I launched the radio program Bleep Boop Beep two months ago. Here’s what I’m learning.
I started out just doing some live electronics on my modular system and spinning some new contemporary art music that arrives at the station daily.
Keeping the focus on the show tight is important to me. There are two other DJs on my station that do a great job of spinning contemporary art music (or what our station calls “Avant-Garde”) and I wanted to do more than just a repeat. Zeroing in on “and electronics music” – the blend of acoustic instruments and electronics – seemed the most fun for me.
I hadn’t really done much of that music myself. Sure, I’d plugged all my pedals and effects into my double bass and messed around (yes, Cistern Chapel sized reverb on a double bass is endless good times). And I’d started learning a piece for fixed electronics and double bass while in college. But I hadn’t gotten as deep as I would like.
The connection between a performer and living composer in seeing a work through is something nearly each person mentions. Performers mention how it helps to make sure the practical realities of their instrument are properly navigated. Composers mention how it helps them learn the capabilities of the instrument and the player. Sometimes it helps determine the sound world of the piece entirely.
Degrees of interactivity
When it comes to mixing electronics with acoustic instruments there different amounts of interactivity between the player and the machine.
Pieces for tape or fixed electronics have almost no interactivity. The media plays and the musician play alongside.
Some of the pieces are for interactive software, such as MaxMSP. In these instances, the electronic content will change based on something the player is doing either explicitly (such as stepping on a MIDI controller) or implicitly (such as playing louder or softer). There may be a fixed set of rules for the interaction and the possibility exists that electronic component will be different each performance.
The composer or another musician is present to run the electronics for some pieces. More like a duet for instrument and electronics-person, this offers opportunity for direct human interaction in performance. I got the impression that many of these kinds of performances may by for a musician who simply advances some fixed electronics to the next cue.
All three of these different flavors of composition/performance provide different advantages and disadvantages for producing sound. Any of them are capable of yielding fascinating works.
Lots of other great stuff is coming out of these conversations as well. But those were two organizing thoughts this far in. I’ve started work on a small work for reclaimed repertoire and electronics alongside conducting these interviews. I’m sure I’ll write more about that in the future as well.