Back in September, Dan, Gianmarco and I met up in London to shoot an intimate live session in a small recording studio a few minutes away from where I live. Dan had given me very little instructions, except to play for 40min or so as if in a live context, with no way to overdub later or re-take anything. I have to say at this point, I’m not classically trained and I don’t come from a performative background in terms of the music I create. Instead everything I compose happens inside the computer, the music slowly taking shape over days, weeks or even months some times.
For obvious reasons, this project did take me well outside my comfort zone but I realised that it would be a great opportunity for growth so to speak. In the process of preparing this session, I went through recent tracks of mine and started splicing them up in short samples that could then be triggered in the moment as a way to re-interpret the existing material and possibly give it a new meaning through the performance context. Even though the music I generated during those rehearsals sounded great as surgically balanced as it was made of pre-mixed stems, I felt very quickly that I wouldn’t enjoy playing this way, at least not for the purpose of the short film Dan and Gianmarco wanted to make. I had seen numerous artists before, playing remarkable performances from a laptop only, but that’s something that felt wrong for me in this situation. A couple of weeks before the session, I changed my set-up and decided to approach the performance from a more improvisational place whilst still wanting to allude to the process I use when I create my music at home.
Field recordings are often heavily featured in my work along with sine waves and looped guitar motifs, all processed through effects to create a sort of abstract ambient/drone music. Even if things are not that simple in reality as the computer is a really wonderful place to spend countless hours micro-editing dozens of alternative versions for a single track, I prepared the session of those three elements only to see where it would go. After a few days of trial and error, I settled to using the computer as a glorified looper machines and effects rack, all things remotely operated from a few controllers like keyboard, knobs and sliders, so my interaction with the laptop itself could be minimal – nothing complicated really. Most sounds would come from the guitar used more like a tone generator than anything else, augmented at times by layered sine waves and field recordings. I also decided to use a small AM radio that I had lying around to add texture and random elements of radio broadcasts or at least a sort a gritty hiss around the music itself.
During rehearsals, I didn’t write a piece per se but spent time organising my loopers and effects in such a way that they would form a sort of network where unexpected interactions could happen along with more structured directions to follow if I wanted to. During the session itself, it was then a matter of feeding this network with what would come from the guitar and hopefully drive the music along. Things obviously didn’t go as planned but in a good way I think – the AM radio didn’t get much reception or a feedback machine I used along with my setup didn’t respond as I hoped, but it made for a much more spontaneous session and took me to new and interesting territories. – Pascal Savy
Photography and 28 minute audio out-take: fluid-radio.co.uk/2012/11/the-live-sessions-pascal-savy/