Recently I was invited to perform at two separate but related pop-up events (Builders of the Universe and Postfauxpocalypse) at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium. Currently I play three to five times a month at various events and venues. Most of my performances are with ensembles including DKO and Coloring Time. Having not played any recent solo shows I decided to reformulate my live electronic setup. For solo shows I have always used a computer in addition to dedicated hardware to manage all the layering and processing. My first thought was, “can I leave the computer at home?” Currently I have plenty of devices with built in sequencers and/or arpeggiators, so the answer was yes. The next question was which devices would would complement each other sonically as well as be portable enough to transport by bicycle to the outdoor events. I decided on the DSI Tempest, Korg Volca Keys, and Korg Monotribe.
One of my main goals was to improvise the music in response to the projected materials, so I began practicing the techniques necessary to do that while keeping it interesting to me and a potential audience. As I started rehearsing with this trio of instruments I found myself quickly making dozens of simple compositions. So, I added the computer back into my setup just so I could capture the improvised tracks to revisit at a later date. I resisted the temptation to elaborate on each track, but allowed myself to make a few rough mixes. As the mixes started to stack up I realized I could easily have an album on my hands, so I decided to define a set of rules to prevent myself from getting bogged down with extensive editing, mixing, and post-production. I manufactured a set of dogmatic limitations imposed on the techniques and process allowed. By following these rules the album was composed, performed, produced and mixed in less than two weeks. Here are the rules I followed:
1. No overdubbing. All tracks were recorded at the same time.
2. No computer sequencing. All sequencing was on the instruments used.
3. No looping or shuffling parts in post. Editing for length and content was allowed.
4. Minimal processing in the mix. Fades, one delay, and one reverb was used.
5. No mix tricks in post. Reverse and rolls were performed live.
Placing limitations on how one produces any artwork is nothing new. There are always parameters or limitations at play. However, we are accustomed to music that exhibits technical qualities only achieved through extensive time and expense. Does that make this project a compromise? Perhaps, but there are always compromises. Rules have made it possible for me to complete the project in a short amount of time. They have also left many of the raw tracks a little rough around the edges. There are loosely played keyboard solos, mixes that aren’t balanced as well as they could be, and a couple tracks that are a little too long. Despite these raw qualities I find it an interesting listen and I hope that you will as well.