Work process Audio Activists

Technical and musical set up 

(text parts from Audio Activists dissertation, p. 118-121)

When we started out the project, the idea was to make the sound effects as ”local” as possible, with simple devices for us to handle while interacting, and with speakers placed close to our physical positions in the room in order to get a more acoustic experience. This was intended so that the musician and the singer would not be hindered in their instrumental practice in the improvisational processes, nor that the effects would appear so much as effect, but rather as sound variations out of our artistic choices in the moment.

What does this do to me: you have to play your sound, or make a sound and then manage the device afterwards. You have to step out of your sound to edit it. How will this work for me?
From log notes 150605

I had hoped that Sersam and I could work further with the techniques of structural improvisa-tion that we had developed in Vernissage, but in practice we had vey little time for the actual music improvisations. This was due to the complex processes of making the technology work. This is of course an expected part of experimental work with technology, especially for me, who is new to this field. One rather siginificant issue was that the software was suddenly starting to direct the other instrumentalist’s effects. It took a while to discover, as the effects already blurr-ed the lines of the instrumental sounding identities.

When we started to work with the effects, attack, sustain, delay and release, I noticed that it was easier for me to take on the function of making a sound scape while Sersam improvised melo-dies, or solos. This is usually not so easy to do, since the roletaking between voice and piano in the classical music repertoire is so fixed.

Monni had the idea to project the sounds in the loudspeakers spread around in the room, which made a whole other effect. At first I found this a little disappointing, but very soon the dis-appointment made way for advantages and new insights. This is discussed further in Examples and discussions Ljudo.
In the final set up, there was one microphone for the grand piano, installed inside, and one for the singer. The microphones were connected to the fireface and to a laptop, and two midi keyboards controlled the sound effects, one for each improviser. The computers used the sound ware Ableton live. The sound went from the computer into the mixer (both filtered and no pro-cessed signal) and further out to speakers in each corner of the ceiling in the room. We worked a lot with different placings in the room in relation to the equipment. As Monni had a central role as musician and not only sound engineer, I suggested a set up where we would be placed side by side. Together we designed a stage light with one colour each, to create three rooms in the stage space. After some tryouts, we decided that I would have a cheek microphone. This was very useful for me, since I had found the hand microphone, or even the microphone on a stand quite evasive, as it simply took up physical space where I am used to being able to move.

I noticed, just as in Facet labs, that the technological set up and its discourses have a very strong impact on the improvisational situation. I suggested that we used text to work from, which was very positively received by the others. As composers they are used to creating music to given texts, while this is quite new for me, as I almost always create my own text. We chose some poems by Tranströmer which we interpreted together in a very inspiring session. This was a good opportunity for me to learn more about their thinking in the creative processes of making music in relation to words. On one of the days Fritiof Palm from the Vernissage quartet joined us for a jam session, although this time with a theremin.

I started to use my body in the physical space to improvise. I sit next to Fabio so that I can enter and exit, which is extremely well working for me. The movement on and off stage is also a way to clarify how we can take space as soloists, as Fabio said, that we use in the sounding space. Aha, it’s like in opera improvisation, when and who.
From log notes 150608

In a discussion after the sessions, Fabio noted that this made it possible for us to take on the role of the protagonist, and then, as you step out of this role, to see the process from outside. I realuze that this is a crucial part for me as solo improviser. If I make these inner steps, it may be just enough. I don’t have to show anyone that I do it, since there is no other singer who needs that information.
One very positive thing for me was that the set up allowed for me to choose not to move so much. The use of the poetry opened up for me to use the role of the reader, just standing still with the book, and not having to use physical action in every scene. I noticed a rather surprising big difference between this position and the seemingly alike position as repertoire singer with a score. Althoug they might look almost the same, the inner experience of taking on these roles tells me that there is a great difference in the stage agency between the two. I look forward to exploring the role of the reader more as improviser in the future.

We decided for the following set up in the performance:

Free improvisation
Presentation
Poem: ”Upprörd Meditation” (Tomas Tranströmer)
Improvisation on ”Upprörd Meditation”
Free improvisation
Poem: ”I den forsande stäven är vila” (Tranströmer)
Improvisation on ”I den forsande stäven är vila”