22 March 2013


I verge on understanding classically-trained players when they perform new music, but I can struggle with electronica. So it was with Paul Hesline and Nickamc at the YouAreHere festival. This was the programmer bleeding edge of the field. Not synths with keyboards, but laptops with visual programming and hand controllers. There was one guitar, but Paul mainly performed with a Sony PS2 controller and Nickamc solely with a Nintendo glove. I asked an informed listener what freeware was around to experiment in this field. He suggested PD (Pure Data) but warned of a steep learning curve. Looking at it later, I could only agree. PD seems to be programming with a visual interface. The programming determines all factors of the sound (effects, envelopes, repeats, ordering, etc) and the way these are activated in real time by various controllers. So I guess the compositional process is programming and the performance is improvised within these compositional parameters. This is different thinking - from jazz with its improv or from classical with its interpretation of dots. It certainly sounds different but presumably this is totally a matter of the artist and the creation. I’m guess the programming and performance could create jazz or classical or anything, but in practice it doesn’t. The culture doesn’t support this. What I hear is minimalism in drones and repetition and simple melodic fragments and much drama and visual imagery in hits and in the presentation itself, although it’s not pop-electronica-pretty. This is blokes staring at laptops and wires and picnic tables. It can be made prettier, but I guess this is the arty end of the spectrum. I listen and watch. I wasn’t in the mood and this wasn’t the venue to close eyes so perhaps I do it an injustice. I’m yet to be convinced, but ya gotta try.

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