Saturday, July 24, 2010

Last Night's Show At Syncopate 2.4, Des Moines Social Club

I played Des Moines Social Club last night along with HipGnoBlur (HipGnosis and Mindblur, tag team) and Beat Resonance. It was the first "real" live performance of DJ Dual Core material. I learned a lot.

My main performance tools were a netbook and two MIDI controllers. The controllers are both MIDI keyboards with additional knobs, sliders and buttons that send CC messages to software on the computer. I used the musical keys to start sounds and the other controls to adjust volumes, sends and other settings. While this was billed as "live" performance you could argue that it was a variation on DJing (micro-DJing?) since I was working almost exclusively with preexisting recordings, albeit very short ones. My entire set was at 212 bpm.

I was worried about running out of material. I had something like 44 samples set up in Ableton Live (I have not figured out what FOSS software to perform with), many of which were as short as one bar. Not knowing how many might not work in front of a crowd I just wasn't sure that was enough. Sometime last week I decided to add guitar to one part of the set to help flesh things out. This turned out to be much more trouble than it was worth. It turns out I can't concentrate on a guitar and a computer at the same time. I guess I'm not Aaron "Drumcorps" Spectre.

The shift from producing to performing was even larger than I realized it would be. Some of my sounds, including ones that were lovingly crafted for this purpose, seemed to just fall dead at DMSC last night. Others that I thought would make a brief appearance then make way for something else worked REALLY well and I hated to move away from them.

Here is what I learned, in a nutshell:

1) If I'm playing electronic music solo, leave my guitar at home.
2) Hardcore/gabber sounds do NOT need to be used sparingly--play and distort liberally!
3) Glitchy edited sounds need a strong groove if they are played alone or otherwise exposed. "Breathing room" is for recordings.
4) More effects: Two delays and two distortions, each with one or two parameters available for manipulation is the bear minimum.

I'm calling this set a success. A number of people seemed to really enjoy it and a lot of what I set out to do worked great. Things I would do differently based on audience reaction don't compromise my vision for my music at all. They are just shifts in emphasis that will help me make a better connection.

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