every show i prepare for is different. whether it is solo, with a band or a collaborative effort, each one requires a different sort of discipline in how i prepare myself and my musical tools. in the case of tomorrow’s show, it is a solo performance, my first in a while, so i spent a great deal of time getting it ready.
the first step is a question i ask of myself before every step onto a stage: what is it i have to say and do i know how to say it?
two very different, but critical, questions …
i have said things via my music about my environment, the world we live in, things that inspire me, and occasionally, about myself.
i’ve said it through different kinds of sounds, through how much of the set is worked out in advance, even to how i interact with my tools, ala, is it a cerebral vs a physical performance.
it has been a very tumultuous time for me, so my head space has been, scattered, to say the very least. that said, the performance i have been working towards creating is one that marries the serenity that underpins our existence, while the distractions and stresses weave in and out, challenging the ability to see the things underneath. its about layers.
given that it is about layers, the how suggests a varied palete of sounds. things that are structured, contrasting against things that flow uncontrolled. things that are beautiful and things that are ugly. things that exist in a state of structured containment. things that i can control. things i can’t. things that just happen.
all those considerations, let me early on to realize that my performance would need the following:
pre composed/recorded/sampled elements
instruments of chance (and an element of disaster)
tools that function as expected regardless of situation
tools that scare me because i have no idea if my touch will silence them
once these elements formed in my head, i started by composing the overall concept via individual pieces in order to understand timing structures. i settled on a multi movement piece that called on both the improvisational skills i have been recently embracing and developing, in addition to rhythmic elements designed to provide rough frameworks within which further experimentation could occur.
the initial compositions were completed via piano textures, which were then filtered and modified in order to create a timing structure for the entire piece and to suggest a direction for overall experimentations.
once this was roughly in place, i turned my focus to the tools that i would use to experiment and create dynamics from a performance perspective.
i have relied on alternately tuned guitars, processed and modified, in order to generate melodic, rhythmic and noise elements, which are both predictable at times, but capable of yielding surprises at the same time.
i wanted to add the theremin to my tools. i have been using the simple theremin i have for almost a year, but have had yet to incorporate it in a live setting. touch controlled musical instruments that eschew traditional tuning methods have always interested me, and the potential for randomness and is something i am no longer intimidated by.
right there, are devices designed to run through pedal type effects, so after trial and error pulled together a mix of distorions, delays, loopers and pitch effectors.
next up are the modular/synth elements. here again, my level of comfort using devices i have been using for sometime in the controlled environment of my studio but transitioning them to the live space. a make noise 0 coast, aira effects units and a mono synth combine to create a synthetic world in which precomposed elements and pedal skewed randomness combine to create a wall of sound, both crystal sharp and obscured beneath sonic waters.
i have run through the set up in sections, but have not yet run through the entire system, partly due to a lack of available time in the lead up, and partly to drive the improvisational elements of the performance tomorrow.
so there it is. obviously there are things that i have forgotten to note, but it gives you an idea of the thought and preparation that go into a show.
of course, next time the process could be different.
it probably will.
who am i kidding, of course it will be,
come on out friday and check it out.
you might be as surprised as i will be.