Jenn Kirby at ISSTA 2017

Attending ISSTA last month was a fantastic experience. The conference brought together an intimate group of like-minded composers, sound designers, and developers all dedicated to uncovering and exploring new sonic territories. I immensely enjoyed all that ISSTA had on offer, especially the concerts. One of the performers this year was Jenn Kirby who composes and performs electroacoustic works that apply processing through the use of unconventional, gestural, controllers like the Gametrak golf swing tether controller. In Phonetics she uses the Gametrak to control the signal processing of her vocalizations.

ISSTA Live Recording, September 2017

This recording was made during my appearance at the International Sound in Science Technology and the Arts (ISSTA) Conference in Ireland on September 8, 2017. The piece is a rendition of my composition, Vocalise Sintetica, first performed at Echofluxx14 in Prague. This piece is written so that it is allowed to evolve in a number of ways each time it is performed. Here’s how it changed this time around.

First of all it uses the Audiovisual Grain Machine (AVGM), which I update frequently. This time the updates were minor improvements to speed and efficiency. However, I did add some new audiovisual content. Secondly, in order to travel lightly, I limited the AVGM accompaniment to a single Novation Circuit. I loaded the Circuit with custom patches and samples, and used my Minifooger Delay on the AVGM (I usually leave it dry), but that was it, sonically. Other than that the Arturia KeyStep helped add a few tricks (mainly arps and one drone) to the mix.

Live Coding with Improvised Piano, Bass, and Electronics

This recording from August 23, 2017 at Jazz Central Studios was made during Sound / Simulacra: A monthly series that I do in conjunction with bassist/composer Cody McKinney. The intent is to explore musical improvisation as a “faithful and intentionally distorted” representational process. On this occasion we featured Minneapolis-based Mike Hodnick, aka Kindohm.

…[Kindohm is] widely known for his live-coded dancefloor interruptions, wringing algorithmic rhythms and textures from a text editor using the open source software TidalCycles. Combining analog synthesizers and samples, Hodnick’s improvised performances encompass an array of styles from glitchy IDM to odd-time techno. In 2016, Kindohm released “RISC Chip”, an 8-track LP released on Conditional. Receiving positive criticism on Resident Advisor, Lisa Blanning writes: “Hodnick has a way of teasing inhuman funk out of his evolving patterns. RISC Chip succeeds in escaping its programmer’s niche, launching Kindohm’s work into the realm of music that exists for its own sake.” –

Mike and I both played solo sets earlier in the evening, but for the finale we formed a trio with Cody McKinney on bass and electronics. My setup included acoustic piano, Rhodes, Novation Circuit, and various processors. Both Hodnick and McKinney are expert improvisors so participating in this performance was quite a pleasure. Please have a listen and let us know what you think!

Drone Trick with Arturia KeyStep and Novation Circuit

Look, ma! No capo!

Lately I’ve been using a capo (yes the kind for guitar) to hold down a note on the KeyStep in order to drone a note on the Novation Circuit’s Synth 1 while playing notes on Synth 2. It’s awkward but works. Today while prepping for I stumbled on a way to drone a note on the Circuit with the KeyStep and no capo necessary! Here are the steps to drone Synth 1 and then play new notes/sequences/arps on Synth 2:

1. Make sure the KeyStep is setup in Keyboard Play mode by pressing Shift and Oct+.
2. Enable hold by pressing the Hold button.
3. Put the KeyStep in pause mode so that the pause/play button is flashing.
4. Hold Shift and press the low F to set the KeyStep to MIDI channel 1.
5. Play and hold the note(s) you’d like to drone (anything but the low Gb because you’ll need that key to switch channels)
6. Keep holding the note(s) and switch to MIDI channel 2 (Shift + the low Gb).
7. Un-pause play/pause and release the note(s)

Once you’ve lifted the note(s) you can re-pause or play arps or seqs on Synth 2 because essentially you have a stuck note on Synth 1 (just double tap stop to unstick the note). If you don’t want to hear Synth 2 when un-pausing, just make sure it’s down in the mix. This trick works while the Circuit is stopped or playing and will continue until double tapping stop on the KeyStep. It’s even possible to change the existing stuck note(s) by following the same steps. It’s easier than it reads, as you will see in the video below:

Upcoming Concert at ISSTA September 8, 2017

I’m pleased to announce that I will be performing a version of my piece Vocalise Sintetica at the ISSTA Festival and Conference on Sound. The conference will be held on September 7th and 8th, 2017 at the Dundalk Institute of Technology in Dundalk, Ireland. Please check the website for details.

I have developed new content and features for the AVGM (Audiovisual Grain Machine) which I’ll be using during the performance. I also be triggering samples and playing patches with a hardware synthesizer to accompany the audiovisual content. Here’s a video that demonstrates some of the new media:

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