dewey had brought in a French technician from the National Radio (ORTF) to aid with the final mix, Riley describes what happened next: “I described the effect [of echoing similar to Mesealtn Mix] to the French engineer, a very straight guy in a white coat, who fooled around and ended up hooking two tape recorders together. Boy! When I heard that sound it was just what I wanted What you do is connect two tape recorders. The first one is playing back, the second recording, the tape stretched across the heads of both. As this machine records, it feeds back to the other machine, which plays back what it’s added. It keeps building up... ” What Riley had discovered was a setup he would use for the next decade in solo performance, one of the first major instances of interactive real-time electronic music. He called it the “time-lag accumulator.” It allowed looping, but now with the precise time interval between the initial sound and its echo, defined by the length of tape separating the playback from record heads. It also allowed for controlled layering of sounds, critically in real time. By making the decision to also record the performers individually, Riley created a rich inventory of materials that he could then combine and elaborate into an entirely new counterpoint.