What am I Gonna do?
Looking ahead to future projects is exciting, but it will be a challenge to think of new and creative way to use the set up that I already have to create interesting music. There are three ways that I have begun thinking of to evolve this music: Taking advantage of Mainstage’s playback plug-in; taking advantage of Mainstage’s customizable tempos; and introducing extra hardware to enhance the experience.
The main goal of this project was to learn how to use Mainstage as a tool for looping. The loopback plug-in is the aspect of Mainstage that allows this by recording incoming audio and immediately playing it back until told to do otherwise. The playback plug-in looks very similar to the loopback plug-in, but its main purpose is to play audio that has been pre-recorded and loaded into the player beforehand. It does have some of the same features of the loopback plug-in, such as quantization (in this case, starting playback on the downbeat). The playback plug-in will even analyze the audio that has been loaded into it to attempt to find the tempo and corresponding length in measure numbers. This is handy because you can take that information and set Mainstage’s internal metronome to that tempo and have different audios match up. There are two ways that I imagine implementing this in the immediate future. The first is to take the recorded audio from a texture that has been built over several loops and alter it in ways that are not possible in real-time. Then, when I am performing the work, I can build the loops similarly to how they were recorded and begin playing the effected sound with the playback plug-in, blurring the lines between looping, live processing, and fixed media. It would be a (hopefully) seamless transition that would (hopefully) leave people in the audience wondering how it was done. The second way to use this would be to introduce non-bass sounds. Instead of blurring the lines like before, it would (hopefully) marry the worlds together with overt, yet celebrated lines. I am particularly fond of speech, especially in electro-acoustic works, so that is a possibility.
I mentioned in a previous post that Mainstage is set up like a concert as it is strongly marketed towards guitar players. The files are even called “concerts.” In my set up I have the patches in Mainstage linked to their respective loop stations and I quickly change between them all. One could very easily (and I am sure many do) set up the patches to be songs in a set, start at the top and change between songs. Because of this, patches can be programmed to have a tempo that is independent from the general tempo. The fun part is that when you switch between the songs while the metronome is running, it will respond with the new tempo surprisingly smoothly. We already know that loop stations will continue to play even while you are on another patch, and even playing or altering, so with that information it is possible to record several loops all with different tempos in a phase-fest that can be very precise. It would incredibly difficult, no doubt, but entirely possible, especially if you are good at ignoring outside sounds and focusing only on the metronome. The other approach would be to build up one loop, stop it, build up another in a different tempo, and finally bring the first loop back in. The only problem with that approach is that it can easily become too slow-paced, but with very interesting music, perhaps it can hold the audience’s attention.
The final idea that I have in mind for the future is one that is already underway. Pan-tonal-glob hate aside, it is still very fun and instantly rewarding to create such a piece. It can get tiresome fairly quickly, though, so my solution to the problem is to add optional music to it. The idea that I have is for a long-form, slowly-evolving work that exploits the harmonics of the bass. Talk about pan-tonal glob. If you use all of the most common harmonics on the bass it puts you in an undeniable D-major/A-major landscape. The low G# says A-major, but the high G-natural says D-major. Now, bass harmonics are just about the prettiest things on the planet, so that buys me a little extra time before the audience gets restless, but what am I going to add to make it more interesting? My solution is to add pedal-tones. The catch is that they are played through headphones in the middle of the room, allowing the listener to put on the headphones and hear the music that I am performing in the context of the pedal that is playing through the headphones. Since the music will be mostly in D-major, I want to focus on non-diatonic pedal notes. I have picked out the notes of an Ab pentatonic scale (Ab-Bb-C-Eb-F) in the hopes that it will re-contextualize the music enough that it keeps people’s attention. Each of the five pedal-tones will be played through separate headphones, so the listener will have the option of choosing any, all, or even none of the pedals throughout the performance. This will allow the listener to (hopefully) personalize their experience in a way that normal performances cannot.
There are many possibilities that I have already thought of and I am sure there are more that are still to be discovered, but one thing is for sure: there is a lot to be worked on. Playing this music requires so much focus, and it is a different kind of focus than playing acoustic music. Sure, I am playing fewer notes than a more traditional solo bass work, but keeping track of all the different layers, triggering commands on time, and performing commands in the correct bank/patch, on top of playing the correct music in tune, takes a lot out of you. It is, however, instantly rewarding, and quite versatile.