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 ­čÖé )

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 Z├╝rich 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 G├╝rgens, and myself)

Day Of The Hyperfunction


 
To celebrate Impossible Music, the first CD release on our own Hyperfunction label for algorithmic music, I had organized a mini-festival for algorithmic computer music at Cologne’s LOFT on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

We don’t know if the spring weather was too fair, the football games on TV were too tempting, or if the theme for the evening was not interesting enough to the Cologne audience, but only a few people showed up to see and hear the four computer music acts. Each of us played for roughly half an hour.

Tobias Reber from Bern (Switzerland) started with a laptop piece based on Max/MSP. Its shifting layers of electronic sequences and its microtonal electronic sounds reminded me of the magical and austere music of the early electronic pioneers.


 
Stefan Tiedje from Berlin had already presented his interactive Max/MSP based “Ondes Memorielles” music system at the Loft when he performed at Cologne’s 1st International Livelooping Festival in May 2008. His new performance made use of two mobile microphones that circulated through the audience so that everyone could add their own sounds to the music.


 
Markus Reuter from Innsbruck played his new self-designed touch guitar through effect gear and Ableton Live algorithms and loops. His atonal music sounds sparse at the beginning but it eventually builds up to an enormous sound cloud, beautiful and at times menacing. The many variables going into a performance like this make the outcome unpredictable. On listening to his own set the next day, Markus wrote, “Is that really me? I’m surprised once again”.


 
Markus’s Centrozoon partner Bernhard W├Âstheinrich had a strong feeling that my Impossible Music needed sounds different from the ones used on the CD, so when we played this evening’s last set, I was only responsible to generate suitable midi signals, and Bernhard translated them into sound with his synthesizer. Old technology met new technology – the Impossible Music algorithmic system is based on a fractal software called HOP that I wrote in the early nineties, and on this evening, it actually ran on a trusty ancient MS-DOS computer while the sounds were created using very recent synths and software.

      MichaelPetersBernhardWoestheinrich20090404

I used a set of a dozen different fractal shapes to play with – the images, projected on a screen for the audience, were directly translated into midi signals, following some simple rules, and then into sound, so somehow what the audience saw corresponded to what they heard – not always in a very transparent way maybe, but nonetheless. Unfortunately, the images that look most pretty often turn out to create boring music, and some of the more boring images create the most interesting music, so sometimes the imagery that I used consisted just of a few dots or lines but they gave birth to surprising musical structures.


 
The HOP based algorithmic music engine will keep me busy for a while – there are so many interesting musical structures hidden in there. Here’s a short montage from the “rehearsals” I did a week before the Hyperfunction evening.

      HOP_MONTAGE1


 
The evening was an interesting experiment, demanding for the listeners at times, but also very rewarding (at least that’s what I was told by one excited visitor). And it was nice to see everyone again and to spend some time together.

Experimental Guitar Evening

I first met guitarist Craig Green last May when he played on the Livelooping Festival in Cologne that I had organized. Because he is currently in Europe for two gigs in Portugal, he had asked me if we could play together again, so he stopped in Cologne first before going to southern Europe and we did an Experimental Guitar Evening, again at the LOFT, again joined by my Cologne based friend Michael Frank. Each of us did a solo set and at the end, we played two improvisations together. Judging from what I heard from the audience afterwards, it was quite a successful and enjoyable evening.


 
Michael Frank played a noise improvisation and two of his older compositions: a Gong influenced psychedelic piece, and a wonderful rather intricate piece full of odd meters that although it has no Guitar Craft roots, it would fit in there quite well.

Craig, who came with his amazing new hi-tech Teuffel guitar, played two jazzy, very virtuoso, almost romantic compositions, and one of his trademark noise explorations. I was amazed at his sound, his precise technique, and his style in general. Very inspiring.

My set was not planned out, I was underprepared as usual but also willing to go for the risk. Actually I had vague plans for the beginning of the set that involved walking around in the room, theatrically whirling around my trusty old H├Âfner Shorty guitar – it has an integrated speaker that screams with string feedback in an amazing way when cranked up, and whirling it around creates a nice man-made leslie effect. Well this part worked as imagined but when I plugged it into my setup, there was nothing. No sound. I did some small talk and actually rebooted my Vista notebook, hoping the sound would reappear – but it didn’t! The audience was very relaxed and humorous, they even seemed to like that something went wrong, and their support made me relax too. Eventually I discovered that I simply had forgotten to pull up my main fader in my new Bidule setup. Argh !!! (sigh)


 
Anyway, sound was back, and I dropped my vague plans about continuing my explorations of radical noise. Instead I strongly felt like creating harmony, and so I started by setting up a simple but cinematic soundscape, and only later on went through more experiments, noise, samples, and cut-up rhythms.

Here is my 21 minute solo improvisation:


For those who don’t know but wonder – yes, all sounds were played live on the guitar. It can control samplers via midi, so I can play the guitar but you will hear strings, voices, or strange noises. There is even a part where I play a sample of a bee swarm which I had recorded myself last summer.
For those who know this but still wonder: The Fernandez guitar is equipped with a GK-2A and a sustainer. I played through a GT-5, a DL-4, a BitRMan and a Korg Slicer into the Bidule script on the notebook. Faders and switches in Bidule were controlled using a NanoKontrol. Bidule contained a number of VST instrument plugins (the awesome GForce MTron mellotron, a Kontakt sampler, a Humbox voice player), and VST effects such as the KT granular synthesis, the Quikquak Fusion Field reverb, and the beta version of the LoopV plugin for loops and cut-up stuff. Huge thanks to Matthias Grob and Andy Butler for the LoopV – I only used some of its many features but I can say it was stable and I had big fun using it.


 
Nobody left during the intermission – a good sign I think! The second half consisted of two extended collective improvisations that went very well. A wonderful evening, thanks to the support by the muse, an interested audience, some friends who helped in a generous way, and the folks from LOFT.