Archive for the ‘Second Life’ Category

Like my other ‘surprise hit’, The Quahog Stalker, An Evening With Ada was never intended to be performed live but seems to have burst out of the studio and into real life for a few gigs.

Ada is a much more complex, and far longer piece than the former though, and performing it live is quite a different affair. While Quahog Stalker could be performed live quite happily with four triggered samples and a lot of violin playing, Ada needs a major rethink. Although violin is the lead instrument there isn’t actually that much on it. The piece is full of synths, guitars and basses as well as recorded samples. Simply playing those and adding the violin where it appears, wouldn’t really be a satisfying live event, for me or the audience.

As this is targetted eventually at the SoundSpiral, and the first performance would be in 7.1 surround sound I thought that with an immersive environment, maybe less is probably more – you don’t want lots of complex things happening all around you, it’ll just get confusing and messy. So I set about removing things from the set as well as replacing some (mainly guitar) parts with violin.

When I came to perform at Sonic Arts Forum a technical problem meant that the rear pair of speakers didn’t work (this was my technical problem, not the organiser’s) and the piece still worked, so I came to the conclusion that even less is even more! While some of the parts that were missing from the back speakers were things I would rather not have done without (and traces of them came out of the subwoofer anyway) I proceeded to remove even more things from the set.

The piece is now a lot sparser than it was originally and, in a live context, probably better. I still like and stand-by the original recording (for another similar studio project I would do the same again quite happily) but live is a different experience and you don’t have chance to carefully consider bits and revisit them as you do when listening to a recording.

I’ll be playing all of the new Ada in Second Life this Saturday 11th May at my favourite online venue Music Island. That’s really all of it … all 40 minutes, so it should be quite an event. Because of restrictions of Second Life audio it will be back to stereo for this performance – though there will be a virtual SoundSpiral!

The concert at Sonic Arts Forum was video recorded so you can watch it below. I wore a regency-style posh dress for the occasion, I love the way it contrasts will all the high tech equipment on the stage! You can see me disappear to check my laptop here and also I apologise for messing up the aspect ratio, I’m not quite that tall and thin!

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The first Helicopter Quartet gig last Friday was a success. We only have 3 tracks so far but that filled out 25 minutes of the usual 30 minute slot and they went down well I think. The audience was small but appreciative which is good for a band nobody has ever heard of before 🙂

My next gig is a solo one in Second Life. I haven’t played there for a while now, partly because I’ve been busy with this band and also with the Colchester project, and partly because I don’t really spend a lot of time there any more. But an opportunity came up, and it’s for a charity so I said yes.

As I haven’t played there for a while it would be quite reasonable for me to dust down the solo pieces I usually play, together with maybe one or two new ones, and play those – but I like to keep things fresh. So I am going to do an all-ambient programme on Sunday. No sudden noises and very little of the distortion pedals (at least not aggressively). I have material I can use for this already, “Ghost in the Marine” fits the bill nicely, and the opening of “Afternoon Nightmare” will also feature – but with a new second section to keep it ambient. I will also be exploring the new EHX Superego pedal I recently acquired.

It’s part of a mini-festival for “Relay for Life” starting noon SLT, 8pm BST on Sunday 10th July, here. I’m on first.

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I haven’t played in Second Life for quite a long time now, in fact it’s nearly a year since my last appearance as a performer there. Life has been so busy with other things.

But as I’m doing a “Real Life” solo appearance (which I’ll blog about soonish) later in the month I was very generously offered the chance to preview this set in Second Life by Kate Miranda who runs the classical music venue Music Island in Second Life and I jumped at the chance.

Doing a Second Life concert is very similar to the ustream concerts I’ve done and blogged about in the past except that the visual element is provided by avatars in the virtual world rather than a webcam. I have an avatar of me (which I’m told does actually look a little like me) and models of my violin and – part of – my pedalboard and amplifier which I made myself.

I get an hour to play at this gig, whereas at the “real” gig I will only get half that, which allows me to play a little bit with the material and see what works … and what I can actually play! All the pieces I play will be mostly live-looped – there are a small number of background effects that I have for Quahog Stalker (and maybe one other which I’ll unveil if it works), but on the whole I prefer to make all the sounds live if at all possible.

The event is on Music Island at 8 pm GMT (noon PST, which is what Second Life uses)

If you don’t have a Second Life account (they are free) you can listen to the audio stream on its own but it will be much more social if you come and join us in-world 🙂

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Storm in a teacup

I’ll trickle some old music in here from time-to-time as well as things I’m currently doing.

Storm in a Teacup was a collaborative project I did with a friend in Second Life in the middle of 2009. The idea was to produce a sound & pictures presentation using Second Life as a platform, the photographs were provided by r0bin Helsinki (that’s a Second Life avatar name by the way) and I would provide the music. r0bin also did the Second Life scripting and building and set up the main part of the experience while I was producing the music.

The music was produced (I originally put ‘written’, but it wasn’t written, it was made in the DAW … see previous post) taking the photographs as inspiration. I actually had no idea what the final scripted experience was going to be like and some of the photos were also changed between me starting on the music and the premiere. So there is no real synchronisation of the music to the video (below) apart from the rough separation between ‘storm’ and ‘teacup’ sections. How I organised the music was to take the photographs from the initial discussion with Robin and use them as a storyboard to decide the direction the music would take. I did put some timings on the pictures, but I knew they would be very rough.

The music is built up from recorded sounds and music played on violin, keyboard, nyckelharpa and balungan (part of the Gamelan at the University of York). The nyckelharpa was used to get the faux-oriental feel near the end as I strum the resonant strings on the instrument rather than bowing the playing strings.  My favourite recorded sound is the glass smash – I spent a good half-hour throwing old beer glasses into an empty wheelie bin with a microphone hung inside it … who said music wasn’t a dangerous occupation ?! Anyway, it turns out you need at least two, ideally three or more glasses to get a good sound 😉

Listening back to this after 18 months or so, I can clearly hear how my recording and mixing techniques have improved since then, which have been partly helped with the purchase of a copy of Ableton Live. This piece was mixed using Ardour. It’s pretty safe to say that if I did this again it would sound very different, in fact this is the first piece of music I ever really produced inside a DAW rather than scoring it.

The ‘filming’ was done all in Second Life by me, and I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, so it’s a bit jittery and messy at times. But it hasn’t come out too badly considering. All the bits with avatars in were done over two takes a week after the premiere, and there are some cutaway sections that I did separately too. The closing credits are scrolled over a photo of a talk I gave in Second Life about the piece.

The whole experience was available as a live installation in Second Life for about six months. and people were able to take the ‘ride’ on their own or with friends, with the music being streamed every half an hour.

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