Thursday, November 26, 2009

Long Loops, Less Gear

So I thought I had my structure figured out (see previous post). I have been designing looping for midi sequence and for audio (although the Nord does not offer a lot of memory for looping -- read on), but for my new direction, looping (capturing) performances is key.


Looping is a funny thing, it makes tweaking easier. Looping means if I can perform a piece of my music and loop it, then add a layer or record another loop, so I can do other things and load new material up, play and see how a sound might work with the rest. Which I could do before, but I could not record my all my tweaks. The Nord G2 is simply not able to do such a thing since it does not record MIDI files, or Long Audio loops. So I decided to go elsewhere for that and give it a shot.


Funny thing, what a little box can bring. The little box is a Electroharmomix 2880 Looper which can record very long loops of audio and mix them and layer them.


I have spent a few hours with it and I am, ahem, quite happy with the results.

Essentially its giving me what I have been wanting to do with a Nord G2, but it's main limitation is only a single 2.7sec (or 5.4sec using memory from both the voice and fx areas) which amounts to 4 beats which is not long enough for evolving layering and tweak recording. So I talked to few people, and heard about the Electroharmonix 2880 Looper.

The little 2880 has up to 16 minutes per track and it has 6 tracks too (6 times that which I could barely struggle to use in 1 g2 looping up to 8 bars only.

So check it out. I have now no reason to have 2 g2's in my setup. I simply use 1 G2 (drums and grooves), a x0xb0x and a blofeld as sources of loops. Seriously. And the other cool things is, I can load new patches in my Nord G2 (1 Nord, expanded) without missing a beat (since the looper keeps playing what it has previously recorded. What could be simpler than that?

And I am finding that I can pull up any Nord patch and decide if it fits. Which means I could perform tracks only from my gear live, or capture bits and pieces meaning I have more control over tweaks over time.

These are some big changes for my workflow, mind you I will not drop my live midi sequence recording in the Nords or live looping voice lines, it will mean less gear to worry about (and a Nord G2 is a very good keyboard to keep safe from accidents during gigs), and a hell of a lot of fun.

One other nice surprise to using a looper, I don't have to run my gear at max capacity all the time, nor do I have to tweak all my gear all the time. Meaning I can build tracks with less equipment. And have more fun and less work.

This does not mean my loops will be prerecorded. I am a big believer in LIVE performance. Nope, all loops are generated live and tweaked as before, but now recorded and overdubbed and layered over long periods of time. So more of what I really like to do, and a little less work for me, but the depths of creativity and possibilities get multiplied.

Change is good

I am glad I am testing different performance concepts now, still far from my gig. If you're going to introduce new concepts into your rig, don't do it close to a gig.

Back to the looping. I will post more details of my progress later

Monday, November 16, 2009

components or structure?

I've given the next steps some thought. I now have a few components built:

1. mixer with muting and remote control for tracks.
2. fatness-enhancer for each external source (synthesizer)
2. live tweak recorder/looper (for song changes or tweaking of other synthesizers)
3. (pseudo) live sequence recorder/looper (which record)
4. a sample song track
5. example voice processing system (not finalized)
6. and a couple of grooves I created this weekend (song sources)

At this point my system looks like this:
Master System G2
- Master clock with restart
- blofeld and x0xb0x mixer
- tweak recorder/looper
- live sequence recorder/looper
- fx for blofeld and x0xb0x

Slave System G2
- a slave song track sequencer
- a song groove

Now, I could define the system given these parameters, but what is missing of my building blocks? a chord memorizer/arpeggio trigger, overall transposing, glitch sequencer, just to name a few.

As tempted as I am to assemble what I have, I will continue to work on the components and then given their (DSP/CPU) power requirements I will define the breakdown of the system.

The case for this is if I write a song with this structure, and then I find I need to alter the structure significantly, this means rewriting the song, and taking a step back at least for my upcoming live show.

So back to components work for me for a little while.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From protoype to a complete live system

Yesterday I played/practised the beginnings of my new set again. The current prototype is a skeleton of the larger system that is both
  • the system Master (aka G2 Master synthesizer) - the heartbeat, mixer, live performance captures, common sounds for any set, that can keep going regardless of anything else that can happen or go wrong during a performance (emergency loops and sounds)
  • the individual Slave (aka G2 Slave synthesizer)- a song which contain internal tracks/loops, external sequences, sample triggering, and voice processing. I use a few of these song subsystems during a live performance (typically 3 for 4 for a 45 minute set). These songs are self contained and unique and can be loaded at any time. The tracks can be performed and now captured (looped via midi) in the system Master.
A thing I have found during the construction of my past sets, is the desire to keep playing my new creation/prototype and improve it, instead of moving onto other parts of the work that need to be done. The current Odyssey skeleton is now sounding quite credible and I have played it for a few friends and have gotten some awesome feedback, which means it is time to move onto the rest of the work, despite how much fun it is to happily tweak what I have.


Before embarking on my next part, I am taking inventory and modifying my work/project plan of the next large system that needs to be developed as well as beginning to solidify the structure of the full system.

This is very much like the process in interaction design, where one moves from prototype to designing of a complete information architecture map. This is an iterative (agile) process which repeats itself as more details are designed and tested, and alterations are made.


So for me, the next work at this point means
  • refining the vision (the components and tracks and their elecments) of the entire system

  • designing/plugging more parts into both systems (the Master) and Slave (which will require multiple songs), not to mention programming of my external synthesizers (like the Waldorf Blofeld). Work needs to proceed in both Master and Slave subsystems simultaneously as one relies on the other. Once a set of Master and Slave systems are finalized, new Slave subsystems (songs) can be written.

That is where it's at.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The name of the set

When does one come up with a name for a set?

At the beginning when a new idea for a set is first seeded, in the middle of the work, or once everything is done (by marketing PR?)?

I have always tried come up with it early as it is how I name my files (and patches and performances). Changing names throughout a project means changing names in all sorts of different places (on my laptop, inside my different synthesizers, etc).

But now, it happens when I put a the intention out there. And just as with other ideas I have not fully figured out, I simply put out the "request for an idea" and somehow it always manages to happen.

So I am calling my new work, Odyssey.

2010 a new journey of looping and vocals for me, and new collaborations, and a new level of performance in supported through my Nord G2 based live performance system with my new performance (real time recorded and looped midi data) capturing capabilities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Practising performances

So, my work-flow typically means doing some design work to capture the desired functionality without any frills or secondary features. Just the basics, the basic performance feature and a key knob and button assignment and labelling, that captures my new (or improves on it) concept.

Then I go into performance testing of my new design and interface for a couple of hours.

After (and during) playing the design, I make notes on the improvements and changes as well as what types of additional parameters might improve the access, and presentation of my concept.

And the end of a practise session, I take an inventory of the idea. and it's creative impact on me as the observer or consumer of it. A survey of sorts.

Then I make improvements based on my test notes, I integrate my new concept into a whole system, or I move into a new concept.

Capturing performances

I have been busy designing a system to capture live performance and loop recording since so much of my live performance circles around tweaking. So, now I can capture some of my performance, repeat it, make layers of new performances, repeat it on top of the last one.

In addition, I am realizing that I can alter these captured performances as well. The joys of the freedom of a modular system like the Nord G2.

This new level of performance for me (and a next step in the evolution of my music) is what keeps it fun for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My next gig is January 23, 2010 at Sequential Circus 6, in Vancouver. Seems like far away, but I've already started preparing for the set.

The big part of it for me is what do I want to do and how do I want to interact with my music. I know I want to use this opportunity (a gig is a always a good motivator) for making some changes.

I've spent a couple of days rewiring everything (oh yeah, I'm old school and I don't use a laptop live which means more work to set up), before I commit to an approach/layout.

Funny enough, I'm realizing that the way I had things set up in the first place is still the right way to go. So I am back to using no mixer, just synthesizers (the Nord synthesizers act as my mixers and the brain of the whole performance system).

Now back to put it all together again. Lesson learned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Haagen Live

Welcome to Haagen Live. I'm Haagen, a Live PA (Live Act) electronic musician and performer in Vancouver, Canada. I'm a designer, inventor, and I design my own unique music instruments with my Nord Modular G2. I am also a Nord Keyboards sound designer, and have worked on the Nord G2 sound set. Welcome my blog.