First reflections after Studio A session

This post merely sums up some of the thoughts rotating in my head right after this session in May 2017, and then again some more reflections that occured during the mixing process together with Andrew Munsie (in June). Some of the tracks are not yet mixed, and these have been sent to Gary Bromham, so we can get some reflections from him too during his mixing process.

For this session I had made a set of mappings for each duo configuration, trying to guess what would be interesting. I had made mappings that would be relatively rich and organic, some being more obvious and large-gesture, other being more nuanced and small-scale modulations. The intent was to create instruments that could be used for a longer time stretch without getting “worn out”. The mappings contained 4 to 8 features from each instrument, mapped to modulate 3 to 7 effects parameters on the other instrument. This going on in both directions (one musician modulating the other and vice versa), it sums up to a pretty complex interaction scenario. There is nothing magic about these numbers (number of features and modulators), it just happened to be the amount of modulation mappings I could conceptualize as reasonable combinations. The number of modulations (effect parameter destinations) is slightly less than the number of features becaause I would oftentimes combine several features (add, gate, etc) for each modulator. Still, I would also re-use some features for several modulators, so the number of features just slightly higher than the modulators.

Right after the session:

Reflection on things that could have been done differently: I think that it might perhaps have been better to use simpler parameter mappings, to get something that would be very obvious and clear, very distinctly gestural. This would perhaps have been easier for the musicians to relate intuitively to. Subtle and complex mappings are nice, but may just create a mushy din. Since they will be partly “hidden” to the musicians (due to subtlety of mapping, and also the signal balance during performance), they will not be finely controlled. Thus, to some extent, they will be randomly related to the performative gestures. Complexity adds noise too (on could say), both for performer and for listeners of the music. Selection of effects is also just as important as the parameter mappings. Try to make something that is more gesturally responsive. One specific element that was problematic was the delay time change without pitch modification. Perhaps this is not so great. Not easy to control for the performer, and not easy perceived (by the other performer, or for an external listener) either. Related to the liveconvolver takes, I realize that the convolver effect is not so much gestural, but more a block-wise imposition of one sound on another. (Obvious enough when one think about it, but still worth mentioning).

Reflections during mixing:

We hear rich interactions, the subtle nuances work well (contrary to reflections right after the session). One does not really have to decode or intellectualize the mapping, just go with the flow, listen. Sometimes I listen for a specific modulation and totally loose the context and musical meaning. Still, in the mixing process, this is natural and necessary.
The comments of Kyle and Steven that they “would play the same anyway” comes in a different light now, as it is hard to imagine you would not change the performance in response to the processing. The instruments and the processing constitutes a whole, perhaps more easily perceived as a whole now in hindsight, but this may very well relate to listening habit. Getting to know this musical situation better will make the whole easier to perceive during performance. Still, the musicians would to some extent not expressively utilize the potential of the complex mappings. This is partly because they did not know exactly the details, …perhaps I got exactly what I set it up to do: not telling the mapppings and making them “rich”.

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