Mixing Time: The Use of Recording Technologies in Live Music Performance
Yngvar Kjus and Anne Danielsen, University of Oslo
Author keywords: Recording Techniques, Live Performance, Creativity, Communication
ABSTRACT: Along with the rise of computer-based music technologies, artists are bringing studio-related practices on stage. This allows different forms of composing, recording and sound processing to become integral elements of live music. In this paper, we study the considerations, efforts and skills involved with using these studio-related techniques in live settings, and ask how artists’ sense of creativity and communication are affected. The paper assesses existing research on the use of technologies in live music performance and attempts to establish a theoretical framework for studying evolving creative and communicative challenges of contemporary musicianship. We then present an interview-study with six artists in Norway, engaged in genres ranging from electronic dance music and electro-pop to improvisation-based live electronics. The analysis is organized in the same manner as concerts, starting with the preparations and then addressing the execution and the encounter with the audience. We identify substantial differences in the use of technology, particularly depending on whether performances are based on a studio work or are improvised live. The first requires transforming a record into a live performance, whereas the second entails the creation and manipulation of recordings on the spot. These endeavours demand different practical, creative and expressive efforts, which might fuel artists’ awareness of creative and communicative actions in live performance.
Yngvar’s presentation is heavily immersed in the practice of those use use live music production software such as Ableton. He is one of 20 or so researchers involved in the Clouds and Concerts research project (University of Oslo).
His first musical case study is Hanne Hukkelberg. Hanne’s creative goal was to take the audio sound sources from her album on tour with her, but she wanted to avoid ‘cheating’ by simply playing back audio files. So she engaged a very large band! Some of the audio files were mechanical (e.g. bicycle wheels) and this of course had an effect on the staging and logistics of the tour. There was still a necessity to pare down the arrangements.
Our next example is Jarle Bernhoft, whose gigs are also real-time experiences, and use extensive loop-based technologies. Yngvar briefly discusses the constraints this artist faces, loops becoming fixed objects with each recorded iteration.
Now we look at the work of Hallvard Wennersberg Hagen, whose performances include loops, live interactions with a drummer, improvisation, sample triggering and pre-composed elements. Hagen chooses ‘creativity’ over ‘expressiveness’ because of his commitment to liveness over sonic control.
The fourth example is Maja Ratkje, who plays many instruments including kalimba and theremin, plus live controllers and vocal improvisation with electronic real-time manipulation. [JB note – the below youtube clip is different from the one Yngvar showed, but it has similar musical and improvisational content].
Essential to Ratkje’s sound is her technical setup, which she considers to be her ‘instrument’. She has used custom programmed Csound work. She has observed that she favours complex technical setups; this introduces an element of uncertainty into the work. This implies that she sees her own learning curve with the setup to be a positive musical opportunity, adding to her improvisatory palette.
Yngvar concludes by talking about the implications of these technologies for musician mobility – using recording technologies well beyond their original intention as documentary tools. There is convergence of recording and performance technologies. The use of the technology requires a visual element to be turned into performance. He ends by making suggestions for further work in this area, relating to possible audience expectations of technologically-enhanced live performers.