Here’s another classic process piece used as a ‘Push Etude’, Steve Reich’s Clapping. Even though it was written after Piano Phase, it is somewhat simpler (certainly to perform), relying on discrete rather than continuous phasing, so fits well into the discrete conceptual world of MIDI rhythm. The challenge here is to program the seminal pattern (which can be heard in triple or duple time like much of Reich’s Ewe-inspired phase pieces). You could of course play it in but I’m trying to roast my Push 2 programming chops. Duplicate the track and then shift it over in steps (you could also set global quantise appropriately and restart one clip at the appropriate metric point, but I wanted to make use of the lovely clip view now available). Unfortunately the push has little control over the fine control of offset, a shift move (as far as I can tell is always a semiquaver (1/16)) so I’ve set the Set to 6/8 rather than 6/4. I’m not sure of a more elegant way to reset the start offset other than how I did it, let me know if you can!
Being an 8×8 grid (we do generally reside in the normative binary default rhythmic world like it or not), the Push represents the 12 slots over a row and a half (I’d like to be able to move the rows into 6s for example) so imagine it like this:
You can then apply the pattern to melodic material as I’ve shown later in the video. Enjoy, njoye, joyen, oyenj, yenjo, enjoy.
Ableton Push 2 and Live 10 are incredible devices, both progressive and able to integrate seminal electronic, process and generative creative practices. In order to start exploring their potential I’ve been experimenting with recreating classic works as succinctly and fluently as possible. Here’s Steve Reich’s Piano Phase using just one track and Live 10 and Push’s new melodic sequencer layout which I find hugely valuable.
In essence you can break down the classic theme into its component pitches, and reform them by pitch rather than rhythmic placement.
Quick overview: Set scale on Push to E Dorian and form the patterns from above on teh 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th degree of the scale respectively. Once you can do this it can be fun to enter them in diferent orders, add chords to each of them and of course use in your own improvisational/compositional practice.
The phasing is super simple (naive really) each dial completes a rotation so you can settle on each semiquaver confidently before moving to the next rotation. This could all be done in microtemporal MIDI (creating fewer artefacts) with M4L devices but I like the ‘in-the-box’ constraint, maximising pre-existing tools.
Piano Phase Push Project (change the MIDI instrument to whatever you like)
Renowned TedX Groningen and Ableton Loop keynote speaker, Dr Milton Mermikides and Ableton Certified Trainer Phelan Kane take a look at some less than conventional ways to generate rhythms and sound. Using Live and custom Max for Live devices, this workshop introduces a range of tools and methods to break out of standard repetitive cycles of electronic music composition. Through a series of exercises using custom-built Max for Live devices, they’ll explore Euclidean sequencers, odd meter, micro timing, hypermeter, swing and latency, with the aim of unleashing your creativity and exploring uncharted territory beyond the standard 4/4 landscape.
On the 14th October 2013, I’ll be joining the eminent musician and fellow Wodehouse character Peter Gregson at the Luton Music Club to max out on Minimalism. Details to follow, but on the programme is Terry Riley’s seminal work In C in all its heterophonic and generative gorgeousness.
Rather than play it (on my guitar) traditionally with the ensemble, I thought it fun (and more interesting) to use Ableton Live (and Push) to rebuild it so it ran generatively. I’ve done a very simple version which adopt most of the instructions, any errors kindly forgive me and my future generations.
Here’s a screenshot of the resultant tapestry:
And here’s the WIP for your to download in the spirit of musical democracy.
Hit scene 1 and they’ll tumble through, I’ve weighted the follow actions to have on average more repeats on shorter phrases which makes sense musically. You can intervene, urging on any stragglers and holding back any clips forging too far ahead. Actually I may need to consult a statistician as the deviation in fall rates seems (in my fallible intuition) to suggest something’s a bit skewy with the randomising process. But oh well, the variation in performances is intriguing (I’m on listen number 6 and still very happy). You can of course ride volumes, edit instruments and send out effects to your ears’ content. You can always set clip 53 to – rather than stop – return to clip 1 so the piece lasts forever, with clips lapping each other – adding another dimension to the work. If Follow Actions in Live were more sophisticated or I had time to render in Max the clips could behave more intelligently by grouping together, dropping out and changing velocity more responsively as per score instructions, but it actually works quite beautifully as is, which is a testament to the power of Riley’s concept.
Incidentally if you’d like to tweak the ‘fall rate’ – and hence the resulting approximate duration – change this number on the clips (you can select multiple), but remember that you may want longer clips with lower numbers. Again I wish there was more sophistication with follow actions, which would also allow the pulse to stop after all other clips are finished, but I await Ableton Live 1011 17
Thanks to user Jeepee on the Ableton forum, whose patch I discovered when googling this idea, I’ve kept many of Jeepee’s clips as I like how he/she played them, but am also thinking of doing it PROPERLY in Max and crowdsourcing midi and audio clips from the interwebs when the Earth slows and there’s enough hours in the day for such mischief.
For those sensible people not in to Ableton or this sort of thing, you can hear a rendered version from this patch here:
(If that doesn’t buffer or you are a suffering iPad browser) -> In C Live