The play with zones
Working with live electronics makes it possible to manipulate nearness and naturalness in respect of how the sound of the voice is perceived. I experience this as a play with the zones that Bergsland suggests, constituting a continuum between maximal and minimal voice (Bergsland, 2010). I can also relate to this as a play with the concept of real world (Lane, 2008, Lansky, 2008). For me, the real world experience is connected to the experience of meaning and naturalness in voice sound. It is therefore perceived as being part of the continuum that Bergsland suggests, with clarity of meaning and naturalness as defining premises. The variable experience of meaning shows us how words and linguistics can play an important part, not only by introducing semantics, but also by the act of speaking, using “text” as sound, not as meaning.
The play with zones is, as I see it, a creative field that is not only natural, but also almost unavoidable when working with voice and live electronics. For me, this play widens the range of expressional possibilities available in music. It is important to emphasise that many aspects of this play can also be a part of performing with the acoustic voice alone, but as I see it, live electronics widen the possible range of this continuum. It is also important to see this play not as an isolated activity defined by the vocalist in a musical setting, but as a result of how the musical interplay is working as a whole (the solo performance being an exception of course).
Experiential categories of processed sound
By undertaking an experiential categorisation of the processed sounds that I use, I find the terms broadening, narrowing, placing and reconstructing (see Section3.4.1) to be useful. These terms seem to reflect, in a broad way, my four main “working areas” – areas that are most often intertwined with each other. Although “instrumental” terms, the quality of sound is always in some ways related to, and very often an important part of, the play with zones.
Loop-machine and sampler –some strategies
Most loop machines are constructed for, and often used as, musical tools for building metrical, repetitive patterns. One brilliant example of this is the solo work of Jarle Bernhoft, who builds complete concerts with pop/rock tunes, performing and looping himself as he goes along. The repetitive aspect can also be experienced as a limitation, especially if the lengths of the loops are – as is the case with one of my loop machines – determined by the first one recorded. In my work, I am often interested in “working against” the periodical aspect of the loop. Even if I sometimes think that repetition can work well in combination with other musical developments, repeated rhythmical patterns can soon appear to be static and boring. This is of course the danger with any music being repeated too often, regardless of whether or not is is rhythmical. My approach when trying to avoid this is often to work against the periodical feeling – trying to make the sounds flow rather than correspond to the cycles. I try to avoid “sharp ends” and to make loops without an obvious start or end. Often, I also want to vary the loop along the way. I have become aware of some methods I use in my work regarding these things:
– I overlap endings by dubbing the first sample with similar material
– I make loops with irregular attacks and pauses
– I vary the impression of length and start/end points by fading the loop in and out
– I stop and start the loop (!)
– I use amplitude balancing between multiple layers to vary the loop as a whole
– I vary the amplitude and reverb
– I process the sound of the loop
This is an area for continuous exploration.
The sampled sound library
To be able to play back pre-recorded sound from a sampler is another great opportunity that widens the vocabulary of sounds. It also brings in the distance of the recorded voice by not having to produce the sound in real time. As noted: in order to improvise freely, I need to “hear” the sounds with my inner ear – and there is a limit as to how many I can remember. “Sound palettes” have, as mentioned, been one of my working strategies here.