My approach to Live Looping

While I am in the USA to play in 2 festivals dedicated to Live Looping : Y2K17 PVD Loopfest and Y2K17 international live looping festival Santa Cruz,  it seems interesting to make a point on my approach to the Live Looping.

I notice that my approach to the loop is a bit peculiar and the device I use may be derived from this particular vision. Or, is it my device, in this case Logelloop that took me to have a particular approach to the loop? It’s probably a bit of both, but the music I wanted to do influenced the design of Logelloop a lot.

 

The sound sculpture :

Thirty years ago, I played only acoustic and did not use electronic tools. Sometimes cramped in this instrumental world a bit constraining, but without being interested in synthesizers, I aspired to use machines to have access to a new technique of writing music that would be closer to the sculpture of sound. This was probably related to the fact that my first job was sound engineer.

The first really important experiment in this field is the creation of the soundtrack of the exhibition “Loup y-es-tu?” by Peter K. Alfeanger in 1995. I then worked at “Carré Magique”, the Lannion Theater and I had to use the tools at my disposal to make this soundtrack : 2 digital multi-effects (reverb, delay, pitch, etc.) 3 tape recorders Revox B77 and an analog console. To that, I could add my own studio DAT recorder.

It is therefore quite natural that I started to use the B77 to make sound bases turn in loops and the DAT as the recorder of the final mix. I unfortunately do not have pictures of these facilities, but I must admit that it was rather comical to see these large loops of tape in the hall of the theater. Microphones stands distributed everywhere played the role of stretchers! I worked “the old way,” recording the atmosphere on a tape, cutting and sticking to make a loop whose begin and end points would be heard as little as possible.

That was the foundation of my sound work for the next 30 years. I “tinkered”, waiting for the arrival of digital tools. It was in 1996 that I took possession of my first sound editing software and in 1999 the first version of MAX / MSP allowing me to make the recording and processing patches in real time.

From the arrival of these new tools, I began to consider the work of sound differently and to approach, in my way, electroacoustic music.

Sound sample of “Loup y es-tu?”. These sounds are the result of several superimposed loops on tapes.

The spatialization of sound :

It was also in the 90s, still at the “Carré Magique”, that I began to use the spatialization in the sound productions I was solicited for. The show Le chant des pierres dans l’eau“, a creation by Jean-Marie Machado for 15 pianos and a choir is the creation that allowed me to develop principles of spatializations of sound that I still use today. I had made the choice of the hexaphony for the sound of this piece.

Later, when I composed the music of Chloé Moglia and Mélissa Von Vepi’s show called “Un certain endroit du ventre”, the piece was in Octophony. After these two experiments, I considered spatializations as a tool of composition in its own right.

 

Real Time Live Looping :

At first, I was not really interested in Live Looping.

It was the clarinetist Michel Aumont, who solicited me to produce the sound for his first solo “Souffles en boucles” which brought me back into the world of Live Looping! Indeed, to make an interesting sound for a solo concert of clarinets and loops i wanted to use the spatialization of sound, and to achieve this, I had to find the looper allowing multitracks live looping which would then permit to treat the loops independently one from the other. We were in 2002 and this tool did not exist. So I began to make one, without being aware of the work that it represented, a multitrack looper : Logelloop. In this adventure, I was soon joined by Christophe Baratay who brought his immense knowledge. But if the idea of ​​making a looper was very interesting to me, I did not think I had any use for it.

 

The Live Looping in OstinatO :

It was only in 2005, with the OstinatO project, whose initial idea was to work with real-time sound transformations that Logelloop began to take an important place in my work. In OstinatO, we make loops that transform the sound, distort it, spatialize it. Most often we use granular synthesis, or other effects, rather than the usual Live Looping. But it is necessary to recognize that the only way to be able to transform the sound in real time is to record it first … And how better to record sound in real time than by looping!

The loop can be a simple delay or sound record in a buffer. The condition to talk about Live Looping is simply that it is done in real time!

 

Toco la Toccata, a first solo for Bandoneon and Logelloop

I had been thinking for some time that it would be interesting to write a piece for the bandoneon and Logelloop when Emmanuel Reveneau invited me to the second edition of the Paris Loop Jubilee. This invitation was the decisive element in the writing of Toco la Toccata! The challenge was this time to actually make Live Looping!

I must tell you a secret : I hate the Live Looping! Or rather, I hate to record 4 notes at the beginning of a song and let loop these notes throughout the song. This led me to use a lot of Logelloop’s Slicer which allows to cut, to modify, to restructure the loops that I recorded before. And to such a point that they sometimes become totally unrecognizable!

I also note that I do not particularly like the moment when the musician records the loop. Let’s say that what I do not like is the impression that we sometimes have that the musician plays for the machine and not for the audience that is in front of him. I decided two things were fundamental in the writing of Toco la Toccata:

1 – Each note played on the acoustic instrument must have an immediate musical function and is played for the audience. Recording a loop should not interfere with the performance of the music.

To satisfy the first point, one simply needs concentration, the basis in fact!

2 – The concert must not be conceived as follows : loop recording, song interpretation on the loop, erasing the loop, recording a new loop, etc. In other words, ideally, the loops themselves serve to feed other loops that overlap the first loops. And then the musician plays on this background, sometimes taking advantage of this support to play and record what will be the basic loop of the next song.

For this second point, a system is required to have several loopers and to direct the sounds from one looper to the other. This is the case of Logelloop! For Toco la Toccata, I currently use the main looper which allows up to 10 synchronous loop tracks, a BabyLooper that records the outputs of the main looper on two new asynchronous tracks. Then I use two Loopers in insert. This Looper insert is a new tool that can record stereo loops synchronously or asynchronously. I now have up to 4 loopers interacting during the concert …

 

From Time lag Accumulator to Logelloop!

The Time Lag Accumulator is the system developed by a Radio France sound engineer (unfortunately his name was not retained) for Terry Riley in 1963. The system is based on a tape recorder that continuously records and a second to play the recorded sound. The gap between the two tape recorders sets the delay time. It is not precisely here a loop, but it is the first known experience of looping the sound.

In modern loopers, we can use the numerical delay to obtain this effect, but we can also make a loop and use the overdub (we record over what is already recorded in the loop) with an erasure rate which indicates the number of overlays it takes to make a recorded sound no longer audible. We are not very far from the technique used for the Time Lag Accumulator, except that this is a loop (the duration of the delay being fixed by the length of the loop) it is then possible to superimpose several sounds so as to create harmonies or dissonances between the different layers.

I can simultaneously use the Slicer and deconstruct the loop that I am currently recording and play! The sounds can then be played back and forth at different heights and these settings can change at any step of the measure with the Slicer.

To this system of loops in perpetual recording and deconstructed by the Slicer, I add a second effect that I call AutoLooper. This system consists of recording the output of the loop alternately in two other loopers. It is a script (Logelloop has a system of scripts/macros that allows to control everything from command lines) which controls these two Loopers in this following way : during a bar one of the loopers records and the other reads, during the next bar it’s the opposite, and so on. Of course, these two loopers can be set in such a way that the sounds of their loops are interpreted with a pitch and a speed different from what has been recorded, which makes it possible to add a rhythm and an additional texture.

This is my Personal Time Lag Accumulator!

Here is an example of a way to use Cycle overdub recording in Logelloop in conjonction with the Slicer and two automated loopers.

 

Granulaterre, granular synthesis :

I also use a lot of granular synthesis in my music. I particularly like this process that allows to block a sound to then stretch, thicken, constrain … The sound produced by granular synthesis is different from the usual sound synthesis because it is more organic since it comes from the recording of a sample and in my case, the original sound is that of the bandoneon. It is not far from what I wanted to do 30 years ago when I wanted to sculpt the sound!

Below is “Bonne nuit”, one tune taken from Toco la Toccata who use Granulaterre’s granular synthesis

 

Leap Motion

Another point that can sometimes destabilize the public listening to a concert of electronic music is the absence of a visible relationship between the artist’s gesture and the sounds produced. And from another point of view, the performer has only two hands and therefore cannot simultaneously operate the ten buttons that are sometimes necessary to produce the desired effect. I tried several motion capture systems. The one that seemed most convincing to me was the Leap Motion.

So I spent time (with the help of Lucas Pizzini) integrating the Leap Motion into Logelloop. Analyzing the behavior of the hands with such a tool is relatively simple, converting these movements into relevant musical events is another story!

By linking the Leap to Logelloop by a script, I can precisely assign a hand movement to a function: send to an effect, action on sound filtering, action on the volume, and so on.

 

Below is an example of music played with the Leap Motion and Logelloop

 

With this new system, I can finally put my hands in the sound, palpate it, stretch it as if it were a matter!

This radically changes my relationship with electronic music and gives it a visual appearance.

 

Conclusion

This article is a bit long and you probably will not be very many to read it entirely. Anyway, I hope it will enlighten you on my approach to Live Looping. It will also give you some research tracks if you are a musician and you are trying to build a language with one or more loopers … If so, I strongly encourage you to have a look at Logelloop!

 

See Also :

Live Looping related page on Wikipedia

Three vidéos in which Emmanuel Reveneau makes the Live Looping history (bottom of the page)

FaceBook group is dedicated to the Live Looping history

Geoff Smith made a very complete history of the Live Looping on Livelooping.org

A complete history of the live looping on Looper’s Delight (some words about Robert Fripp and Brian Eno)

A beautiful presentation about Generative music and Systems on Teropa

 

OstinatO is available on CD or dematerialized version, to obtain it, you can use the links below :

 

5 Comments

  1. Excellent !
    il y a une portée à la fois , comment dire ? …mystique et scientifique dans ta quête!
    Bravo bravo bravo
    Have a nice journey in California
    Thomas

  2. nico méheust

    Salut Philippe,
    Merci pour cet article bien intéressant !
    J’ai bien halluciné sur le leapmotion !!!! je suis curieux de te voir à l’oeuvre en vrai !
    Au plaisir,
    nico

  3. analyse et explication très intéressante de ta démarche Philippe !

  4. Jacques-Yves

    Long? Surtout fort intéressant! pour avoir suivi activement ce parcours depuis trente ans! Carré Magique, Souffle en Boucle , Un certain endroit du ventre, j’ai hâte de voir les 30 prochaines années

    • admin-p-ollivier

      Merci Jacques-Yves! Bon sang, j’espère avoir encore trente années devant pour continuer la recherche sur ce terrain! C’est intéressant que tu le présentes comme cela, car j’ai effectivement l’impression d’être à un endroit charnière dans ce parcours. Et j’espère que ce qui va venir ces prochaines années sera pertinent et utile… À suivre.

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