What is a live synth-based performance ?

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KBD_TRACKER
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What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:49 pm

There is a real discussion in EDM circles about getting off either the pure DJ act or the laptop-based, DAW-using music performance.

There is now an inclination tendency toward more spontaneity, immediacy, and direct contact between the musician and the public audience. No matter how "good" the music, people seem to get jaded with immobile artists stuck in front of their macbook pro.

I was wondering what is "live" performance ? For example let's suppose one is playing on stage a pre-programmed arpeggio or sequence on a synth, or a drum track pre-programmed on a beat box or MPC. Would that be considered "non-live" performance ?

By the way there are practical difficulties: many artists have cold feet using the "live" option because of the cramped space for live performance (ie a tiny DJ booth not meant for gear such as keyboards, rack, etc...), and the lack of public-visibility in these venues making people after the show tell the musician "nice mix ! what was that record you played ...".

My questions are: would you play live if offered the opportunity (rather than put stuff out in soundcloud) ? what synth (and other) gear do you feel you would need ? and most important would you go live without ANY pre-programmed stuff, totally cold ? that is for you what is a live electronic music show ?
Is there such a "limit" (and what is it) between live and non -live performance ?
I ask this last question because in fact one could say (some will) that going on stage with a pre-set oscillator frequency on C5 and using it as such live, makes it already technically non-live..., but of course this would be extreme and disingenuous :)

As an anecdotal story, I remember seeing a live show of a group called "dubtribe" in the 90s in a DJ club in san francisco. The club had provided a temporary real stage for that next to the dance floor. The programming was done live and right on the P/A system and so as the programming progressed it slowly evolved from necessarily disjointed sounds to a fully completed rhythmic and melodic piece. This whole process was cathartic and the audience went truly wild at last.
It was the 90s though ...

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:06 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote: [...] I was wondering what is "live" performance ? [...]
Someone playing his instrument(s) in front of an audience. Playing back pre-programmed sequences or rhythms count as live performance because they have as well been created by the performer. Same thing with adjusting levels on a mixing desk or doing some live mixing/looping of sorts, using pre-programmed (or pre-recorded) stuff.

To me, a live performance is almost anything but a guy flipping open his laptop and running an Ableton playback, muting tracks on the laptop -- he might as well be collecting his emails or doing his income tax declaration, what´s the point of this? In this case you might as well want to listen to the CD (or live stream) of the artist´s latest album while he is around...

This is pathetic. I saw Biosphere deliver a show like that in 1999... I was tempted to throw my beverage can at him, had I been allowed to bring one into the venue.

Most DJs seem to shy away from the traditional type of live performance because they are not instrumentalists, they are not performers -- after all, all they can do is spin records and, if skilled enough, make them fade into each other seamlessly. In most cases, they wouldn´t be able to tell a G major from an A minor chord, let alone program synthesisers or drum machines. Most famous German "techno" DJs of thew 1990s had some kind of production team behind them, be it Klaus Jankuhn, Ralf Hildenbeutel or other people like that.

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by n3wt15 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:24 pm

I used to hate all things laptop related when it came to live shows, but I pulled my head out of my a*s and understand there are many factors involved with why people would use laptops, so now I just try to enjoy the show for what it is.
Personally what I do:
I have a box, I call it the transdimensional portal, a few things change in it depending on the project I am working with, but for the most part it is my live rig. I'll talk about my main project to keep it in one direction, Armageddon Party.
I have a Tempest playing some premade loops, and I am fingerdrumming and tweaking synth sounds constantly,
I have a machiendrum, that only has the kits saved, and I punch in the drums as I go though the song.
I have a monomachine which has all parts presequenced, I tweak sounds and mute/unmute.
I have a nord modular g2 that I use for live keys/vocoding
These are all plugged into a Allen Heath Xone 464 that has aux outs to a Eventide timefactor/Space/Biscuit/inputs on the nord, and machinedrum. The routing, and what can be done on the fly can keep me pretty busy if I just have a stagnant loop playing.
Usually I play with a bassist, and or guitarist, which both run synths and do live looping as well. Their stuff is also running through my mixer and effects as well.
I would say our set is equally live and premade, we know what we are doing, but there is room for error and expansion at any given time.

I have been against it for many years, simply because i hate working with computers, but I also hate seeing them on stage( even though I understand why people use them). But I am adding ableton into my setup for all the presequenced things, this way I will have more freedom and can bring more of my material live (considering I write most my music on my modular, but wont bring that live), also with ableton i can do a better lighting performance with out set, and have it sync with my video rig and get my multimedia performance moving :-)

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:15 pm

So I'll go ahead and be "that guy" here: a live performance is one in which you're actually playing an instrument with your hands, feet, or mouth. (Or, well, any part of your body, really, but if you're doing it with your junk I don't want to know.) Not muting and fading prerecorded tracks, not triggering sound clips, playing a dang instrument. I can forgive the limited use of sequencers for effects purposes (say, the end of "Karn Evil 9," which even Keith Emerson would be hard-pressed to pull off by hand,) but if you're not tickling ivory/blowing a pipe/banging skins/gesturing a Theremin/etc., it ain't live.
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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by salwa » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:52 pm

Are we starting this thread:
http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... =6&t=73640
again?
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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:53 pm

Seems like, but what the hey.
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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by zoomtheline » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:25 pm

Well, it's not so cut and dry as that is it? The music that some people write cannot simply be played live be it that so much manipulation has taken place that there is not an instrument that can replicate it or that there is far too many elements and too few artists to play all the pieces, especially if you are all on your lonesome. I certainly could not go out and play my music to a live crowd without 10 people and still some sequenced elements. But then that brings us onto other points. How legit is playing one piece over a pre constructed backing track? Do artists just simply not play live or do people just let others be as creative with their music as humanly possible and let their music morals handle how much they play or not play.
That's the devils advocate bit out of the way.

I personally need to see people doing something that takes skill, knowledge and practice otherwise there is no point playing live. I have personal moral battles with myself all the time trying to figure out how to play live and there is no easy way around it but I can't dumb down my music just so I can play it all live. I have to almost have a pseudo live setup that has little in common with my recorded music in order to play live and I struggle with how legit that is. But this is pretty much what a lot electronic artists do if they want to do more than being a fader jockey to your pre recorded tracks.

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by Cumulus » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:13 pm

n3wt15 wrote:I used to hate all things laptop related when it came to live shows, but I pulled my head out of my a*s and understand there are many factors involved with why people would use laptops, so now I just try to enjoy the show for what it is.
Personally what I do:
I have a box, I call it the transdimensional portal, a few things change in it depending on the project I am working with, but for the most part it is my live rig. I'll talk about my main project to keep it in one direction, Armageddon Party.
I have a Tempest playing some premade loops, and I am fingerdrumming and tweaking synth sounds constantly,
I have a machiendrum, that only has the kits saved, and I punch in the drums as I go though the song.
I have a monomachine which has all parts presequenced, I tweak sounds and mute/unmute.
I have a nord modular g2 that I use for live keys/vocoding
These are all plugged into a Allen Heath Xone 464 that has aux outs to a Eventide timefactor/Space/Biscuit/inputs on the nord, and machinedrum. The routing, and what can be done on the fly can keep me pretty busy if I just have a stagnant loop playing.
Usually I play with a bassist, and or guitarist, which both run synths and do live looping as well. Their stuff is also running through my mixer and effects as well.
I would say our set is equally live and premade, we know what we are doing, but there is room for error and expansion at any given time.

I have been against it for many years, simply because i hate working with computers, but I also hate seeing them on stage( even though I understand why people use them). But I am adding ableton into my setup for all the presequenced things, this way I will have more freedom and can bring more of my material live (considering I write most my music on my modular, but wont bring that live), also with ableton i can do a better lighting performance with out set, and have it sync with my video rig and get my multimedia performance moving :-)

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:27 pm

Cumulus wrote:[...] Love the gas masks. We wear them in Cellular Terror, too.
You might want to rethink the catering that is offered prior to the show.

Stephen
"Like the light from distant stars, Stephen Parsick's music has existed for some time, but is only now reaching us on Earth." Chuck van Zyl

https://doombientmusic.bandcamp.com/

https://ramp1.bandcamp.com/

https://stephenparsick.bandcamp.com/

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by mpa1104 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:35 am

Hmm, okay...
This:
commodorejohn wrote:So I'll go ahead and be "that guy" here: a live performance is one in which you're actually playing an instrument with your hands, feet, or mouth. (Or, well, any part of your body, really, but if you're doing it with your junk I don't want to know.) Not muting and fading prerecorded tracks, not triggering sound clips, playing a dang instrument. I can forgive the limited use of sequencers for effects purposes (say, the end of "Karn Evil 9," which even Keith Emerson would be hard-pressed to pull off by hand,) but if you're not tickling ivory/blowing a pipe/banging skins/gesturing a Theremin/etc., it ain't live.
And then this:
zoomtheline wrote:Well, it's not so cut and dry as that is it? The music that some people write cannot simply be played live be it that so much manipulation has taken place that there is not an instrument that can replicate it or that there is far too many elements and too few artists to play all the pieces, especially if you are all on your lonesome. I certainly could not go out and play my music to a live crowd without 10 people and still some sequenced elements. But then that brings us onto other points. How legit is playing one piece over a pre constructed backing track? Do artists just simply not play live or do people just let others be as creative with their music as humanly possible and let their music morals handle how much they play or not play.
That's the devils advocate bit out of the way.

I personally need to see people doing something that takes skill, knowledge and practice otherwise there is no point playing live. I have personal moral battles with myself all the time trying to figure out how to play live and there is no easy way around it but I can't dumb down my music just so I can play it all live. I have to almost have a pseudo live setup that has little in common with my recorded music in order to play live and I struggle with how legit that is. But this is pretty much what a lot electronic artists do if they want to do more than being a fader jockey to your pre recorded tracks.
I'm in the sometimes thought-provoking but often frustrating position of having to address this issue several times a year when it comes to assessing student performances. For years, I stuck faithfully to the point made by commodorejohn, and I probably still favour that notion being classically trained myself. However, since I also teach classes in contemporary music, the more I have to shift the criteria in terms of what qualifies as "performance" techniques when I can clearly perceive notable creativity at the hands of a kid with a Launchpad and a laptop. So, while there's no traditional tuition involved in learning an "instrument", there is an assessable skill set in being able to trigger keys in the right place and at the right time. There's also an element of improvisation when they set up the controller with changing pad assignments - I mean, there you really have to keep your wits about you then, again ensuring you hit the right pad at the right time, and that would involve the same sort of practice as a traditional instrumentalist.

Zoom also made a valid point about some in-studio creations involving parts that are practically impossible to play live. In an odd way, this kind of takes us back to the very beginnings of electronic music with the likes of the Avant-garde composers (Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Berio, Cary, the Barrons, etc, and not forgetting all those wonderful magicians at the Beeb Radiophonic) where the sounds they created were impossible to reproduce with live musicians because of the studio processes they applied to their "found sounds". On its own, this managed to raise this very topic (and the other one here) of what constituted a "live" performance - now audiences were witnessing pieces that involved someone operating a tape machine and an instrumentalist performing and/or improvising along with the pre-recording (not forgetting that it also polarised plenty of critics into re-addressing what constituted music!).

What it still comes down to for me is whether it comes across as a musical performance: Did they start and finish it cleanly? Did they keep it in time? Did they it hold together well enough throughout without any stumbles? Did the performer demonstrate an obvious skill set in their performance techniques ... whatever they used to do it?

But if someone presses a button with one hand every few minutes and just pumps air with the other, well, personally I feel that's pushing it in terms of being a "live music performance" - a "performance" yes, but "performance of live music" - not really. Ultimately for me, there's still little to compare to watching someone with an instrument that produces its own notes, show that they have some clear mastery of that instrument.
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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by GuyaGuy » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:19 am

It's a performance as long as you put on a funny helmet or mask.

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by Z » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:36 am

THIS:
youtube.com/zibbybone facebook.com/ZsFlippinGear

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by n3wt15 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:38 am

haha we dont normally wear the gas masks, we just did for a few shows on halloween weekend

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:45 am

commodorejohn wrote:So I'll go ahead and be "that guy" here
Please don't. If you do to this thread what you did to the other one the mods will have no choice but to consider it trolling. :thumbleft:

In my book a live performance is when there is a person doing things in front of other people and they can change the sound according to how they want to change it. There's a huge range of things that fit into the category of 'live performance', some of them some people will like and some they won't. Doesn't make them any less valid just because it's not what you're into.

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Re: What is a live synth-based performance ?

Post by commodorejohn » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:21 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:
commodorejohn wrote:So I'll go ahead and be "that guy" here
Please don't. If you do to this thread what you did to the other one the mods will have no choice but to consider it trolling. :thumbleft:
Hey, I'm just talkin' 'bout the OT!
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