Archive for Atwater Crossing

Bach + Mantione: Discussion Excerpt

Posted in Duos, Themes, Transcripts with tags , , , , , , on May 19, 2012 by glenncbach

Mantione @ Atwater

Excerpt from discussion that took place at Atwater Crossing, Los Angeles, 5 May 2012

Bach: So, you could say, if you’re talking about broad categories, that the electroacoustic thread is stronger for you right now than the musical. Electroacoustic, acousmatic, sound-based…

Mantione: The thread, I would say, at the moment…

Bach: Not to the exclusion…

Mantione: No, I would never exclude anything. The thing about acoustic music is it takes more than myself, obviously. That’s a good thing, or it could be a very bad thing [laughs]. Depending on who the other people are. But, those other people are needed for that whole process to complete itself. That’s not always easy. In fact, it’s mostly not easy, depending on your circumstances. And there’s the immediate feedback of computer music…you can imagine what the notes sound like, and play them, and hear them, and maybe with MIDI even play back some of it…you can have some kind of fairly certain auralization of what you want, but it never, ever is like that, ever…

Bach: No.

Mantione: As opposed to computer music, which is.

Bach: What you hear is what you get.

Mantione: It’s it. Certainly you are at the mercy of the speakers or your headphones, but, other than that, it is what it is.

Bach: It’s tape music. Get up, press ‘play,’ sit back.

Mantione: That’s right.

Bach: And now we can take computer music, electroacoustic music, and mess with the parameters while it’s being auditioned, performed.

Mantione: Did you see this thing, lately, a call for live coding? People actually go on stage and type in code in real time as the thing is generated.

Bach: We did a little bit of that in Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Laptop Orchestra. I didn’t, I’m not a programmer or coder. But some of the guys are heavily into Pure Data. So they were writing patches in the moment and rearranging stuff. They’d given a bunch of patches to the group, so the group had a series of basic patches that formed the basis of the network, using the connectivity to run PD and have everyone’s output shared. But I believe there were some who were writing the patches in real time.

Mantione: That to me is not as impressive as the coding. Because I can’t code either. I would be amazed if someone just typed in lines of code. You can slap together a Max patch. Writing a Max patch really isn’t that difficult. But, coding. I can’t even type. I’m a two-finger typer.

Bach: I appreciate all of that, but that’s not how I think.

Mantione: There’s a disconnect between the gesture and the result. But isn’t that a mental gesture? Isn’t it like, “I want this to happen.” There’s the gesture, it’s kind of an invisible gesture, and this is just your finger moving here.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: So, isn’t it still there?

Bach: Yeah. It’s extended.

Mantione: It’s extended.

Bach: It’s extended and less immediate.

Mantione: Right.

Bach: It’s not quite the Rube Goldberg contraption of trying to set up this elaborate structure to make a very simple thing happen. In a way it gets back to…if you’re going to be old school about it, pure, you’re controlling every aspect of it. I’m guilty of not wanting to know what’s under the hood. I like to have some presets and some buttons, where I slide this slider and it does this, and I’m not as interested in the code that says when you turn a pot it activates this circuit to add extra gain or resistance…an oscillator is then fed through these filters…it interests me abstractly, of course, metaphorically and just for the idea of it, but as a model for composing or performing, not so much. I’m not opposed to it. If someone else was working in that, I would be open to collaborating. Maybe Max would be different. I don’t know how different Max is from PD. I know that there are improvisers who set up Max patches that they use for live stuff, and for them it’s pretty intuitive. So, I’m not opposed to it.

Mantione: Well, you know there’s a whole other issue, performing live vs. not. That’s a whole other issue. I’ve been teaching this class, your class, Listening and Analysis, and we’ve been talking about, “okay, here’s this electronic tune or pop tune or whatever. Now, we’re hearing the recording, but if we went to hear this live would it be the same?” Most people agree that, no, it wouldn’t be the same. And I say, “would it be a different piece?” I don’t know what they think, but I think they’re two separate pieces.

Bach: Any time it’s broadcast it’s different.

Mantione: That’s true.

Bach: We’re in a different room. Okay, this R&B singer [from music playing in the background], we’re hearing it out of [turns around to point at the speakers at the end of the lounge] the P.A. at a reduced volume, it’s a completely different piece if we were to hear this at a club or a party or on a ‘hi-fi.’

Mantione: Right. I remember one of the first concerts I’d ever gone to was Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4,” one of my favorite guitar solos, ever, and I went to that concert expecting to hear that perfect guitar solo the same way I heard it a million times, and when it didn’t happen it was disappointing, and kind of an awakening to me, that, okay, live music is different from recordings [laughs]. Now the bifurcation has happened. And so, with that in mind, the reason I bring it up, is that each one takes a different kind of technique that is very different, and you cannot expect that if I can make music that I really love in non-real time, that I can do the same thing in real time. I cannot do it. I cannot do it as well, I’ll tell you that right now. Because I haven’t done it as much.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: Some people take that into account and they say, “well, it’s live,” and in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “okay, it’s live.” Is that a value-added thing? Or should it be meaningless as far as whether it’s good, the sonic result? And I think it should be meaningless, at least as far as what I do. It’s either good or it isn’t, you know? If it’s live, then you fucked up live [laughs].

Bach: Right.

Mantione: That’s not an excuse, in other words. You know what I mean?

Bach: Yes. And I think by keeping those separate…and I try to get away from categorization, this is this and this is that, but sometimes it’s good to have…

Mantione: Two worlds.

Bach: Okay, here is the stuff that I can do in the studio, in the box, with this elaborate, intimate, excruciatingly detailed control over pitch, timbre, time, EQ, stereo image, that you can really only do as a composer, as someone who is setting out to do this very definitive thing. Then, live, what happens when you have to wait for something to render? Do you keep it silent? Do you play something else in the meantime? So, we’re talking about the gesture, the extended gesture, and the gesture in the box is a different mechanism than the live. With the live there is the performative aspect to it, there’s a tendency to want to keep the machinery running, you don’t want to screw it up. “Oops, I need to make this right, I need to keep the sound going, I need to have this narrative chugging along.” And in the studio there’s no one watching. So you can take as much time as you want, hit ‘save,’ go read a book, do something else, come back a few days later, and pick up exactly where you left off.

Mantione: Do you prefer one or the other at this point in your life?

Bach: I’m more… [trails off]

Mantione: Let me ask you this. Which would you say you’re better at doing?

Bach: I don’t know if I can answer that.

Mantione: You can’t answer that.

Bach: I started doing both, performing as a DJ with vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs, doing these sound collages of other people’s work, samples and montage, then simultaneously working with digital audio for the first time and making these, I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but electroacoustic, acousmatic music. But the two never met. I would either perform improvised sound collages or I would compose my own stuff. And then I started to actually perform my own work. Sort of slip it in. At some point that took over. So, they originated from different sources, from different wells, and I think at one time there was a criss-cross, but I think that they still are originating and being fed from different sources. There’s overlap. But, when I’m performing I’m still thinking about this DJ thing. The selector. Mixing two things, overlapping them, transitioning, having this sort of linear…

Mantione: Continuity.

Bach: Yes, continuity. And in the studio it tends to be a little more vertical. I mean there’s still obviously a linear aspect to it—sound exists in time—and I will compose things in the box, these units, or structures, little snippets or samples to then be performed as modules that I can then…so there’s a definite relationship, but I can’t say if I prefer one or the other, or if I’m better at one or the other.  I don’t know if they’re two sides of the same coin. I don’t know if they are bifurcated. I don’t know.

Mantione: I think they’re two different skills. That’s funny, I still play guitar. But I don’t play what I write. I play jazz and blues because that’s what I was brought up with. And I still love using the instrument to do that. And to improvise. I would suck if someone stuck notes in front of me and asked me to…or even recording the guitar, I would suck. But, playing live, jamming with other instruments, that’s where I’m great with the guitar. Not with the computer. Why? Because that’s what I practice. And that’s what I’ve done over a gazillion hours.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: And I think this is where I have a big problem with so much of what I hear in an improvisational setting, with electronics especially, is that people think that if they can make weird sounds, that they can improvise.

Bach: Yeah, that that’s enough.

Mantione: That that’s enough. It’s not. And I don’t care if it’s a stomp box. If you haven’t spent many, many hours at figuring out all the nuances of that stomp box, what happens in all these situations, you don’t know that instrument. Don’t pretend that you do because you don’t. It’s obvious. And I think that’s what I hear a lot.

Bach: That’s interesting you say that. I tend to share that opinion in some regards, but looking at it from my perspective as someone who’s trying to make sounds in interesting ways, whether I’m…I don’t know if I’m illustrating an idea or just hearing these sounds in context and then immediately trying to figure out how to place them. Rather than, “I’m going to play this note as an execution of this thought, or this mental image I had, or this idea that I want to put this sound here.” So, in a way I’m reacting to a lot of the sounds that come out. I want to keep open, for me, the idea that I can take an instrument, an acoustic instrument, and use it to generate sounds that I may not be in control of, to then, in the live moment, have some kind of reaction to that and make it work somehow. That’s the challenge. I can play some very basic notes and chords on the guitar, but I would by no means call myself a guitarist. I would never pick up a guitar in an improv setting and say “I’m going to play the guitar and do this.” I could set up the guitar and put some mics on it and pluck a string and see if that can fit into the context of something else. Most often, though, I’ll just use the instrument beforehand in the studio to create some textures that I’ll then play later. So I’m playing recordings of myself manipulating the instrument.

Mantione: Well, I don’t know about you, but when you write in the box, as you’re saying…when I do that, it’s not code. I use Max, but I write patches in Max that I can perform on. Whether it’s a live situation, or whether I’m writing a fixed media piece, it’s still performing. In essence, I create a hundred improvisations on a Max patch and pick out the jewels. Which you can’t do live. But, what’s interesting is it’s still improvisation. I mean, I don’t pre-configure things and say, “Okay, hit the button and let it play.” I’m moving things around and adjusting parameters. Or, if I do hit the button I have some ideas in mind that the parameters have been changed, they will shift, they will randomly move…

Bach: Or, knowing later, you can then manipulate the recording of that…

Mantione: Yes. And also, a lot of this randomness, the randomization is one of the greatest sources of discovery.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: How could you possibly discover something you already know? [laughs]

Bach + Mantione: Atwater Crossing

Posted in Duos with tags , , , on May 4, 2012 by glenncbach

Phil decided on Atwater Crossing for our meal and discussion. This place came up in my lunch discussion with Ted Byrnes, and it seems like a pretty hip complex. A different kind of community than what I’ve always had in mind for my own vision of an artist colony, but perhaps more realistic in terms of covering what must be tremendous overhead.

In any case, an intriguing site for what I’m sure will be an engaging discussion.