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 Wöstheinrich 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.

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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 Höfner 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.