John Ferguson's "canned" contribution to a collaborative paper with Paul Vandemast-Bell as presented at musicinnovation.co.uk/ in London on September 8th 2017.
This paper investigates the exploration of musical time in Live Electronic Music and discusses the authors’ novel, technological systems that embrace experimental processes and discovery. Prevalent theories of creativity are investigated, as well as tools and techniques that can be utilised to provoke unanticipated, but satisfying outcomes. The exploratory use of digital tools and chance operations is considered alongside more determinate predictable processes. While musical metre in commercial music production often revolves around metronomic timing, and the industry-standard quantization grid can often steer producers towards chronometric precision, this is at odds with expressive human timing. By standardizing the way in which we perceive musical time, much commercial software fails to recognise the full worth of musical metre and misses opportunities to explore alternative modes of rhythm and groove. However, some software does include a capacity to move beyond quantization grid restrictions and delve into an exciting world of complex timing, and graphical programming/generative music can also offer exciting possibilities.
This paper reflects on a number of practical experiments and new works that foreground rhythmical complexity. Some familiar historical examples are also contextualised alongside relevant contemporary artists. The authors foreground their own practices; Ferguson draws from recent work including ‘Drum Thing’, which celebrates the automation of percussion objects using computer-controlled solenoids, with software written in Pure data this project explores various approaches to randomisation with an Euclidean rhythm generator, where the greatest common divisor of two numbers is used rhythmically to drive beats and silences. Ferguson also discusses his work with ‘Circles’, where semi-random/quasi-intelligent sequencing and the creative negotiation of imagined agency is the main agenda. Vandemast-Bell’s work draws on contemporary Techno music in which he explores techniques not unlike those pioneered by Steve Reich and later developed by Brian Eno in their experiments with phase. He uses original electronic source material that is presented then deconstructed and improvisationally reimagined in real-time, to create synchronous / asynchronous rhythms and textures. Dynamic audio looping plays a central role in his performances and is invoked through Native Kontrol’s MIDI Remote Scripts for Ableton Live that extends Live’s looping potential. He uses a custom Ableton Push controller mapping to interact with the electronic material, which is evolved through the use of audio effects and dynamic processors.
The overall agenda is to elucidate the role of human/technological agency. The authors reflect upon and compare/contrast their individual practices, from initial concept through creative process to final realization. Further to these individual perspectives, they collaboratively develop and discuss new musical materials and algorithmic processes using Pure data, these patches will be published with the paper, the overall goal being to encapsulate their collaborative perspective on the generation of complex rhythmical material in Live Electronic Music.