General Thoughts on Electro-Acoustic Performance Practice

RE: original samples in my pieces:
Kanashibari: I brought the cellist into the studio and spent a day recording him in the act of abusing the cello in every possible way, using Schoeps wide cardioids into a Millennia pre, then into Pro Tools.
From there the samples were altered via phase vocoding in Metasynth and Audiosculpt, and also convolved in Metasynth with pictures of deceased war criminals and other monsters, human and animal — the stuff of nightmares…

RE: performance interface — Practical considerations — GUI vs. DJ Rig: The DJ rig is actually in some ways more user-friendly: the DJ CD players are made for performance, with big, back lit controls and a nice, tactile feel. The laptop, on the other hand, is a bit “quick” to my taste, the touch is too light — too easy to get a false trigger in the heat of a performance, in a sculpted piece where precision is paramount — one cannot rest ones fingers on the keys without getting a false trigger for instance.


On the other hand the CD players are much more limited in terms of how fast one can get to the next trigger (it takes a split second for them to find the next track and park in “pause” mode), and as my pieces have become more demanding, due to my desire to make truly interactive chamber music, I have needed much faster performance, so here the laptop shines, In my SEAMUS work, “Air”, there are 204 different samples, each one in itself a miniature composition with many layers and much sound design, and the GUI consists of 51 triggers on the laptop surface, in four banks, that can be actuated either by key or by mouse.

I have also been developing a performance practice on the laptop:
• my music, unless memorized, requires that one look at the music, not the GUI! so I have to know exactly which key my finger is on at every moment —
• the performance should also have a theatrical element, so that the audience can make a connection between the button pushing and the sound that is coming out of the laptop (otherwise it is boring!). This requires that the hand be raised above the laptop, well above the surface , and also land on the right key!!!
• consequently a typical typewriter style will not work, as this is predicated on keeping ones hands on the surface for orientation
• therefore I have made a technique where the left hand in a guide and the right hand pushes most of the buttons — the left hand 4th, middle and index fingers sit on the Tab, A & Z keys, respectively, and serve as orientation as touch points for their respective row of keys. the right hand lightly touches these for orientation

RE: Flame Head — the samples were created in similar fashion from many percussion instruments, (without the convolution with pictures) and using many different ancillary plug-ins, GRM especially. It is always difficult finding an environment for creating works that exist in both electronic and acoustic realms, as there is no environment that is really suited to both simultaneously (at least for now!). For this piece, where I wanted to explore a complex, beat oriented texture, I ended up using Finale, of all things, for the creation of the electronics, in what has come for me to be a standard way of working, which I call “Finale abuse” — i.e. making Finale do things it was never intended for.

E-mail conversation with Stefan Fuhrmann