Looper's Delight
Looper's Delight Home
Mailing List Info
Mailing List Archive
Musings Page
Post Collections Page
Looper's Delight!!
Looper's Delight
Looper Profiles
Tools of the Trade
Tips and Tricks
History of Looping
Rec. Reading
Mailing List Info
Mailing List Archive
File Library

Looper's Delight!
In Association with Amazon.com

The Looper's Delight
Interesting Posts Series:

Loop Performance Theory

Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 21:33:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: The Man Himself

I'm wondering how you all feel about the sheer visual/performance aspect of looping and tweaking in real time. Looping of various forms is well-established as a studio form, but live on-the-fly looping as part of a performance is a much rarer scenario. I've run into situations with both looping and guitar synth where the first few seconds of a piece are almost immediately greeted by laughter from one or two members of the audience -- not so much as a result of the actual music (at least, I'm hoping not) but rather at the sight of a solo performer with a guitar that "plays itself" (a looping comment I heard) or that sounds like an orchestra string section.

What I'm more stymied by is the actual aspect of changing and engaging sound via more overtly "mechanical" means (i.e. turning a knobas opposed to, say, doing something on your input device to change the sound). Does the sight of a performer leaning over and tweaking knobs to process the sound detract from the environment that the performance creates? One person on the Torn list remarked that seeing David play on his solo tour supporting Trilok Gurtu was a bit like watching someone fiddling around in his basement studio.

For that matter, does it have an impact on the actual music making process for the performer as well? One of the things I like about looping via the Vortex more than the Oberheim is that certain patches will automatically change the feedback setting; a loop will spin indefinitely until more sound is put into the loop, at which time the feedback creeps down a bit. It feels somehow more "musical" than reaching over to turn a knob or rock a footpedal.

Then you have someone like Robert Fripp, who not only embraces the odd visual aspect of looping performance but actually makes it a part of the performance itself, going to the extent of putting the guitar down and walking to the side of the stage where he files his nails while the loop spins on. One friend of mine who caught his first series of Soundscaping shows in Argentina said he got a real kick out of seeing Fripp enter one or two notes into his rig and spend then execute the rest of the performance by turnig knobs and pushing buttons. Some time later, when my pal saw me playing background music for a party at school last year, he laughed out loud when I set down the guitar at one point and walked around for a bit, the loop still going.

Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 21:43:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: The Man Himself

Today I was talking to my guitar teacher, a fellow by the name of Miroslav Tadic, who some of you may be familiar with through his work on the MA and CMP labels, particularly in conjunction with David Torn. Miroslav was telling me about a project he had done about fifteen years ago involving sending a one-note loop through a Buchla synthesizer which was panned through a quadrophonic speaker system. He had intended to create a tranquil, peaceful environment where the listener could lie in the middle of the quadrophonic sound field and bliss out while the loop circled around him.

What happened, however, was that Miroslav found himself getting seasick from the experience. Rather than getting the sensation of sound travelling around his head, he found his quad loop generated the sensation of his own body moving around the looped sound, even as he was lying on the ground in the middle of the speaker array. He described it as a very disturbing sensation, remarking, "I had to wind up destroying this piece. I decided that this was a thing that should not exist."

So there you have it -- looping as a means of inducing physical and psychological imbalance.

I doubt I'll be eliciting any such results in my own recital, but it should be interesting to see what happens when the audience is situated in the middle of a five-way speaker array. Hope I don't trigger any seizures...

Date: 18 Oct 96 09:38:25 EDT
From: Jon Durant<74074.1316@compuserve.com>

On the one hand, as loopologists, we have the ability to create extraordinary textures and backgrounds, and make most intriguing solo performances. But the nature of much of what we do (at least those of us who border on the ambient fringe) doesn't translate well when put into a "live" context. The reason? The difference between listening to a record by yourself and with other people in the room. With other people around, it's very difficult to remove the exterior surroundings (the chair you're shifting in, the person next to you talking to his friend, the ugly drapes hanging from the wall, the smoke surrounding the bar area). When these external phenomenon intrude on your personal space, it's very difficult to lose yourself entirely to the music being presented. As a result, it's hard for an audience to get into what's going on. But one-on-one, it's very easy to connect (assuming the listener has the mindset for the music in the first place). For these reasons, I found it very difficult to enjoy the solo Torn show (it was still fun, but I'd rather listen to his records any day...) and have no interest in seeing Fripp live in a solo setting. It also explains why I've avoided doing any solo performances. I just don't think it would translate well.

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 09:39:13 -0400
From: Chris Chovit

I am in the process of setting up a quadrophonic setup, as well. I had this setup last spring for several months and created some "sound spaces", which were very psychologically stimulating, although I wouldn't use such a negatively-connotated word as "seasick". But there is something about the spatial aspect to the music that interacts with me psychologically, that I DON'T get from a standard stereo field. This medium lends itself to the "installation" style of performance, rather than the performer-audience style, since the audience, ideally, would be within the quad field, as well as the performer.

From: Jon Morris
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 07:57:45 -0500 (CDT)

I'm three weeks away from a series of live looping shows. I've been seeking out performance opportunities that avoid a "staged" performance. I'm going to be playing in several office buildings, in atrium lobbies. I'll be set up off to the side, filling the space with sound, and not expecting to be a visual focal point for the audience (the audience will most likely be just passing through anyway). I'm thinking it will be somewhere between performance and installation. In regards to the audience's perception, we'll have to wait and see.

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 10:01:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: paulpop@ssnet.com (Paul Poplawski, Phd)

I think you have it Jon. The idea for me behind this kind of music is not that it is to be attending to directly but either squinted at or peaked at occasionally. The visual field is less important here. Think of yourself as an installation is a good image.

I perform with a bassist and occasional drummer in my local area utilizing similar Frippian/Tornian etc. musics. These of course as you have stated rely on the manipulation and treatment of sound through human interaction with devices. I do not assume that an audience is there to be entertained visually and in fact I try to make sure that the proprietor and audience know ahead of time of my intention. In that way, I am not kidding anyone nor myself to "entertain" in the traditional visual sense of that word. In fact, we advertise ourselves with the slightly self-deprecating yet ambient stance that we are "music to be ignored." It would be my thought that somehow, the kind of "show" Fripp/Torn might engage in, rather than a somehow static visual field of their manipulating equipment, would be to somehow engage the audience in the manipulation by some means ... it would certainly be entertaining to me to have a visual of the rig with a visual of exactly what is going on. Now that might be fun for us gearheads but who knows.

The artist in this context of performance, it seems to me, if they have the intention of "reaching" their audience (I make no such claim and figure the audience if they would prefer not to ignore us will find a way in) creates that expectation simply by showing up at a large venue. The trick then seems to me do they create not just the music, but the context within which it can truly be "heard."

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 11:15:16 -0400
From: "S. Patrick Hickey"

What I have had success, as far as looping goes, is fairly intimate setups, aka living room concerts. These tend to work well, allow a good interaction with the "audience", and tight control over mood (with lighting [candles!], etc.).

From: "Louis Collier Hyams"
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 10:45:24 -0400

performance! ahhhh...

one thing I've started doing is to utilize computers/interface/whatever to created visualizations of note data or performance data. there are ways to do this with various software. my work is on an improv basis... or as in jazz and live dubstyle reggae (my versions of course) loosely based on a them - completely dictated by mood/feeling.

a piece I'm about to take on tour(iEAR MFA show) consists of an indian classical dancer wearing white with the position of being a living dancing screen, a looping trigger percussionist, and guitar/looping/synthing/dancing.

so, alot of what goes on from the midi outputs of the last two performers is converted into pitch/hue and velocity/saturation. we communicate by sound and visuals. i hope that this allows the audience to differentiate(along with the dance/act). the two midi visual signals are then combined in a video switcher with some added video footage and projected back onto us...

this piece is loosely based on hanuman.. and bits of the ramakien(kings story in thai)

this all came about from gigging with a three piece worldbeat group .... seems often times other musicians and audience members would ask if we were sequencing. yeah, this hurt my feelings.

there seems to be a very fine line in performance with what is live... what is triggered, what is sampled, what is sequenced. sometimes I'd like to tell certain solo performers that they shoulda just used a portadat - over all the mac gear/midi gear/digi audio gear/ and max programming and lickmachine programming and all the junque and time that is spent and goes wrong in such a performance.

background of this is a show I just teched/videoed... the performer read from a score that had footswitch points along with music notation. as he played flute he would trigger sequences, samples, effects patches and etc. yeah, it sounded great, and it was cool.... but! I spent five hours with him fixing his gear/soldering/testing/resoldering/reprogramming/resoundchecking.... and when it came down to the performance, would it have made any difference to the audience?

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 16:34:48 -0400
From: KILLINFO@aol.com

Personally, as a live performing (and that mostly solo) loopist it's certainly true that I have had to address the uncomfortable fact that (except to another gearhead) I am about as interesting to watch as refridgerator mold.

To counter this I have tended to select alternate venues (art galleries, music schools, "new music" festivals and/or seminars, or obscure clubs that have a ready-made audience for this sort of thing on a regular basis).

In other situations I have made sure that the audience had something else to look at besides me (whenever possible) doing music for modern dance/ballet ensembles, video artist/animated computer graphic designers, poets, performance artists, live film with the sound turned off, etc. etc. I know that as far as traditional "showmanship" go basically I'd be a flop anyway. I don't exactly have the moon-walk moves down yet...

My advice is to simply be as true to your muse as possible. If people have short attention spans, that is not your fault (or theirs for that matter). It's just an unfortunate fact of life. But, there are ways around everything. And all things are possible in the end.

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 18:06:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: finley@ecst.csuchico.edu (Matthew F. McCabe)

I've only played two solo looping gigs but both times I've heard people muttering things about synthesizers and keyboards. That's face it....most people have never been exposed to the idea of looping....or delay for that matter (I'm speaking of the average Joe/non-musical person here). Heck...even my girlfriend, whom I've explained the concept to many times before, still doesn't quite grasp it. Hopefully your music will speak through the "that guy isn't playing those sounds" questions. Playing a "traditional" guitar solo (I'm a guitarist....please forgive my bias) over the top of a loop, in my opinion, helps to remind people that you really are playing your instrument....even if they don't understand the technical aspects of your whole performance.

Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 07:59:34 -0700
From: studio seventeen productions

I've had the same reaction (the guitar that plays itself) and laughter...but I actually ENJOY setting the guitar down on it's stand and then walking OUT OF THE ROOM with the piece still going.

All this can do is make people THINK. (one hopes). and indeed the comment about Fripp entering one or two notes into his loop and then just turning knobs is totally true, i've seen him do this several times. i personally don't mind, as long as the loop is interesting.

some loops require a lot of input, but sometimes it's just as appropriate to make an 8 or ten second loop, with one or two quick overdubs...and then listen to it for twenty minutes. or change the "room" it's in...

from now on, my plan for performance is to be as much as possible totally on the fly. i will in no way worry that "visually" i might be viewed as just turning knobs or "fiddling", but will concern myself with what's appropriate for the loop at hand. i'm also considering no rehearsing whatsoever, as a test to the nature of total improvisation. the most structure i might input would be a few sound samples from CDs to provide sonic variance from the ebow and synth. that would be about it.

IMO, i find it interesting to SEE music created in a very non-traditional fashion. and in the end, SOUND is what music is about.

i never worry about what the neighbours think. perhaps if enough of us play these "magic" guitars people will get used to the visual aspect.

Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 08:42:03 -0700
From: studio seventeen productions

there is antipathy for electric guitarists for some reason, and solo electric ambient looping guitarists are (apparently) too strange for most coffeehouse/bookstore gigs. funny thing is, if you can get someone to allow a performance...people really like it!

the idea someone mentioned of offices / atriums is not so farfetched. most people want to be "actively" entertained or hear their "favorite songs". they only understand if the man strumming the guitar sings a song they can "relate to".

what we loopers do is SO different, that i find we must look at a whole different set of performance possibilities. i am still targeting some coffeehouses, but so far the only luck i've had is from a new venture that has internet at their cafe. since this was high tech-ish, i spoke to the owner at length about what i do, and we will be setting something up in a few weeks' time.

but for other venues, my next logical step is to approach art galleries, restaurants....office parks...anywhere where an "installation" style "performance" would be more suitable.

you will never be able to loop in a crowded smoky bar. no one will listen. you can't open for the local prog band...no one will listen.

Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 13:38:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: The Man Himself

The first looping gig I ever played was a pretty bizarre one, about a week after I got my Echoplex; I was set up next to the beer line at the Cal Arts Halloween party last year. This wasn't some git-together in the dorm basement type thing; the school approves a $15,000 to $20,000 budget each year, a sizable amount of which goes towards alcohol procurement. (They purchased 25 kegs for the five-hour party and had to get more in the middle when they ran out prematurely).

My gig was basically setting up at the side of the room where the kegs were and making a lot of noise. Given my location, I had what you might call a captive audience, as there was a long line for the kegs.

The funny thing was that people were actually very much into the music. At one point I saw some folks (albiet in states of less than complete sobriety) doing some sort of wierd interpretive dance to a particularly ambient loop that was set up. Another guy kneeled down between the stereo speakers and just blissed out for a couple of minutes. One or two people came up and asked to play a few notes. (They did not find consummation for these wishes).

It was an interesting gig, because I could get away with soloing over a one-bar percussion loop and drone line for half an hour with no problems (every guitarist's secret dream, right? ;} ), or put the thing down and check out the rest of the party while the music went on. One guy actually felt that the sort of abstract music I was playing was good music for people in a line to listen to, since it didn't reinforce the sense of "Oh Hell, I've been waiting in line for fifteen minutes!" sense that a conventional series of tunes might instill.

I had a great time -- up until somebody sloshed beer on the mixing console. And to this day, I still run into people who'll say, "Oh, yeah, man, I saw you at the Halloween party last year!" A lot of people assumed that I was playing to some tapes, but that's almost more of a compliment than anything else.

So there's an example of a noisy, beer-soaked, rowdy performance environment where looping can work. I just hope I can get some plastic bags to cover the mixer next time...

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 22:25:17 -0700
From: Kim Flint

I guy I know that was working on various other gwiz related projects during the echoplex development is an excellent jazz bassist. Fred Marshall's his name. He borrowed (and kept, actually) one of the Paradis Loop Delays we had and used it to great effect in his bop/free jazz quartet. He had his upright bass miked, feeding the loopdelay, then going to his amp. During more standard tunes, he would occaisionally lay down a chorus in the loop, which the drummer would keep grooving to. Meanwhile, he would bow notes to add harmonies in support of the soloist, or take solos over it himself. During the more free/improv sections he would build up textures and such. I thought it all fit in very well, a good example of loops working in rather traditional formats. hmm, now that I think about it I loaned him an echoplex prototype once for a weekend gig and never saw that one again either. He made great music with it so I guess its better than it rusting away in some gibson warehouse.

Anyway, awesome band too...some of the best, most invigorating jazz I've ever seen. His son Joshie was playing sax; he's only in his early twenties and just frighteningly good. that's another story though....

Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 18:43:49 -0300
From: matthias@bahianet.com.br (Matthias)

I played on the gallery of Salvador intercity bus station. Amazing clima. Most people did not even notice I was there, just closed the eyes, waiting. Others stopped and even missed the bus and even said it was worth it (there is no refund of the fair here!).

I played about 5 hours in total, about a year ago, and still keep meeting people saying: "oh you are the one that made this sound in the Rodoviaria!"

I tried several times in bars and restaurants and won't do it again. Recently it worked though with a "art dinner": There was a lecture about "holistic communication", then I gave some light introduction and then everybody enjoyed an incredible chinese veg buffet. Then everybody made himself comfortable and we switched off the light and I started real sound and "the saints came down" (common expression here, due to the popular african rituals).

Another old idea is to create a healthy clima in Hospitals...

From: Paolo Valladolid
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 16:05:36 -0700 (PDT)

Folks I have seen who have dared to perform interactive computer music live seemed to prefer Powerbooks instead of a full blown desktop system because laptops fold up nicely and are easily transported. There was a performer from Mills College who had a nice velvet-glove-to-computer kind of interactive setup. I should have asked her and George what measures they take to minimize possible glitches in setup and performance.

No offense to David Jaffe, but for one of his performances, he just popped in a tape and we had to sit there and listen to it. To me this was not as interesting as watching him on MIDI violin and his partner on Radio Drum wreaking computer-enhanced electronic havoc. I guess I'm of the old school mentality where I expect from a live performance certain elements that can't be gotten from listening to the same piece from some recording.

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 16:21:20 -0300
From: matthias@bahianet.com.br (Matthias)

I consider music a magical act ritual a recording thus is just a documentation about it. The difference is as big as between traveling and watching documentarys about other places on TV.

Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 17:50:37 -0800
From: improv@peak.org (Dave Trenkel)

Alvin Lucier's "I am Sitting in a Room" has got to be one of the looping classics. It consists of Lucier sitting in a room with 2 distant mics, 2 tape decks, and speakers. The recording begins with Lucier verbally describing the process of the piece, which is that he is recording his voice, and after recording, he will play that back through the speakers, and record that through the mics onto the 2nd tape deck. This continues for about 25 generations. At first, you just hear reverberation of the rooms acoustics as he replays the tape into the room. Gradually, certain frequencies begin to stand out, and by the middle of the 2nd side of the lp, you start hearing melodies and textures, while the words are no longer distinguishable. It's a fascinating piece, both for the process and the musical results.

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 17:00:43 -0700
From: studio seventeen productions

>Has anyone here ever tried *explaining* what they're doing? You know, do a little 2 minute seminar before the performance?

No- not a preface...but after one Bindlestiff gig we invited questions...what an eye-opener! the two of us had to stand there for 30 minutes fielding every imaginable question! people are VERY interested in looping...once they HEAR it.

and while i'm here, i'm not so sure you "have to" play a guitar solo to remind them that you are there. you ARE there, and whatever you do, if they are tuned in at all, they will hear, regardless of if a "solo" is on top...

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 22:47:02 -0300
From: matthias@bahianet.com.br (Matthias Grob)

The first pieces often contain a virtuoso guitar solo to prove to some type of public that I really am a musician. After some quick playing they trust me and let go into the music.

>Has anyone here ever tried *explaining* what they're doing? You know, do a little 2 minute seminar before the performance?

Yes, I often do that. I play a song first and when I fell all the brains fixed on the question "how the hell does he do that" (or rather "Po, como quele faz isto?) I stop and show a short obvious bit of loop while talking about it. People then relax and go deeper into the music.

More and more I rather talk about consciousness and different applications of music and the trip inward and stuff. For many here this is new and fundamental work. So I do it, even feeling a bit strange, guru-like, sometimes.

Looper's Delight Home | Looper's Delight Mailing List Info
Copyright 1996-present by loopers-delight.com
contact us

In Association with Amazon.com
Any purchase you make through these links gives Looper's Delight a commission to keep us going. If you are buying it anyway, why not let some of your cash go to your favorite web site? Thanks!!