Berlin Cymatics Loops

The livelooping tour that some of my friends did this spring (concerts and workshops in Paris, Florence, Brescia, Prague, Dresden, and Berlin) ended in Berlin, with the fourth Berlin International Livelooping Festival, organized by Leander Reininghaus.

I was supposed to play another [mi,mi] guitar duo here with my friend Michael Frank but unfortunately he had to stay home because of health problems in his family, so I had to play alone.

Somehow the idea of looping with stomp boxes, as we do with [mi,mi], stuck in my head and that’s what I found myself doing … although I could also have done the digital loop thing, playing alone. Musically it was big fun to use stomp boxes, but my suitcase that I took on the train – containing my little red guitar and lots of metal pedals – was so heavy when I had to carry it up and down the stairs in the Cologne train station (some parts of which doesn’t feature lifts) that I felt very sorry for this decision quickly.

Luckily, I was picked up by my friend Volker in Berlin, we did a beautiful walk through the parks in Kreuzberg, and had fabulous Indian food.

And I could stay for the two nights with my old pal Markus Reuter. Here he enjoys our first breakfast together:

On the day of the festival I visited Berlin’s music instrument museum which showed a special exhibition about the history of electronic music. There was a local website with more information but I wish the exhibits had had headphones with sound examples or even videos. So it was all a bit sparse, but seeing all those magical pieces of gear was wonderful anyway. Theremin, Ondes Martenot, Trautonium, Hugh LeCain’s tape recorder keyboard, Fairlight CMI, Synclavier … and many classical synthesizers were there, plus the first drum computers … there is something about old analog equipment that is utterly fascinating for some reason.








 
The livelooping evening was opened by none other than Gary Hall who happened to be in town on that day for the Superbooth synthesizer fair. Gary was the inventor of the legendary Lexicon PCM42, one of the first groundbreaking digital livelooping devices.

Bodo Orejuela’s quite wonderful cymatics light show (of water vibrating with the sound) accompanied the livelooping acts, of which there were so many that everyone could perform for only 20 minutes – but that made it all even more entertaining.


 
My own set featured my trusty red Hohner GT2 guitar and various sound manglers. Livelooping was done by the relatively new Montreal Assembly “Count To 5” pedal which does amazing tricks that are very addictive, followed by a 20 year old Digitech PDS-8000. I used three different distortion/fuzz boxes, sometimes all at once, so the sound was raw, even a bit brutal at times. Wonderful 🙂

As usual, I had only thought about (not even “planned”) the first 30 seconds of my improvisation. Often when I plan to do something on stage, I find that it doesn’t quite work the way I thought it would, and instead, it develops into something completely different. This has happened so often that have given in now, instead only trusting my momentary impulses and my intuition. That feels just right to me. During the recent livelooping gigs I did in Paris and now in Berlin, it worked out well enough to be interesting or even beautiful to the audience. It makes me trust this when people come to me afterwards and tell me how great it was (of course, people who didn’t like it usually don’t come to me to tell me). After my sets, I usually have almost no memory of what I did. Something about this is very funny.

Nelly Meunier tried to videotape my set but of course it was too dark for my cheap camera. The sound was recorded with a microphone, including pedal clicks and audience noise.

On the next morning, we all met again for the traditional loopers brunch before we said goodbye to each other. A core group of five loopers will spend the night in my house on their way back from Berlin to Paris (for three of them the trip will continue to California and Japan). Then this particular adventure ends. I feel very privileged and happy to have been part of it.

Gwneud Sŵn in Wales

When multiinstrumentalist and livelooper Rick Walker started doing the first international livelooping festivals in California 15 years ago, he probably had no idea that this thing would eventually spread like wildfire. We are doing several such festivals per year now, in many countries, and more are added to the list every year.

There is a growing scene of livelooping artists some of which travel around the world to perform on the various festivals. Unless there are sponsors, the artists usually pay for everything out of their own pockets, because this is not a commercially successful enterprise – it is just about the love for music. And the audience is fascinated every time by the wide range of styles and ideas, the musical quality, the surprising creativity they get to see.

Steve Moyes, a livelooping guitarist/cellist from Wales (who had performed on my 3rd festival in Cologne), had organized such a festival in November 2016. Eight musicians from the UK, France, and Germany met in Cardigan, a little town at the southwestern coast of Wales, for a very enjoyable afternoon/evening of livelooping music.

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Most of us stayed for several days. Steve cooked for us, and we were hosted by Maggie Nicols, a singer from the UK improvised music / free jazz scene. I remembered Maggie’s voice from early 1970s Keith Tippett projects such as Centipede, and I was thrilled that I could stay in her large house, an old mill building, and get to know her.

My Wales trip started with some technical problems, including a faulty Midi controller, and an expensive laptop that suddenly refused to boot (update: after the UK trip when I came home, it was suddenly alive again as if nothing had happened – my computer technician has no explanation except that it maybe didn’t want to travel to Wales). Instead of the laptop, which is usually a central item in my livelooping setup, I used my iPad with a combination of livelooping, effect, and granular synthesis apps, all of this to create textural loops, plus an oldfashioned but still amazing Gibson Echoplex for shorter loops. Also, Steve gave me his Line6 DL-4, a workhorse for delays and looping.

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One day before the concert, I put new strings on the guitar, and one of the tuning pegs broke – I could no longer tune the A string, but after some experimenting, I fixed it, sort of, by squeezing a clothes peg under the string. I could have borrowed another guitar but I felt stubborn at this point. After all, my cheap trusty Höfner Shorty is something special, with its integrated amplifier/speaker which allows for wild feedback orgies.

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The evening was beautiful, even breathtaking at times. I loved Steve Moyes’s cello loops and his abstract, sculptural approach. Heather Summers played beautiful pieces with her warm violin sound in the middle of things, and David Cooper Orton delivered a number of his masterful guitar pieces. Nelly Meunier’s ‘prehistoric’ sounds from stones, bones, leaves and other beautiful little objects were a quiet sonic meditation, and ecnegrU’s skillful reggae/dub explorations blew my mind and made me dance. Julia Kotowski’s songs (as ‘Entertainment for the Braindead’) have become even more perfect since I saw her in California, 7 years ago, and Emmanuel Reveneau (‘Lucid Brain Integrative Project’) was as lucid and amazing as always. What a great group of musicians! I felt thrilled that I could be one of them on this evening.

Somehow my technical problems led me to play more radically, much more in the noise department, and I quite enjoyed it (and so did a number of people in the audience – never before so many people came and told me how much they had liked my set).

On the next evening, we staged a mini festival with short sets personally for Maggie Nicols because she had performed in Austria on the festival day, and missed it. I played even more radically this time and enjoyed it even more (Emmanuel found it ‘supercool’). What has happened? I feel that while I am open to many kinds of styles, including ambient and psychedelic which would typically focus on ‘beautiful’ sounds, I suddenly feel much more drawn to experimental sounds and structures, to noise, to uncertainty, to go beyond all borders. It was almost like a little epiphany. Playing freely like this felt so natural, so clearly like me. And I feel a little bit like a newborn, I still have to learn so much.

After our little mini-festival for Maggie, we did a collective improvisation. It was wild and ecstatic at times, and hearing Maggie’s voice soaring above it just like it did 45 years ago (with Centipede on their immortal ‘Septober Energy’ album) really gave me the goosebumps big time! I played like never before, sometimes including granular synthesis. I discovered that I could put my unconnected iPad on top of the guitar, feeding its speaker output through the guitar picks and the guitar signal chain with its effects and loops. Wow!

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Looking forward now to how my music wants to develop. I let it do that by itself, as always. It will take care of itself.

Berlin Livelooping August 2016

I am in Berlin now for a week, on my way to the “Bohemian Polyphony” event – more of this later. Of course I met my old friends Leander Reininghaus and Markus Reuter who both live in Berlin now.

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I had met Leander and Markus on a Guitar Craft course with Robert Fripp in … 1991 I think, anyway, about 25 years ago. We played together as “Trio Gitarristik” for a few years during the mid-1990s, performing various Guitar Craft tunes plus our own compositions, and also ambient soundscapes.

This week, because I came to Berlin, Leander had organized a livelooping concert for us at the Galiläa church, a beautiful abandoned-church-turned-into-performance-space, and we performed together again for the first time in about 20 years.

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Leander framed the evening with a number of beautiful short pieces by Erik Satie (from “Musique d’ameublement” – the first time I ever heard this music) and Philip Glass (“North Star”).

Leander Reininghaus

I used analog vintage gear and my “Frippertronics” setup based on tape delay. Even though my energy had been low during the day, it went up as soon as I was on stage, and I was pretty happy with my 20 minute solo set! As often, I had no idea what I would do until I started with the first note, and I felt carried and led by the music that slowly developed. How this works never ceases to amaze me.

I heard from someone in the audience afterwards that my music sounded autumnal to him, and at the same time, he sensed a dry kind of humour. I liked that. Interesting how the same piece of music can elicit such a wide range of responses in the performer and in everyone in the audience.

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Markus created one of his amazing ethereal soundscapes on Touch Guitar and Ableton Live. I had occasionally seen him on stage over the years but this piece felt especially intimate and personal to me.

Markus Reuter

At the end, we improvised together on the chords of Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent)”. Leander had chosen this beautiful piece (that, incidentally, I had played on my mother’s funeral four years ago) to finish this thoroughly enjoyable “Berlin Livelooping Session”.

Trio Gitarristik after 20 years

Thank you to everyone from the venue who made this evening possible!

 

The Letchworth 7-and-8 (for Georgina Brett)

Here is a piece I improvised in Letchworth (north of London) on Nov 1st, 2014. Maybe you like it

My mini-England-tour was big fun. Thank you so much to Georgina for organizing the concerts in Letchworth and London, and for spending time with me (especially on Halloween evening), to the ladies at Dot to Dot in Letchworth, to Michael Bearpark and his family for hosting us, to Roger Harmar for spending a lovely day with me in Brighton, to Darren Sangita for a lovely spontaneous party, to Mathura Das for letting me be his cooking assistant.



























 
(some photos were shot by Michael Bearpark)

The music that I played and the music that I had recorded during rehearsals before the tour ended up in this album, a very heterogenous collection of musical sounds, voices on the streets, and field recordings that is almost like a diary to me. The days in England were intense and surreal at times, and you can hear it. Listen loud.

Contemplating the Planet Venus

stopping the car on top of the hill
midnight, black velvet sky,
and just over the western horizon
the brightly radiating jewel,
just about to follow sun & moon into the night

beyond this world of petty primate concerns,
suchness is easy to spot, purity, an immaculate beauty
that is laser focused, piercing directly through the heart
and so immense that there are no words.
to die for a beauty like that!

this touch left me shattered, unable to sleep
not knowing what to do with this
unexpected kiss of the beloved
that music, that prayer, that vision, of what?
how many multitudes do I contain?

 


Georgina Brett from London is my favorite livelooping singer


Image Credit:
Earthshine and Venus Over Sierra de Guadarrama

Daniel Fernández

When in Rome

In the afternoon of the second day of the Florence Livelooping Festival, Fabio Anile (who had to work on Monday morning and could not stay for the evening concerts), Michela and me drove down to Rome.

Fabio had invited me for a couple of days to make music together. We share a love for livelooping, ambient, and minimalist polyrhythmic music, and we had already played together on loopfestivals in Berlin and Cologne – here is what the final minutes in Cologne sounded like:

      LastMinutes - Last Minutes, by Fabio Anile & Michael Peters




 
I stayed in Fabio’s place for several days, and on each day when he came home from work in the afternoon, we improvised together for several ours, and recorded everything. It will take some time to listen through all of this! Some of the improvisations will probably be good enough for a CD as they are, some others need some working on, and some might be used as a sketch for a composition. The music that we produced was quite beautiful and dreamy, often involving silence or very few notes.
Not surprisingly, the food was also very good 🙂




 
Of course, being in Rome, I also did the tourist thing – wonderful !





 
“Peters is super” – yes, but there are still some typos in there ! Please try again.














 
On my last morning in Rome, before going to the airport, Fabio drove me to Tivoli, a few miles outside of Rome, where we took a look at Villa Adriana. “Villa” is a somewhat misleading word for this huge complex of buildings. This amazing place had been home for a while to a Roman emperor who liked it better than his palace in the city – I could understand why. Of course I did not only take photos but also binaural recordings with “headphone” microphones (wearing my furry black windshields which Fabio found very funny).








A Suitcase Full of Stars

Another Livelooping festival, this time in beautiful Florence …

 
Some of you might remember the sentence “my god, it’s full of stars”. Another situation, but one could also say this about my new suitcase that I had to buy because the airline that calls itself “Easyjet” allows for only one piece of cabin baggage. For me as a travelling livelooper (well, occasionally), this is a bad restriction: I need to carry the laptop in one hand and the small Hohner G2 guitar in the other hand. I wouldn’t check in any of those two of course, and to put the laptop into my suitcase didn’t feel so safe. The solution for this was finally to get a large new dark blue suitcase that could contain not only my toothbrush and t-shirts but also the guitar, squeezed in diagonally. And to be able to recognize it at the baggage claim, I put lots of little fluorescent stars on it, on all sides. It looks really nice, and they glow in the dark!

 
Massimo Liverani the hero had organized the 4th International Livelooping Festival in Florence. And as if that wasn’t enough, he also housed us, fed us, drove us, and showed us around the town.

 
Among the liveloopers I met in Florence: Gareth Whittock, and his wife Emma, from Bristol …

 
Willie Oteri and Dave Laczko (WD-41, and I know the secret story behind this name now) from Austin, Texas …

 
Fabio Anile from Rome, with his friend Michela …

 
Rainer Straschill from Munich with Michéle …

 
Enrico Coniglio from Venice (right) who turned out to share some unusual passions with me (such as, wandering around with binaural microphones, or dipping a hydrophone into the sea and listening to fish) …

 
We walked around the old city after midnight … Roman statues, old bridges, cafes that were the birthplace of the futurist movement, and of course breathtaking buildings …

 
We drove up a hill to take the tourist look over the valley of Florence … the city and the area of Tuscany are amazingly beautiful, I want to come back and spend a vacation here!

 
The venue was an open air stage in a beautiful park. It was very warm, and families and kids were all around until very late.

 
My set was the last one on this day. I replaced Randolf Arriola from Singapur who couldn’t come.

My set had some weak moments, but all in all, I was very happy with how it developed, and I felt that this gig had been a significant step. Too bad my long pants had disintegrated unexpectedly the day before, I look a bit sloppy with my short pants, but it works if one closes one’s eyes and just listens to the music 🙂

The Sunday after the Saturday before. Massimo and his wife fed us with pasta, and we all sat together in a small garden under a fig tree, eating and having coffee and talking.

 
After this, most of the tired loopers went to bed again, while Fabio, Michela and me set off to Rome for the next adventure. Fabio had invited me to stay with him for a few days, to make music together. Because he had to work early on Monday, we missed the second day of the festival. Too bad but the first day had already been very enjoyable, with very nice sets of Giovanni Lami, Enrico Coniglio, Fabio Anile, and Rainer Straschill. (And me.)

2011: A Livelooping Weekend

This was the weekend of the 2nd international Livelooping Festival in Cologne – I had organized the first one almost 3 years ago, and for various reasons I felt it was time to do another one.

I wish more liveloopers would organize such a festival. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth, several-days-70-loopers festival such as Rick Walker’s festivals in Santa Cruz (which he now has stopped doing because it kept him busy for months). This Cologne festival presented 10 acts again (this time, 9 soloists and 1 trio) and so was small in comparison. Many people seem to think that it is very difficult or lots of work to do that, but in fact, it is not so much work, but lots of fun, especially if one chooses nice loop musicians and everything turns out to be a success. It helped a lot that the cultural office of Cologne and the culture trust of the Cologne-Bonn Sparkasse bank sponsored me again to an extent that allowed me to hire people who did sound, videotaping, video projection, photography, and other support work.

Cologne Loopfestival 2011
Cologne Loopfestival 2011 / Image (c) Alan Jaras

Some of the loopers stayed in hotels, but Georgina Brett, Per Boysen, and the boys from Darkroom stayed at our house.

The day of the festival was very warm and sunny … good for us at first, so we could hang out on the terrace in the morning … of course in the evening, there were less people in the audience than we had expected because some of them had preferred a lazy evening in a beer garden over hours of difficult music in the darkened hall of the Loft …


Setting up was less chaotic than one could expect with 12 musicians and tons of electronics all squeezed together on a few square meters. Then Thomas Elbern started with his Twilight Worldz guitar drones, followed by Uwe Schumacher (who I knew from two concerts in his church based KlangSpielRaum) and his world music influenced improvisations on bass, percussion, and voice …


Patty Stucki sang, played synths and saxophones, and transported the audience into other worlds …

… before I entered the stage with my guitar and delivered several quite multifaceted pieces of music, some of which were successful (i.e. came out similar to my plans) and some didn’t. Oh well. I am still learning!

Sjaak Overgaauw had been inspired by the first Cologne loopfestival to create his own annual festival in Antwerpen. His Premonition Factory produced beautiful ambient music, and after this, David Cooper Orton played guitar somewhere between folk, rock, jazz, and minimal music. Both Sjaak and David had been among my livelooping colleagues in Santa Cruz in 2009 …

It was a special treat for me to finally see Georgina Brett on stage. I had met her in London in 2007 where she introduced me to her ethereal vocal canon music. This time she sung a complex 30 minute piece based on words by Pythagoras. The video backdrop I had created for her, starring slowly moving psychedelic jellyfish (which I had recorded in an aquarium in Oregon) was a great visual addition to her composition I thought. (Georgina was too concentrated to even notice 🙂 )

Georgina was followed by Stockholm based looper Per Boysen, one of my favorite looping musicians (I remember being in awe watching him on festivals in Zürich and Rome). Instead of guitar, flute, or saxophone, he presented his newest instrument, a Chapman stick. It seems that a good musician can create magic on just about any instrument!

Reyn Ouwehand from Amsterdam was the only livelooper I hadn’t met before. He turned out to be not only fun to spend time with, but also a much more proficient keyboard player than I had expected – jawdropping even. He finished his set with a nice impromptu improvisation with Georgina.

And finally, Darkroom (Andrew Ostler and Michael Bearpark with Andrew Booker on electronic percussion) delivered a beautiful and relaxing piece of electronic music that reminded me of Krautrock psychedelia, probably due to the synth sequences created by Os.


We came home after the gig, exhausted but happy, and stayed up late. On the next morning, Sjaak and Ingrid and Patty came to watch us having breakfast, Georgina and Per did the dishes … some of us stayed until the evening, talking about music, but only Per stayed another night and left on Monday afternoon.


What a great weekend with such nice people! I wish we could all stay together for longer, but of course many of the loopers are parents and have to go back to their families and workplaces … the looper island that Michael Klobuchar dreams of will probably remain a dream …


Here is a very nice 5 minute WDR3 radio feature about the festival, containing short interviews and music snippets by Reyn, Patty, Thomas, Georgina, and Uwe:

      loopfestcologne2011_wdr3_tuulasimon - Michael Peters interview by Tuula Simon

(photos taken by Andrew Ostler, Mike Bearpark, Petra Schulten, Mike Gürgens, and myself)

Soft Drugs in Antwerp

I did a Saturday/Sunday trip to Antwerp to visit the Livelooping Festival, the 3rd one organized by Sjaak Overgaauw. Except for the bad traffic jams that I got into on the highway, I found that Antwerp is not really far from here – less than 3 hours.

 
I had booked a hotel that looked cheap and good on the website. Well let us say I will look for another hotel should I come back to the next loop festival. But the area was interesting – it was a Jewish quarter of town, and I saw lots of Jewish couples walking around the place wearing very traditional cloths and very strange cylindrical fur hats that I haven’t seen before anywhere.

Living in Germany, I’m not used to seeing traditional Jews because understandably, very few of them live here. I saw lots of people from many countries in Antwerp, and I heard many languages. A young man talked loudly into his mobile, in a language that I didn’t recognize, while taking a leak standing beside me in the toilet of some cafe. Antwerp somehow reminded me a little bit of Manhattan – even the relatively small city park with its ponds and bridges reminded me of Central Park. I liked that a lot.

 
Lots of interesting shops, some of them selling things that I didn’t recognize. And the chocolateries – oh my god. Soft drugs (I am clearly addicted to chocolate), and beautifully set up. And expensive.

 
I visited the bank of the Scheldt, a broad river flowing by the city into the nearby Atlantic.

 
A ponton made loud and deep water noises. I recorded a few minutes using my little digital recorder (this time it was wearing its new wind protection, and looked like a muppet with a wild hairdo) – click the arrow to hear water, seagulls, church bells, and traffic noises of Antwerp.


 
Hungry from walking. Apple pancake and coffee. Good. Then back into the city roads and early evening. Time to walk to the venue.

 
I first met with Kirstin, Facebook friend, synth player, and fan of Sjaak’s music. It was nice to talk face to face instead of using facebook (we hardly knew each other in real life). Then to the venue together for a couple of hours with ambient music, drones, and loops.

 
Some of the livelooping music was quite amazing. Sjaak’s ambient synthscapes were deep and hauntingly beautiful. Welsh guitarist Simeon Harris also created sounds and textures that were very beautiful, shimmering and complex – I wish I knew his trade secrets … but I think gear is involved that I cannot afford at the moment. Flute and sax player Theo Travis used relatively modest gear, but his playing technique and compositional skill was outstanding. A very enjoyable and inspiring evening.

I walked home to my less-than-convincing hotel, slept for a few hours, and got up early. I drove through the Schelde tunnel and visited St. Anna, a popular recreation area for Antwerp citizens. You can see the city from there. If you walk around a bit, there are also views of, er, modern architecture and chemical industry areas, maybe not quite as beautiful as the Antwerp skyline, but in the early Sunday sunshine, everything looked shiny and fresh.

 
After a croissant or two for breakfast, I drove to Sjaak’s and Ingrid’s place for coffee. The boys had just gotten up and were busy transferring video files to portable hard disks. I also met Coco again, the cheese loving red tomcat that can make funny faces.

 

Y2K9


 
Y2K9 was why we had come to the west coast in the first place:
Rick Walker (who keeps pointing out how much my MY2K project had inspired him to move towards abstract electronica) had invited me for years to come to his annual livelooping festival, and this year was the first time that I felt up to it.

One reason that I felt I could do it this time was that I had finally replaced the heavy guitar rig full of hardware effects I had been using for years by a notebook – good for international flights. I also took my small midified Hohner G2 guitar, an instrument that can easily be taken as hand luggage and tucked into a plane’s overhead compartment.

The notebook contains a complex Plogue Bidule setup that is capable of doing infinitely more than my old hardware effects could – it is a maze of VST plugins, VST instruments, loopers, and realtime samplers, infinitely reconfigurable and versatile, and it opens many musical doors for me although I’m still a long way from understanding Bidule, and also, a long way from mastering this setup.


 
One additional musical difficulty that I had created for myself was that I insisted to improvise everything – as on my previous solo livelooping concerts, I played no compositions (although sometimes compositions suddenly found their way into the improvisations). This has its pros and cons. It needs a certain amount of openness from the audience – people who expect “pieces” will inevitably be disappointed.

What usually happens, and happened this time too, is that I start out only from a rough idea for the beginning, and then some kind of flow finds its own way, often in surprising ways, sometimes boring, sometimes interesting. One thing that sometimes seems to happen, and it happened this time too, is that I try certain things along the way, and fail – then I’m disappointed and frustrated, but because the audience doesn’t know what I was trying, they often like the result anyway.


 
I was flattered that Rick had featured me in his “headliners” list for the festival, and scheduled me for no less than 3 gigs on 3 subsequent days.

On the first night, we met for the “Best of the Y2K9 International Live Looping Festival” concert in the Anno Domini Gallery in San Jose. Except for Atlanta based kalimba wizard Kevin Spears, all of us had come from abroad (from Germany, Australia, Barbados, UK, Belgium) and were somewhat excited to play in the USA for the first time.

It was a very nice evening – although we did not have many people (maybe 25) in the audience, there were up to 200 people listening and watching the show over the internet. Nat Grant from Melbourne created a very soft and subtle texture of material sounds from percussion and plastic foil, Julia Kotowski from Cologne played her charming “Entertainment for the Braindead” songs, David Cooper Orton presented wonderful guitar compositions, Sjaak Overgaauw led us into quiet ambient sound worlds, Andre Donowa played very relaxed caribbean guitar music, and Kevin Spears made us all tap our feet with his irresistable, and technically astounding, kalimba grooves.

I drove home with Nat, Julia, and Kevin in my car, eventually discovering that our fuel was low – and there was no way to get new fuel in the middle of the night in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz. We made it safely to Santa Cruz though – thanks so much to my guardian angel who protected us on the quite dangerous highway 17.


 
The next night, Rick had scheduled me for the “Experimental Side of the Y2K9 Looping Festival”, a concert in the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco which holds regular new music concerts curated by Matt Davignon. I’ve known Matt for years as a very creative musician and regular contributor to Chain Tape Collective projects – it was very nice to finally meet him in person.

I must admit that it was quite exciting for me to drive into the breathtaking night skyline of San Francisco, with Rick and Nat in my car, to give a concert there. This wonderful city is a mythical place, both beautiful (as Sabine and me saw it a few days ago) and dark and even a bit creepy – but then I’m probably simply not used to this place at night.

The gallery was a wonderful concert space. Matt did his drum machine soundscapes, Nat and Rick created surprising music with percussion instruments and various materials, and Thomas Dimuzio played breathtakingly beautiful synthesizer music – like something straight from Blade Runner, but abstract. I would have loved to get a recording of this but he had forgotten to record it!


 
I did 25 minutes of, as Georgina Brett put it, “severely electro-acoustic LIVE music” – a continuous stream of sound events from the guitar and from various mysterious little devices that made the audience lean forward, trying to see what they were 🙂 The music was not something that is easy to listen to afterwards, but I think it was an enjoyable concert live – big fun for me to play really noise oriented at times, maybe I should do more of this?


 
The main livelooping festival began on Friday evening with a concert of some of the headliners – Nat Grant with Rick Walker, Kevin Spears (the Paganini of the kalimba, as Rick put it very correctly), The Mermen guitarist Jim Thomas, and me, with each of us given 45 minutes. This was the only concert which saw me a bit nervous during the afternoon, but then I found myself very quiet and mostly present while I performed. Again, many things that I tried to do failed, but the audience didn’t know what I had been trying, and judging from the many positive feedbacks I got, at least parts of it must have been enjoyable. I felt especially flattered by a very positive website guestbook comment by the wonderful singer Lilli Lewis who I saw perform on the next day.


 
The two following days were like a livelooping sweat lodge – from noon to midnight, more than 50 livelooping artists played for half an hour each, performing on one half of the stage while on the other half the next artist quietly set up his gear. Many of the stylistically wildly diverse shows that I saw were amazing, some of them utterly wonderful. Among my favorites were Bill Walker on lapsteel guitar, David Cooper Orton on electric guitar, Mike Crain’s ambient-minimalist vibraphone music, and especially the songs of Lilli Lewis – her performance was almost a spiritual experience, many of us were in tears because it was so beautiful and full of heart.
Lilli’s CD is here in case you want to hear it.



 
At times during the days of the festival, just sitting and enjoying, I seemed to feel an intense field of love that surrounded the whole venue. It was an impersonal love, and definitely something beyond the love that Rick, and the many people who helped, obviously put into organizing this event. For some reason, the livelooper community is exceptionally friendly – there is no competition but rather an atmosphere of mutual support. It seemed to me that something that I would call the presence of love can materialize in a palpable way when many people gather in such an atmosphere, to work together and to share what means most to them – their music, their personal vision of beauty.

What a treat this festival was. We finally met on Monday morning for the traditional loopers brunch and had coffee and cakes with Rick, Chris, Michael Klobuchar, and Nat Grant the next day … then we had to say goodbye. Amazing how close one gets during just a few days, and how much we missed each other afterwards – it was not unlike a meditation retreat or a guitar craft week … special times where one is together in an intense way, and then leaves to return into ordinary every day life reality.


 
(thanks to George Wiltshire and David Cooper Orton for some of the Michael Peters photos)

(many festival photos are here)

Livelooping in Antwerp





The spoken word on this track is from a Hugo Ball poem that I found on Ubuweb.

After a gig on an electronic music festival in a club in Cologne on May 9 (which went so-so for me partly because the sound sucked, I was not yet used to my new music software, and I was sick), my little European livelooping tour started with a gig in Antwerp, Belgium, hometown of Sjaak Overgaauw. Sjaak had visited the Cologne livelooping festival that I had organized in May 2008, and liked the concept so much that it didn’t take much to persuade him to organize a livelooping festival of his own.

So a day before the festival, livelooping festival inventor and multiinstrumentalist Rick Walker and guitarist/singer Luis Angulo arrived here, coming from southern Germany. Before we went
to my place, we had dinner in Cologne, meeting Julia Kotowski, a singer/songwriter/multiinstrumentalist/livelooper who was invited by Rick Walker to this year’s Y2K9 livelooping festival in Santa Cruz, CA. Rick was a little surprised at her young age meeting her in person on that evening, but we both agree that she has lots of talent and has developed a very interesting song style of her own which definitely deserves to be presented at the festival.

 
We spent some hours on the autobahn to Antwerp the next day (during a long hot stop in a traffic jam, Rick used the time to program his musicbox for the gig) and arrived in the afternoon at the Arenberg Schouwburg, a beautiful venue in the center of Antwerp.

 
It was so great to meet old livelooping friends, and some new ones. Yes, the music is at the center of this, but the chance to spend time together with this very nice and creative bunch of people who I get to see only once in a couple of years is at least as important to me.

I was especially happy to meet Os, Mike Bearpark, and Andrew Booker from Darkroom who I had the chance to play with in London in November 2007. And of course there was Fabio Anile from Rome, he had played on the Cologne festival in May 2008 and got inspired enough to organize a livelooping festival in Rome a week after Antwerp (more about this later). I also met Dirk Serries again, he had filled last year’s Cologne festival venue with his “Fear Falls Burning” drones and got to Antwerp to present his new “Microphonics” project.

Sjaak had done a perfect job organizing this festival. Venue, staff, technical things, food, everything was perfect. Thanks again Sjaak!!

 
This evening’s loop shows were very diverse as usual. This time I especially liked Luis Angulo’s vocal loops and his amazing Flamenco style guitar loops. Darkroom played a wonderful set that made me feel real good for some reason. I crawled around on the floor while they played, Os had given me his hitech camera and I had the job to take photos of the group which I gladly did.

In my own set, I tried to make use of quite a number of toys (such as Os’s wonderful XFadeLooper plugin), some of them new … and I improvised … so the result, as often before, was a collage like mix of different styles, and my own feeling afterwards was also mixed, although the audience seemed to mostly like it.

I’m not sure where my creative impulse is leading me in my livelooping work. I hesitate to control it too much, so I try to let it find its own way. I wonder if it will eventually end up in some recognizable style, something that more experienced liveloopers like Markus Reuter or Robert Fripp or Dirk Serries or Rick Walker have developed. At this time, it is much more tempting for me to jump into completely different pools at every gig, sometimes even with sudden breaks, instead of trying to paint stylistically similar pictures every time. Rick told me that he loves the diversity of styles and sounds in my sets, and he thinks that the audience does too. We’ll see how it will work in Rome next week, and in Santa Cruz where I plan to perform in October.


 
(photos were taken by Sjaak, Os, and me)