Tuesday, 24 May 2011

3 Minute(ish) Pop Song

The conceit here was to create a performance that followed the form of a traditional 3 minute pop song, although our version ultimately ended up a little longer than that...

Performance by myself, Owen Green and Sean Williams

3 minute(ish) pop song by lleapp

The Jason Dixon Line

This performance features myself on arduinome, Owen Green on bowed cardboard box and voice, and Jason Dixon on feedback violin.

The Jason Dixon Line by lleapp


Here's the first of the recordings from the 1st concert from this year's LLEAPP, held in the UEA Concert Hall. This performance features Ed Perkins, Claire Singer, Adam Jansch and Christos Michalakos. More to follow soon.

Zest by lleapp

Friday, 6 May 2011

Vibrotactile Feedback & Networked Improvisation

The idea for this ensemble improvisation was based on work that I have been developing with Christos Michalakos as a tool for ensemble improvisation. Enhancing traditional aural and visual cues, a network between laptops is established providing direction and suggestion to and between performers. Additionally, vibrotactile feedback is provided to performers in the form of tiny vibrations on the skin, opening up a further information channel to transmit signals and cues, allowing for a more informed and focused performance. We are keen to investigate whether/how the actual musical content can be significantly affected/influenced by these ideas.

The first performance using this system back in April can be heard here:
Hayes / Michalakos :: Socks and Ammo v.1 @ Sonorities Festival 09.04.11 by ElleEsAich

The four players in this group were:
Tom Mudd - live electronics
Claire Singer - cello & live electronics
Christos Michalakos - percussion & live electronics
Lauren Hayes live electronics

Adapting the current system to a stable version for four networked laptops would have required more time than we wished to dedicate to technological issues, and so we stripped down the system considerably. We opted for a simple wireless network (thanks to Tom) with a visual cue indicating suggested change points for all performers, and Claire and myself additionally used the vibrotactile feedback. A personal aim is always to remove the need to look at a laptop screen while performing, especially when in an ensemble situation.

The system was noticeably different when working in a group unfamiliar with each other's set-ups and sound worlds. Performers noted during rehearsals that they felt preoccupied by anticipating change points, rather than relying on listening itself for the progression of the improvisation. However, the aim is to provide a framework of suggestion, rather than strict direction, and we clarified that these offerings can be overridden should the present musical development suggest this.

To be continued with audio/video...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Table Tennis Trio

This is an idea for a short (or long) piece using a game of table tennis as a form and structure. This idea has been used by Dick Raiijmakers and, as Bennett Hogg pointed out, Mauricio Kagel amongst others, but it is still a fertile source of structure for our purposes.

Pingpong by lleapp

The idea is to have three players, each responsible for one physical element in a singles game of table tennis:

First player's bat hitting ball.
Ball hitting table.
Second player's bat hitting ball.

The three players are
Sean Williams
Lauren Hayes

I wanted the form and structure to be strictly governed by the mechanics and dynamics of a table tennis game, but as long as the sounds had a sharp attack (and decay) they could take whatever shape and timbre each player liked.

To begin with we played using our imagination and memories of playing table tennis, but fairly quickly it was decided that it would be useful to watch some videos on Youtube such as this one:

The clear rhythms in this rally provided a useful basis for rehearsal and Tom noted especially how the rhythm changed in a couple of places, flagging these up as useful things to explore.

Unnamed (Bat 1) - game controller and Max/MSP
Sean (Table) - 1960s egg slicer with contact mike and analogue synthesizer
Lauren (Bat 2) - game controller and Max/MSP

In rehearsing, Bennett noted that it appeared that I was conducting the piece as the other two players were watching me for cues. Whilst the piece is based on my idea, and I am happy to conduct it in this way, I would prefer the players to be as much in control of the pattern of the game and hence the rhythm of the piece as me. This is something that will come about through practice and the importance of gestural communication in the piece cannot be underestimated.

We stuck to a correct form but struggled a bit with how to end points. So far it has transpired that when a player (usually me) makes a mistake i.e. misses a cue, the point is over and somebody must serve to start a new rally.

To make the piece sound better and to pull apart the motion and gesture aspects we have incorporated a slow-motion sequence where each sound is stretched, spaces are prolonged and movement slows down. This can be cued by any player. In addition, we will play one section where sounds are prolonged but rhythm is kept at the standard pace - this will be a louder and more chaotic section and we will inevitably get a bit lost here. We will recover to finish the game with a couple of short rallies.

3 Minute Pop Song

Bill Vine, Owen Green and Sean Williams settled quite quickly on the idea of shaping a piece using a 3 minute pop song as the form. After a short but incisive discussion about possible structures and ordering of elements such as verses, choruses, middle eights, bridges, hooks, intros and fade-outs we settled on a simple structure of :


I raised the importance of the hook to give the tune a particularly memorable sonic identity/stamp, and we thought about inserting a hook as a discreet element, but through playing and trying various ideas, the device used for the chorus has become a hook in its own right so the hook element is folded into the chorus.

I wanted to use the squeezy horn I bought in a car boot sale last weekend near Arundel but Bill wasn't convinced although I'm hoping to smuggle it in somewhere, probably not in this piece though.

I found a video games controller with four classic arcade games installed at the same car boot sale for £1.50, and I wanted to use the audio output from this as an instrument for the chorus. Having tried the four different games it was quickly clear that the Pac-man sounds worked best. This chimes with an interest of mine to use ubiquitous things, sounds and stuff as it is easy for people to identify with such sounds or sound making things. Pac-man is also a temporal reference that some people will recognise immediately, some people will find familiar and some people will not be familiar with or aware of at all, thus provoking different classes of audience reactions.

The structure of each verse proved a little tricky to nail but as Owen had suggested using breathing as a way to measure each part, e.g. 8 breaths for a verse and 4 for a chorus, this ended up working very well but in a different way. The breathing of each player was very mismatched, mainly due to the different physical actions involved, so Bill and I didn't feel it was working well enough to make it clear to each other when the verses and choruses were happening.

The Breathing device was used ultimately as a metaphor so Owen would represent the breathing out phase, playing his bowed cardboard box, and Bill would play the inhalation phase. Each verse lasts for four breath cycles.

Choruses would start with a round of sonic Pac-man, faded up post intro tune, and length is dependent on the time it takes for the Pac-man to be eaten by a ghost. At no point have we used a screen so the Pac-man material is all based on our own memories of playing Pac-man, but there has been no confusion about the semiotics of these sounds at all. During the chorus, everyone plays, although Owen's sound is filtered through a low-pass filter at 500Hz to give Bill more room in the spectrum.

Owen - Bowed cardboard box and SM57
Sean - Altec 9067b hi and low pass stepped filter, Namco Plug-it-in-&-play console game and Volume pedal
Bill - Arduionome and Max/MSP

Signal flow starts with Owen making an acoustic sound which is filtered by Sean and processed by Bill. It's a bit leaky with some background noise seeping into the mic, some clicks and crunches emanating from the filter as it is switched independent of signal input. This is a good thing as it makes the whole signal chain less than 100% dependent on Owen to make a sound.

The piece lasts about 3 minutes but depending on how many power pills I can eat and how long I can evade the ghosts, choruses could extend the length of the piece. This is tricky with no screen and I haven't played Pac-man for some years so my memory of the maze is sketchy. We all feel that it is not necessary or desirable to plug the device into a screen at any stage in rehearsal or performance.

The title is yet to be decided upon...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Day 2

Day 2 of LLEAPP 2011 is now coming to an end after a very successful day involving workshopping various combinations of groups in preparation for the gigs tomorrow and Friday. We have also been treated to lively and engaging seminars headed by Simon Waters yesterday and Bennett Hogg today. Video of Bennett's seminar will be being posted shortly, along with some short videos of today's rehearsals. Unfortunately due to some technical issues we don't have video available from Simon's seminar.

Looking forward to an equally productive day 3 tomorrow!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

LLEAPP 2011 begins today!

Well, LLEAPP 2011 is finally upon us and participants have started to arrive at UEA. I'm hoping to be able to put video and photo documentation up here as we go along, so watch this space for updates!