Imagine a nightmarish, dark-world, alternative-reality version of Wii Music, one that sends Miyomato-san screaming. That’s what you get from tokoloten, in a very un-Nintendo noise performance, as found on comments. The Wii is just one of his tools:

tokoloten uses a variety of objects such as magnet motors, infrared devices, game controllers… in order to hide his lack of conventional technic. Depending on the venue, the show might be ambient-like, experimental or electronica with weird cinematographic references. But it most often combines all of this.
tokoloten is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It’s proof that the controller – any controller – is in the hands of the creator, and what it sounds like is entirely undetermined.

Mapping a hardware input to a sound means making an abstract connection between one physical action and another sonic reaction. What that relationship is is entirely up to you. I was honestly a bit surprised by some of the impassioned critical reactions to yesterday’s brief mention of the use of the Wiimote as a studio recording. Of course, that proves the creed of the blogger – post first, ask questions later, and when in doubt, just post. Amidst some of the frustration, there are some good discussions, though I do dream of an Internet on which we criticize content without name-calling.

But the reality remains: controllers are always abstracted from the sound, by definition, and whether they’re satisfying to you depends on how you’ve mapped them. I don’t know what qualifies as innovative, but then, there have been times when I’ve very much enjoyed turning a knob, so “innovation” isn’t always what matters to me. I tend to fall back on Duke Ellington – “if it sounds good, it is good.” For controllers, that means “if it feels good, it is good.” You’re the one with the controller in your hands.

For an alternative example, musician/artist Kassen has an excellent session on improvising with custom software and game controllers. Below, you can catch some of his talk from Amsterdam’s famed STEIM research center, which has a long history of researching the controller-music connection. After all these years asking that question, what we have is …more questions. But that’s a beautiful thing.

Kassen (DJ, performer, ChucK programmer) from STEIM Amsterdam on Vimeo.

Part of the reason I’ve never liked “controllerism” as a term – sorry, Moldover – is that there is no clear technique, no clear sound, no particular discipline. That is, I understand the case for the term and I’m glad there’s a discussion. But it seems to me that part of why controllerism is interesting is that there is no such thing as controllerism. The beauty of digital music is that you do have wide-open, blank-page possibilities. You can create your own system. It is abstract, simulation, ungrounded in physical reality. But while that is at odds with millenia of acoustic instrument-making, it’s also in tune with centuries of compositional and notational tradition, which are abstract. For the first time, the systems of how we conceive music can themselves become physical.

That to me is an exciting thing.

So, here’s a question — let’s take the example of sensors that handle orientation. How would you want to deal with them in music software, if they could be standardized, if any accelerometer or tilt sensor could announce its orientation? How do you decide which is the x, y, and z axis, for instance? How would you want the data normalized?

  • http://bottomfeeder.ca/top Kassen

    "controllerism" seems as meaningful to me as a term as "guitar music". By that I mean; "not very".

    I do tend to use the term "instrumentalist" to make a distinction between electronic performances that are based on live improvisation as opposed to a DJ-style presentation of material prepared earlier. These terms are quite clumsy, I admit, but these are fairly new questions and we still need to develop a vocabulary.

    One thing that struck me is that the post this follows up on mentioned the studio process in the title yet little of the follow up debate covered the relationship between the studio and the stage. We do have to face that for many of the artists performing on big stages there is a strong expectation of playing the pieces their audience knows and loves.

    Also; thanks.

  • http://www.basementhum.com Basement Hum

    I agree that Instrumentalism, or even instrumentism, seems to get towards a distinction that's useful; it has to do with identifying a particular mode of approaching a device. It doesn't say anything about how that device works, directly.

    Maybe the value of 'controllerism', although i'm not very keen on the term, is to draw attention to those things that make a controller quite a different proposition than an 'instrument' in the traditional sense; with a controller you're dealing with layers of abstraction that are absent with an Instrument (capital I). It's arguable that this difference is significant enough to justify having a dedicated term for describing the kind of interaction that happens when you use devices like joysticks for music.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yes, it's one of those cases in which I'm not fond of the term but also don't have a good alternative. (Doh.) "Electronic music" isn't a terribly descriptive term, either. "Live PA" always makes me imagine a big speaker, sitting alone onstage in a spotlight and people waiting for it to do something. I guess the question I have about controllerism is whether it's possible to have live digital music without using some sort of controller to moderate what's happening. Okay, we know it's "possible" because we've seen people do the "push play" style of performance — but then, maybe there's something more that we can say beyond people using controllers? And for that matter, I have some people use the laptop – yes, even the qwerty keyboard and trackpad – deftly and creatively.

    It's a failure of terminology, but rather an interesting one, at least.

  • atari5200

    Peter, I agree, "Live PA" is an awful, awful term and I really like the association you describe… to step back a bit, I think you hit on a key point when you quote Ellington and talk about innovation (or lack there of) and why it may or may not be important at all in the grand scheme of things.

    In music, isn't it the end result that matters? Whether you're using nothing but presets and a QWERTY keyboard to enter note data VS using a homebrew, open source one of a kind synth/sequencer combo with eyeball tracking OSC input controls, isn't it really about what the track sounds like in the end?

    People playing uninteresting music using unconventional controllers still ends up with uninteresting music. People playing great music playing boring, ordinary controllers still end up playing something you may want to listen to outside of the context of demonstrating a new technique. This is not a slam of Bravetti, I think his Live tutorials are awesome, but it's more a comment on a lot of the hype surrounding alternative controllers. I find myself torn between a fascination with people breaking new ground with interesting controllers, but yet, much of the music they turn out is not very interesting outside of the context we see it in, which is the novelty of the method used to create it.

    It's an amazingly fine line and I think it's a difficult one to walk. I personally think CDM should still cover all the new ways people are creating music (after all isn't that why the site is called "create" digital music?) but sometimes, if it ain't broke…, maybe a new way to do things isn't always needed, perhaps people gravitate to a certain method of music creation because it generally yields the best results overall. Worth talking about, I suppose…

  • http://www.basementhum.com Basement Hum

    <blockquote cite="atari5200">isn’t it really about what the track sounds like in the end?

    If the ultimate measure was what the track sounds like, alone, wouldn't live shows be redundant?

    Even a decision to play in complete darkness is a performative one, that has to do with creating an experiential space.

    What I understand folk like Kassen as being involved with, is facilitating a certain mode for experiencing the performance of electronic music. One in which there's an appreciation for the system, and the moment/act of creation; not necessarily creation in an improvisational sense, but in the sense of the of causal chains that pass through a human mind, bluntly: 'I do X, and it has Y affect on what we all hear'.

  • http://bottomfeeder.ca/top Kassen

    I agree; it is about how the tracks sounds, and I feel that specific situations (the space we perform in, the audience, the time of the day, our mood) call for different tracks.

    To me the logical conclusion was to "simply" write the whole track on the spot and I couldn't find any existing tools that let me do that so I made my own system.

    This isn't a attempt to be "different" with a "alternative controller", the controller is just a means of getting musical ideas into the computer at a high enough speed. From my perspective the traditional solutions were in a very real need of fixing.

    I mean that purely with regard to my own feelings and experiences, not to imply there is anything wrong with using a MPC or Live or some other ready-made established system if that suits your needs. I've seen great performances using those.

    If you (Atari5200) would point out that there is a lot of experimentation going on with different controllers that sometimes results in performances that amount to little more than tech-demos then yes; I'd have to agree. It's been established for centuries -if not millennia- that emotionally evocative live music takes many, many hours of practice. I sometimes get the feeling that electronic music is seen as some sort of exception to that, for reasons that aren't quite clear to me.

    So, yes, I fully agree with you that it's about the end result but to me the presentation (in my case trying to make it clear that the music is being written on the spot for that particular audience) and how the music relates to the moment are parts of that result. If it were just about the music (as sound) we could all stay home where beer is cheaper and there is no need to wonder how you'll get home at some godforsaken hour and download a MP3 file.

    To get this out of the theoretical realm;
    http://www.myspace.com/andergrond

    That's the myspace page of a local venue who recorded one of my sets earlier this year and posted a song online there (I myself am very bad at recording my own live sets). That's a straight recording, as it sounded in that small space, no edits or treatment.

  • Jake

    Would the difference between controllerism and instrumentalism not be that a while an instrument is something that produces sound itself, a controller is essentially mute until its connected to something that generates sound. Of course this is an arbitrary divide that ignores devices that straddle that divide such as keyboard synths that output cv or midi, or say a guitar that has a midi pick up attached but it seems to me to be at least a workable definition. I guess its more of a continuum with acoustic instruments at one end and monomes etc at the other end rather than a diametrically opposed dichotomy.

    The benefit of thinking in these terms is that surely the innovation of controllerism is the art of how you take this raw data and then use it to manipulate sound, be this through max patches and reaktor ensembles or just clever mapping in ableton. Whereas an instrumentalist's skill lies solely in the manipulation of their instrument, a controllerist surely must be skilled in not only playing their controller but also developing the means to use the midi/osc whatever that the controller spits out.

    Oh and yes I know that this is a massive simplification…

  • http://mmmlabs.com momo the monster

    As much as I like That 1 Guy's music, it just wouldn't be nearly as fun without the Magic Pipe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcmrYhDq9ms

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    @Momo: That 1 Guy is a great example of what happens when you combine amazing "traditional" musical instrument skills with sequencing and preproduction, and custom controller creation. I've only seen him once, but there were plenty of times in the gig where I couldn't see the line between what he was triggering/looping live, and what was coming from pre-sequenced stuff.

    For those who weren't geeking out about his setup and techniques, they just loved the music, stage presence, and performance!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I'm going to defend end result defined as "feel" as well as "sound." Case in point — I can make a piano performance *sound* on a simulated, sampled piano played by a plastic keyboard controller just like a Steinway concert grand. But I'd enjoy the feel of the Steinway more, even if that feel is sometimes inaudible. (Of course, it also sounds different as you're playing it.)

    By the same token, because an improvised performance on controllers feels different to the player, they may wind up playing things differently. To someone else, this impact may not be audible, but it is to the player.

    But the policy on CDM is certainly to cover everything, not to exclude people because they don't have novel controllers or some such thing. :) The more fundamental problem is that it's not actually possible to cover *everything*!

  • http://www.myspace.com/keatshandwriting Keats'

    Speaking of not being able to cover everything, there is an interesting article in the latest Electronic Musician about Fauxharmonic Orchestra. It's a guy who hooks his Wiimote and Wii fit board up to powerful Mac running VSL in order to 'conduct' an orchestra in real time.

    Check it:
    http://emusician.com/interviews/feature/fauxharmo

    Youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgVD3NUUlY0

  • http://spark.commandlineninja.ca Spark

    I like Keats' example.

    I'm still on the fence.

    I hate meritocracies.. but some of this stuff still just seems like the same old computer music noise wank.

    It seems very theatrical.

    If you're going to have flashing lights and theatrics.. like dress it up a little.. don't just get up on stage in your jeans and your cycling 74 tshirt.

    Bring some old fashioned ozzy ozborne style performance art to it.

  • http://zealousy.com.au Zeal

    "I guess its more of a continuum with acoustic instruments at one end and monomes etc at the other end rather than a diametrically opposed dichotomy."

    agreed! us humans are always trying to pigeon hole things that just aren't that simple so we come up with ridiculous terms like controllerism/controllerists/controlleralitabilty. urgh.

    but with game controllers, i think the exciting thing is we can make really expressive instruments that behave in ways traditional instruments can't. i've been working on turning a guitar hero controller into an instrument and i've found it can produce interval trills more easily than a piano or a sax:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azfgasnWtW0

    so it's not really a case of looking cool live or being practical in the studio – it can produce a sound that works in both contexts.

    and also, something game controllers have going for them is that they're designed with ergonomics in mind… not always successfully… but it's a good starting point for a practical musical instrument.

  • http://www.cloudcycle.net/log/ mauxuam

    "I was honestly a bit surprised by some of the impassioned critical reactions to yesterday’s brief mention of the use of the Wiimote as a studio recording."

    aahahahahahah….that's funny Peter…

    those critics were not unpassionate…but actually full of passion.

    your previous post wasn't brief at all…but sounded instead like a proper celebration of mr Bravetti bloated ego.

    pls…don't try to be naif and don't be so defensive…if you post such rubbish don't be surprised to get "unpassionate" criticism.

    and this post today looks very much like a way to recover from a bad day…after the wanky gestures with boring predictable minimal in front of numb sunglasses crowd…you giving us this dude producing weird industrial sounds in an empty dark room….LOL….what a classic.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    mauxuam: Just FYI, "impassioned" means "passionate," NOT "unpassionate."

  • http://www.cloudcycle.net/log/ mauxuam

    btw…this performance is def much better…also the sounds.

    should I post a performance recorded in my dark bedroom ? …. I gave the wii to my lover…and we did some wild sex while triggering sounds of the jungle…I will post the PureData patches too.

  • http://www.cloudcycle.net/log/ mauxuam

    oh sorry Peter…I got your words wrong…my english is not that good and I get confused when english ppl use latin words in an inappropriate way….the substance doesn't change tho.

  • atari5200

    Some great comments on here, and I think the point regarding feel is totally true. Your choice of interface between yourself and your sound generator (whatever it may be) makes a huge difference to how you are going to be able to express yourself. The Rhodes samples included with Kontakt may give me more expressive control over the sounds, but the music I create sounds totally different when I sit down behind my cranky, barely functioning yet quite real Rhodes. There is that ineffable quality that will have a huge effect on your performance, and if moving around cubes on a piece of paper to create drum beats helps you capture that, well, that really is a great thing.

    My point is more that, in my opinion, I don't think a piece of music should necessarily be given additional value based on how its created, rather, if an unconventional way of generating or controlling sound allows you to tap into your creative flow more fully, well that's awesome. I totally get the excitement of the edge-of-your-seat improvisation in the live setting, and utilizing new tools can make that even more interesting to the performer, which hopefully should translate into a show that is more interesting to the viewer…

    In the end, personal preference accounts for so much of how something does or doesn't resonate with you regardless of the tools used to create it. Unfortunately, as Kassen said, I do find a lot of the music made with bleeding-edge controllers can end up sounding very tech-demoy rather than an interesting musical idea. But I'm fully aware that's just my personal taste (or lack thereof) at work. (And Kassen, I really enjoyed your track as well, I'm downloading the set you linked to and I'm excited to hear what else you've got going on).

    On the flip side of my comments, I love drone music, and I find that a lot of folks find that to be numbingly dull and boring while I find it to be very enjoyable, so I'm certainly not making any statements relating to the value (again, or lack thereof) of musicians trying to create new ways of expressing themselves and the fruits of their labor. Hell, I've done improvised shows using nothing but tuned crystal glasses, and I recently built an Arduinome, so I'm saying unusual controllers have no place in music! I just think it's a really interesting topic to discuss since it's certainly not something that has an easy answer

  • newmiracle

    This is a tough one. I've discussed physical interfaces at great length with many of my friends. Without re-hashing too much of what's been said here, I'd like to throw some things in the pot.

    One element here is that, as a community, we're creating all these new physical interfaces (controllers) for our electronic music and they're very new. One of the problems with these new things is that no one has mastered them yet. How long has the guitar been around? The piano? How long did it take for people to break out of the 'proof of concept' of a string tied to a box with a hole in it?

    Also, it's completely possible to do 'real performance' with almost ANYTHING, including any electronic interface. If you locked me in a room for eternity with thousands of pots and pans I might be able to make a masterpiece. So I feel it's a little short sighted to call any one thing 'useless' before it's stood the test of time.

    The unique problem in the electronic scene is what I've dubbed 'playing vs DJing'. Of course the wording could be changed for a better fit.

    How I see it is this: You can have an interface like a Trigger Finger, and map functions. You press a button. Now, what happens? Does it trigger a sound? How long is that sound? Does it loop? Or does it mute/unmute a track? Does it turn on an effect on a track that's playing?

    All these things are different. But what I've noticed is at some point, you're "more" DJing than you are "playing an instrument" (for lack of a better term). Because of the strong bonds between DJ culture and electronic music culture, many people wind up performing in 'one man bands'. Depending on what you want to do, some level of control is given to the computer in order for you to do a set on your own.

    I feel like alot of these "useless" controllers (or even DIY synths and noisemakers) would seem alot different in the context of a band or group of people performing together with this one element being controlled by… a Wii Fit board or whatever. But when you show these things on their own people seem to say, "You can't play a solo with this. Useless." Sure, the Wiimote is kinda like a wild and whacky XY controller. There's a somewhat limited range of useful interaction with the thing. It'd be weird to DJ with just two Wiimotes, and it'd be very challenging to 'play it' like a theremin. But so what?

    People use egg shakers, tamborines and hand claps all the time. No one says 'they shouldn't exist' just because they essentially just do one thing with some variation. I think there's tons of potential for the WiiMote, but at the very least it can pass as an Egg Shake MIDI Controller. Right?

    Yeah there's alot of gimmickry and hype around certain controllers, and the people who use them. But I don't think there's a need for being curmudgeonly, especially since it's a budding area and people are just starting to figure things out. More is better in my opinion, even though realistically alot of this stuff won't pan out. I just tend not to be a hater towards stuff that I may not immediately see a use for yet. It just takes one dedicated person to come along and blow your mind.

  • http://www.basementhum.com Basement Hum

    @newmiracle: agreed! your post in fact echoes a lot of what I said in a recent presentation I gave (also about EM and joysticks ;) ) http://www.basementhum.com/2009/10/video-mormo-at

    <blockquote cite="newmiracle">One of the problems with these new things is that no one has mastered them yet. How long has the guitar been around? The piano? How long did it take for people to break out of the ‘proof of concept’ of a string tied to a box with a hole in it?

    A related thing, also goes hand-in-hand with controllers and electronic music, is that often the person who will perform the thing, is the same person who has programmed it. Since programming lacks a sharply delineated 'end' (where you can say with confidence: "It's finished!"), there is always the possibility to change the way the instrument works–sometimes quite fundamentally. This leads to a situation where, if the music you're creating with the system doesn't sound too good, you might be tempted to try to fix that with some programming. While in fact, as you point out, the better solution may be to just practice the thing until you've mastered it.

    When the programmer is also the performer, it can be difficult to know when the right time it to just stop programming and start practicing.

  • Harry van Haaren

    @ Basement Hum: Totally agree with your last piece "when is the right time to just stop programming and start practicing".

    Having said that I will argue that coding the connection between the controller & the sound that it makes is almost like tuning a guitar before playin it. Its essential for a good performance, however once "in tune" software doesnt go out of tune, rather it becomes outdated and new possiblities arise with an additional bit of code…

    I think this is compareable, and hence the "stop coding & start practicing" is true to an extent, however the software should be kept in tune & up to date by expanding its possibilities to embrace the newest "features" that are on offer.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, one could say the coding is part of the process of developing technique. And that's what I mean: I'm not sure that directly applying metaphors acquired from acoustic instruments *or* from DJing are always apt. You're creating a compositional system and then using controllers to manipulate parameters of that system. That's really neither live remixing nor live playing, even if it has elements of each. It's live composition.

  • http://bottomfeeder.ca/top Kassen

    @Basement Hum;

    Yes, that's true. Sometimes I found that new features don't work within seconds of trying them, and then they were out immediately. However; I have now used the same system for quite a while and clocked in a lot of practice so I've become very hesitant about changes.

    Changes need a bit of code to make them a part of the system and a lot of practice to make me comfortable with the whole thing again (as well as making sure they are bug-free) so impulsively bolting stuff on has a real cost.

    As has been noted above; practice is key for this sort of thing; lots of it.

    Another note on my motivation; I started doing this after finishing a EP that took far too long to write. One of my ideas was to make a sequencer without permanent storage and without a "undo" function, to avoid getting stuck on minute details. The downside is that this needs practice, but on the up-side a lot of people commented on how my music now sounds a lot more cheerful, a direct result (I think) of me being happier making it.

    The "feel" element touched on already is a very important thing (to me at least) in these days where DAW's seem to positively invite getting bogged-down in details. I sometimes -semi-jokingly- argue that the undo button is to blame for the stale music we hear on the radio.

  • http://www.myspace.com/keatshandwriting Keats'

    @mauxuam

    I'd like to engage in a little good-natured nerdery without starting a flame war.

    In response to your comment that Peter used the latin word "impassioned" in an "inappropriate way" I would respond that "impassioned" has been used since Middle English in the 1400s. See Etymonline at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=impass… The suffix "im" is a variation of "in" which can mean two separate things. It can mean "not" as in (immobile, impersonal) as well as "in" (implant, impoverish). So impassioned literally means to be to have passion (literally fire) within one's self.

    No more nerding for me, back to writing my paper. Ouch.

  • newmiracle

    Love the conversation here.

    Another thought that I've had for a while is the idea of building your own setup, and 'owning' your own approach. Lets say you have a more-or-less DIY approach to your controllers: game pads, some hacked keyboards, an arduino here or there. What I've found is that the setup is now "yours" and this can discourage other people from having the same setup. It's kinda like an unspoken rule.

    "A DDR Mat? Didn't so-and-so do that?" or something along those lines. This can encourage my previous point where people don't master their interfaces. Most effort goes into 'rolling your own', and creating new interfaces.

    Am I the only one who feels like this is a 'thing' in the DIY Controller scene? Or maybe I'm just paranoid hahaha.

  • http://www.basementhum.com Basement Hum

    <blockquote cite="newmiracle">Am I the only one who feels like this is a ‘thing’ in the DIY Controller scene?

    I know what you mean, but i'm not so concerned about this myself.

    While I'm happy to explain my setups in as much length as my interlocutor has patience, I noticed that not everyone is as eager to explain what's going on. Some folk are quite cagey about how they're doing stuff.

    Holding back like this is understandable I think, but unnecessarily cautious imo; people with the know-how to implement what you explain, will also be adept enough to figure out modifications that more closely match their preferences, they will likely get a result quite different to yours anyway.

  • http://www.cloudcycle.net/log/ mauxuam

    hey Keats…thanx for the history lesson…

    passione is an italian word that come from latin and has an history of…nearly 3000 years now (so the 1400 BC is like yesterday)…

    from Latin passio, suffering, noun of action from perfect passive participle passus, suffered, from deponent verb pati, suffer

    [edit]

    and we don't put any IM or IN or UN in front of it…but actually we attach a AP (appasionato)…this is why to me is inappropriate…like it would be for an english if I would wrote…mmm..let me think…biggissimo instead of the biggest…

    as I said…english is not my native language…so I got it wrong since the english language morphed the latin in an "wrong" way.

    anyway….sorry for this boring stuff.

    what is the next controller ?

    back on topic….

    I reckon that all this wonder and marvel in front of this performances with new amazing technlogies are only the fruit of ignorance.

    what is the difference between Bravetti holding the Wii as a magic wand and the wanking of Gun's and Roses guitar player while he is doing a feedback in front of the speaker ?

    the second performance is only more common…we got so used to it that we can now clearly see it as an exageration…and pretty soon all this wifi controllerism will look pretty much common and passe' (from french…old…lastyear vogue)///so keep it pushing it high since it will be not trendy for that long too…

    cheese…a no sorry…cheers.

  • YETI

    that arcade pad setup make me cry a little.

  • http://www.myspace.com/krzysiekcybulski krzysiek cybulski

    Hello everyone! This will be a long one…

    First of all – I think that this discussion touches some essential problems of "electronic music". Here's what I think about it.

    Somehow electronic musicians, or laptop musicians (whatever you call it) tend to perform solo. Don't get me wrong, I'm ok with that – I think that solo performance is a great way to fully express yourself. Nevertheless: it maybe comes from dj'ing tradition, as some of you indicate. Or maybe that's the way for producers to show their work to the public. Producing is like composing – it's not the real-time process, in the way that the act itself is not the piece of art (the result of the act may be a piece of art). Similarly – painting or sculpting as a process is not a piece of art – the finished painting or sculpture in the target piece. So painters and sculpturers have their exhibitions, and producers have their live sets.

    The difference is that in music in general the performance – which is the process of creating sound – is itself a piece of art (real-time). Of course usually musicians play pre-composed pieces, but in jazz music the border between composed and created on-the-fly becomes blurry, and in free-improvised music everything happens on the fly.

    And I think this is what attracts audience to live performances, and what makes people get out of their appartments, where beer is cheeper ;-) . And the way of evaluating whether something happens live or not, is the connection between what audience members hear and what they see. And this connection is natural when somebody plays traditional instrument, as it's natural when we hear somebody talking – we see him moving his lips at the same time. But there is no such connection in many electronic music performances. So, when we compare the "lonely man and laptop" type of performance with traditional live music performance, it's a bit like comparing cinema and theater – I hope you get what I mean.

    I think some kind of key to this problem is understanding that performing solo has some obvious limitations. With traditional instruments it's the same – even if we're listening to brilliant cellist, he will never sound as full as a symphonic orchestra. BUT when we attend solo cello performance we are ready to hear something less complex and more intimate than orchestral piece. And pieces written for solo instruments are written with all the limitations and specific features of the instrument in mind.

    From this point of view – solo laptop performance is no other – we have the same limitations: we've got only two hands; it's impossible to play parts of few instruments at one time. So the most popular solution is to prepare the music before the performance, and during the show to control only certain elements of the music. We could compare it to solo cello player performing along with backing tracks (although I know that it's not perfect comparison…) Sounds like full band, performed by one man. But this is where we reach the "playing vs dj-ing" problem.

    I think there is another way: to taylor our music for the specific situation (which is solo performance) – not trying to make it sound like a full band, just try to find a compromise between what we want to express musically and what we are physically able to perform in real-time. AND if we'll really PERFORM it – I mean we'll really produce or control most of the sounds in real time – it will be much more atractive to the audience. And listeners knowing that the music actually is created in front of them, will be likely to forgive the fact that it sounds rough – compared to perfect tracks we could prepare for weeks in our home studio and than just play it back during the show.

    Nobody blames solo cellist for the fact that he doesn't sound like full orchestra.

  • http://www.myspace.com/krzysiekcybulski krzysiek cybulski

    PS. Ehm… I think I got little bit off-topic :-(

    What I was trying to say was: because all of us have different conception of what our music should sound like, those of us who whant to really perform live (not play back tracks) are trying to find ways (custom software, custom hardware) that are suitable to express our music in real time. I think that different musical conceptions need different control aproaches. So – looking for unique controllers/custom software solutions seem natural from this point of view.

    It's also true with traditional instruments – every instrument has specific features that influence the music played on it. Not only the music's tembre, but also it's overall conception. On the other hand instrumentalists do modify their instruments – simplest and most common ways to do it is changing string or reed types/gauges, changing instrument/amplifier model etc. I play bass guitars for many years now, and I know that every one of my fellow bassplayers has different aproach – different combination of instrument brand/string/amp/technique and it all affects the way they sound as well as what they actually play musically.

  • http://www.myspace.com/krzysiekcybulski krzysiek cybulski

    PS. 2

    I'm sorry, I made a mess… I was reading this article at the same time http://createdigitalmusic.com/2009/07/21/take-it-… so my first post was actually a 2-in-1 answer to both articles….

    all of these essential problems of electronic performances – in my opinion

    PEACE ;-)

  • http://bottomfeeder.ca/top Kassen

    Krzysiek; <cite>From this point of view – solo laptop performance is no other – we have the same limitations: we’ve got only two hands; it’s impossible to play parts of few instruments at one time.</cite>

    I don't think this need be a issue if we consider entering data into the sequencer as musical expression. The sequencer plays the music and has no problem with playing several instruments at the same time.

    Entering -say- a drum rhythm, unlike tapping it out, can be done faster than realtime. It takes practice, and admittedly my sequencer is very simplified compared to -say- Live to facilitate this, but it can be done.

  • http://www.myspace.com/krzysiekcybulski krzysiek cybulski

    Sh*t, I never thought of that, that's a great solution! And another common solution for creating many sounds at once and still doing it live – is live looping :-)

    I don't consider it an issue, rather just some specific fact that we have to deal with in some way.

    I think it's important to look for this kind of solutions, rather than thinking "I can't make it live anyway, so I'll just prepare track at home and push play"

  • Hater

    That guy looked silly performing with two wii controllers. I was laughing so hard I couldn't hear the music.

  • http://www.basementhum.com Basement Hum

    @krysiek Good points. I think it's useful to bear in mind that we have different expectations, as an audience, when we're watching a solo performance compared to a band/orchestra.

    I have the feeling that, in the case of the solo EM performer (even with the empowering effect of performance sequencers), something has to give; either transparency towards the audience about the connection between action and sound, or the ability to work with multiple voices and musical phrases, simultaneously appearing or changing.