Monday 27 September 2010

Going loopy

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have caught me going on about something called "looping" or "live looping".

Basically this involves recording oneself playing and then playing back the recording within the same performance; in this way one can accompany oneself. There are all sorts of fantastic machines to assist in the process.

I'm interested for a few reasons. One is finally, finally getting around to listening to Zoe Keating over on Bandcamp, which seems to be where the cool kids are releasing albums these days, and reading an interview on her creative process. Another is the simple augmentation that looping can give to solo horn.

I love chamber music, and I hope it will always be part of my working life, but it always seems to result in a lot of time getting tied up, and a lot of effort arranging rehearsals. My main instrument growing up was the piano, which can be much more solitary; I am used to that sort of independence in my rehearsing and performing. Now, there is always unaccompanied horn repertoire, and indeed I want to learn more of it, but that is not exactly a bottomless well of material. Some of it is extremely technically demanding and it doesn't really appeal to a wide audience. Looping would allow me to do solo improvisation and could make me much more independent as a musician.

I think live looping could be incredible fun. I've always enjoyed improvising, and I recognise some similarities with my own inner world in the interview linked above: I, too, am seldom without music in my head, and very often it takes the form of short snippets which could be built into something else.

I'm not sure anyone else out there is doing much live looping on the horn; a quick search turned up one YouTube video. I think the horn might be quite well-suited to it, as are the cello and the electric bass: like the stringed instruments, the horn has a wide range of available tone colours and a decent compass in terms of pitch.

I'm a complete newbie to all of this, so at this point I'm just reading a bit, and thinking about whether to borrow or hire some equipment to play with. It would be a shame to buy it and then let it gather dust. But I'm also really excited about the musical possibilities, and it's good to have a horn-related project.

Further updates as events warrant...

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