Thomas Strønen is an improvising drummer working with a range of percussive instruments, and he has for many years implemented live electronics in his instrumental setup. He was also educated by the Jazz Section at NTNU, and like my colleges in BOL, he has been active for many years in the Norwegian modern jazz scene. We work with free improvisation as a method – we have no plans for the music before we start. I bring in lyrics that could be used, and sometimes I choose to use them, depending on the musical ideas that are brought up at the moment.
As mentioned earlier, I adopt an accompanying role more often in my duo constellations. There are probably several reasons for this:
– The duos (with Thomas Strønen and with Michael Duch) have a musical approach that is more open at all times and there are no compositions where the more conventional roles are natural as with BOL.
– The duo setting is more open than a trio or quintet; with only two instruments in play there is room for more ideas and musical “layers” from each musician.
– With Thomas there is also more “tonal space” for me, less pitched material coming from him.
Example IV, 7: Åse/Strønen, “Grains” from the CD Voxpheria, 2011
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0.00 Soundmaker:I play an underlying loop in the G/F patch from the start.
0.40 Variations through filtering the loop, still Soundmaker
0.59 Soundsinger, acoustic voice, but not in the foreground until the crescendo, mixing with soundmaker (loop).
01.18 Singer, acoustic voice in front, small melodic movement
1.29 I create a tonal accompaniment that continues, with variations, throughout the whole piece (soundmaker – processed sound with minimal meaning). The technique I use is described in more details in Chapter 3, ex. III,13 .
1.56: Singer, continues until 6.30,with accompanying loop (soundmaker) and convoluted samples (soundsinger).
From 6.30 : Soundmaker, working with small filter variations and internal feedback.
To be able to create a tonal, well-functioning accompaniment with a possibility for modulation in real time, has been one of my technical-musical goals when I started the project. One of the challenges involved has been the auditory connection between a sampled tone/phrase and the repetition of it. When I started to use the Granular/Filtering Max MSP patch, this opened up for solutions in this regard. To separate the sound of the input voice from the sound of the following loop, I can process it through the G/F patch, and granulating the sound can really change it into something else. The granulating effect also makes it possible to pitch down the loop without necessarily making it sound like a “pitched down voice”. This creates a distance – I am not so obviously “singing with myself”. The loop is also “in movement” through the element of randomness in granular synthesis, so it does not feel like a static repetition, more like a flow of sound. And most importantly – I like the organic sound of it.
Example IV, 8: Åse/Strønen: “Raised,Rave” from the CD Voxpheria, 2011.
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In the first three minutes I work with different sounds in a very instrumental way. Even if some of the sounds are natural voice sounds and have hint of meaning, I experience this part of the track, in one way, as a soundmaker sequence; the quality of the sounds as sound, and their musical function in the interplay, are in focus- even if I am playing with zones. I am interacting very directly with Thomas and our roles are rather similar.
3.05 I start a sequence in the singer and speaker roles for the most part with the voice sounding almost natural. There is no semantic meaning, but there is still a very “meaning-like” appearance. I add real-time loop material along the way that fills a soundsinger/soundmaker role in order to create other layers in the music (until 6.33). I notice that Thomas’s role in one way could be experienced as accompanying the singer and speaker when I take on those roles, but still, his playing is more like a parallel movement interacting with mine, and without my contribution it might sound like a drum solo.
6.41 Soundmaker: using a down-pitched loop in G/F, varying with density, amplitude and EQ, “answering” the sounds and movements of Thomas.
6.57 Soundsinger, using effects and “text”.
9.01 I go from natural voice with relatively extreme effects “drawn back” in the soundscape (soundsinger/singer) to, towards the end, the singer: the natural voice with a melodic focus. The effects still there, but not as present.
For me, this is a good example of how live electronics open up for a new approach to improvising with other instrumentalists. It is important for me that Thomas says that this interplay makes him play in new ways as well.