What Does This Look Like?
My first real piece [needs context] (discussed in the previous post) was composed mostly without paper, save for a few motives scribbled down on some pieces if scratch paper. What I then needed was a system of notation so that it could be performed again after some time away, and with consistency. There were many factors beyond the regular musical notation that needed to be considered when developing this system so that it looked natural and still communicated all the necessary information. Looping length, amount of overdubbing, loop station number, effects and their respective amounts, and general commands were some of the factors that were included.
When I first started developing the notation, I knew that it had to be personalized to my own set up. If somebody had the same set up as I did then they would be able to realize the work with similar results, but if not, then it would be fairly useless since so many of the commands are specific to the triggers on the foot controller, which are mapped to certain parameters in Mainstage.
As mentioned earlier, I had four loop stations set up so I included four staves in the score. Each staff number corresponded to its respective loop station number and this allowed the score to dictate what music needs to be played into which loop station purely by where it is written. The fourth loop station does not have any live music recorded into it, but instead has music routed from the other three loop stations, so a simple “to 4” is written in the staves 1-3 to show that the music that is being played back should be able to be recorded into that fourth loop station.
The foot controller has ten triggers in the board and there are also 10 banks available for use. Different banks change the triggers’ data that it sends out so there is a possibility of 100 triggers in total. I do not use that many, I only use the first five banks. Bank 0 is miscellaneous commands, i.e. metronome on/off, and banks 1-4 correspond to their loop stations. To make my life a lot easier I created a significant amount of consistency from bank to bank in regards to commands. Triggers 1-5 correspond to the loopback function in Mainstage. 1 is record, 2 is play/stop, 3 is reverse, 4 is fade out, and 5 is clear. Triggers 6 and 7 navigate the patches within Mainstage, which house their respective loop stations, so it ultimately allows me to switch between loop stations. In banks 1-3, trigger 8 bypasses and activates the bus that routed the music playing to the fourth loop station. Since the fourth loop station does not route anywhere, this trigger is left blank in bank 4. All of those triggers do the exact same thing in banks 1-4. Triggers 9 and 10 still have consistency between the banks but their effect on the sound is much different because they control the effect plug-ins. Since I limited myself to 2 effects per track, trigger 9 bypasses and activates the effect directly below the loopback plug-in, and trigger 10 the effect below that one. Again, this was the same in banks 1-4, but since they are turning different effect on and off it feels like they are doing much different commands. Both pedals are mapped to a certain parameter in each of the effects. The left pedal is associated with trigger 9 and the right pedal is associated with trigger 10.
These commands are represented in the score by numbers in boxes above the systems. The first number, which is always isolated, is the bank number. That tells me which bank I need to be in when pressing the trigger, which is the number in the second box. There are many commands that happen in succession within the same bank, so to reduce the clutter in the score, trigger numbers are listed in order in the same box. For example, when “fade out” is pressed (trigger 4), the music in the loop station fades to silence but the track continues to play, though there is no sound playing. To prepare the loop station for the next loop to be recorded, it needs to be stopped (trigger 2) and cleared (trigger 5), and it needs to be in that order. So the result ends up looking like [2,5].
Mainstage has the freedom to allow different loop station to have independent looping lengths, which is beneficial but it needs to be notated in the score. My solution to this aspect was to write out the music that is to be looped with ordinary notation between repeat signs and include the number of measures that the loop station is to record for before beginning playback. Any overdubbing (adding to the sounding loop with more music) is then written after and contained within its own repeat signs. Length is not included in the subsequent phrases as it is already determined by the initial loop and cannot be altered once it begins. Changing the length of the loop would require stopping and clearing the loop station, essentially wiping it clean. Once all the music is recorded into the loop station a big barline creates a visual marker to signal a change, either switching to a different loop station or altering of effects. The result is a score that looks sparse in the staves but with many commands stacked above. Though the trigger commands (numbers in boxes) tell me everything that I need to know, there are still reminders in the score. For instance, if an effect is turned on, then it is written in parentheses directly above the music, similar to performance note. Also, commands such as "fade out" are reinforced with a diminuendo in the staff.
Now that I had my notational system in place, which paved the way for clear reproductions of works, I had to figure out where I was going in terms of artistic maturity. [needs context] is a work that I am proud of but there are many aspects of Mainstage that can be taken advantage of and techniques that can be worked on to make new works that do not fall into the looping pitfalls.
PDF copy of [needs context]