Over the last two weeks I've been experimenting with different ways of combining the acoustic sound of my instrument and voice with the found sounds and conversations gathered on my field recorder.
One of my findings was that I feel quite comfortable performing to pre-composed tape. I think this is due to my experience as a performer, and a musical training that emphasised learning by ear and memorisation over sight-reading, I find that it feels quite natural to remember the cues and timings in a pre-composed tape of found sound and adapt my playing accordingly. This follows the format that appears in some new experimental classical music settings, in which a performer is given a score accompanied by tape, and they are either asked to sync their performance to certain moments in the tape, or another person at the mixing desk triggers each segment of the tape as they follow the performance and score. My goal is to trigger compose segments of tape and cue them myself at certain moments of the piece, as I'm performing. I plan to control this using a MIDI controller that I'll activate with my left foot.
The end product I'm aiming for is a live version of something like this, a template I mixed of the song that will close my set, "Practice."
Note: I will be editing the song a bit, to take out some of the found sound samples obscuring voice and instrument, and also add a bit of variation to the singing and playing to make it less constant.
Another one of my findings is that velocity detection and pitch threshold detection should allow a straightforward way to design a reactive sampler, for improvisatory sections of the performance. I'll compose a variety of samples using the found sounds as well as newly generated sounds using objects and the yangqin itself, and load this into lists in the patch which will be triggered and cycled through when particular events occur in my playing, e.g. when the velocity and pitch exceed or go below certain levels. My focus in creating the samples will be found sounds and sounds I generate physically, rather than synthesised sounds, because this fits the overall aesthetic of the piece. Given my qualification of the sound as an extension of folk aesthetics, I want to maintain a sense of physicality in the sounds for the audience.
Following these discoveries, I have reworked the set to consist of the following 20-minute progression:
"Garden" (1') -- the Mandarin verse of an original song, acoustic
Improvisation (5') -- Free improvisation, reactive sampling of found sounds
"Weather Balloon" (4') -- a song with composed with simple effects. Here's an acoustic section.
Improvisation (5') -- Free improvisation, reactive sampling, emphasis on conversation snippets
"Practice" (5') -- a song with composed tape
The form of the set now embodies more clearly the notion of weaving together fragments. The samples used consist of short phrases of different sonic textures. Playing the improvisations will involve consciously activating cues for these fragments of sound, enacting a form of sonic weaving. As a whole, the set will bring together pieces of songs I have written with the other materials and styles my practice reaches -- alternative folk song, soundscape composition, audio ethnography, and improvisation.
I will be performing this set as part of a show at The Victoria Dalston on 18th September.