Category Archives: Live Looping

Instantly recording yourself and making music by processing those recordings as loops, while simultaneously playing live together with your multiplied self.

Improvisation is not free!

The better you become at “improvising” the more you realize there is no such thing as “free improvisation”. Since music is a form of communication the best improvisations are those where the player succeeds in applying gestures that draw on rules known to the listener. Such gestures and rules can be timbre, direction in movement or plain music harmony theory.

I am especially excited by multi lateral improvisation, as I call it when a player improvises many musical parts at the same time – as opposed to simply improvising a melody over a given background. In this performance I use live looping, which means I record phrases I play and then keep changing those recordings while playing an additional part. So there is no “lead” and no “background” part of this improvisation. I do not play melodies and improvise chords to back melody up, nor do I play chords and improvise melodies that fit in. I invent all parts of the music at once. This is not “free improvisation” because in order to sound like some sort of music, although weird, everything has to relate to some common ground. The common ground in this particular performance is parallel transposition of minor chords. In this case using only the tonica, first, second fourth and sixth position transposition diminishes the palette further and creates a musical universe where almost anything can be played and still turn out harmonic.

The looping technique used here is to start out by playing an instrument and recording it as a very long loop. Careful to initially play only notes that will work harmonically even if transposed (thinking not only about actual sound here but also about what scales any given future transposition of the recorded loop may imply). So as lungs go empty of air I close the loop and it starts repeating. Now I use foot pedals to shift speed/pitch of this long loop into different intervals while I play along. Manipulating transposition of the recorded loop is one orchestral element and my live instrument is a second – both elements are parts of the same improvisation. This is a simple technical praxis of what I call multi lateral improvisation. If transposing a musical part in minor you get totally different harmonic scale options for your playing compared to transposing a musical part in major. It can easily become too complex to sound interesting so the challenge is, in my opinion, to find themes and refine them.

Composers use similar theoretical rules to create scores, but to me in this moment of time it is more fun to work out techniques that allow you to do it all at once in sound!

(edit)
Since publishing I have received some questions on what software were used in this performance, so here we go: Mainstage by Apple is the “effect rack”, “mixer” and “patchbay”. Inside Mainstage I am running the AU plugin version of the looper Mobius. As soon as the first loop is recorded Mobius calculates the musical tempo I am playing in and sends out MIDI Clock which Mainstage adapts its tempo to. This makes tempo dependent effects follow my playing/live looping. Maybe I should also mention that the video doesn’t cover the extensive foot work done to simultaneously play Mobius from a Behringer FCB1010 MIDI pedal board. There are almost as many looping commands happening as there are notes played in this performance.

The audio sensitive live graphics are simply the iTunes Visualizer

The Chapman Stick totally rocks!!!

playing the Chapman StickI’m learning a new music instrument here, The Chapman Stick. It’s so fun because on the stick you can play both bass, comping chords and melody lines at the same time. The instrument has twelve strings divided into two groups of six and each group has its own set of electro magnetic pickups and output.

The Stick was invented by musician Emmet Chapman in the late sixties to be used by himself as his “custom instrument”. However, many folks that heard him play also wanted sticks so Emmet started manufacturing in -74. I feel honored having an instrument actually built by the inventor. Thank you, Emmet!

Here’s where you can read more about The Chapman Stick.

Epilogue: Below is a quick video I recorded as a freshman on the Stick. I will soon upload something more exciting, as I’m slowly rewiring brain to improve its skills as the conductor of the “two independent hands” orchestra.

How to sync plugins to Mobius looper in Bidule

Bidule is one of the most configurable plug-in hosts for setting up your own custom effect and live looping laptop rig. In this example we’re using the software looper Mobius. Here’s how you make all your plugins take on the tempo you create by the first loop you make:

Detailed walk-through:

1. Set Mobius to “Sync = Out” (“Configurations / Presets / Synchronization”).

2. Set Mobius to “Plugin Output Devices = IAC Driver IAC Bus 1” (“Configurations/MIDI Device Selection”. The IAC bus only applies if using OS X. If using Windows you have to download and install MIDI Yoke in order to be able to send MIDI through the system, between applications and plug-ins). 3. In Bidule, open the IAC Bus (as “MIDI Device”).

4. In Bidule, toss in a “MIDI Clock To Sync” bidule and cable it to the IAC Bus device.

5. In Bidule, right-click all tempo dependent plug-ins and chose this “MIDI Clock To Sync” bidule under “Sync To”.

I also think it’s cool to set Mobius maximal respectively minimum tempo to a BPM span I like playing in. This prevents ending up with a way to fast tempo if starting out a session by creating an extremely short first loop (for glitchy stuff) or with a boring slow tempo if starting out with a very long first loop.

Link to Mobius.
It’s a free download. On this site there is also a discussion forum, a manual and a scripting documentation.

I have posted similar walk-throughs for hosting Mobius in Mainstage and Logic at my Picture Album Area at the Mobius Forum (requires forum membership registration to keep bad spam out).

And there is more on Bidule: http://www.plogue.com/

I would appreciate if people post questions here or at the fora (above), rather than contacting me directly. I have no chance to help everyone individually and if I should try to do that no one else would benefit from it. So please let’s be friends at the fora, share the goodies and spread them to everyone!

Florence Live Looping jam # 1+2+3


This is the first improvised session, from the “Anteprima” of the “First International Live Looping Festival – in Rome”, that took place on the 6th june 2009 www.livelooping.it
This recording was taken in Florence on the 3th june 2009, at the “Anfiteatro dell’Anconella”.

Performers:
Rick Walker (USA)
Per Boysen (SE)
Fabio Anile (IT)
Sjaak Overgaauw (BE)
Koan Loop Ensemble (IT) (Massimo Liverani, Massimo Fantoni, Claudio Canaccini, Fabio Capanni, Fabrizio Orrigo)

Florence Concert – listen here!

firenze2The three clips below were recorded on June 3 2009 at the International Live Looping Festival of Florence. After the festival night we gathered all artists on stage and played a jam session together. The moon was full and sixty people were sitting in the purple neon lined open-air amphitheatre listening to these sounds. For a Scandinavian like me it was nice to be out at night in a park and not being attacked by mosquitos. Anyway, sound files are streamed from Fabio Anile’s podcast.
Florence_03-06-09-Jam1.mp3

Florence_03-06-09-Jam2.mp3

Florence_03-06-09-Jam3.mp3
The musicians you hear playing on this recording are Rick Walker (Found Sound, Percussion), Per Boysen (EWI), Sjaak Overgauuw (Piano, Synth), Fabio Anile (Piano, Synth, Drum Loops). And then there were all the Koan Loop Ensemble members: Massimo Liverani (Theremin, Air-synth, Air-fx), Marco Canaccini (Percussion), Massimo Fantoni (Laptop, Drum Loops, Samples), Fabrizio Arrigo (Piano), Fabio Capanni (Electric Guitar).

Video clip from my Rome concert

I just got this video from Milco who was filming my gig at Dimmidisi Club on june 6. It was a lovely evening with quite a big audience and many exciting performers. Isn’t it wonderful that today’s music gear in a laptop lets you create this massive music with just one flute! No pre recording – just you and your instrument, instantly composing as you go and arranging on-the-fly with livelooping techniques. I-just-love-it! :-)

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Sounds and pictures from Blekinge Jazz & World Music 2009

Workshop: live looping

Live Looping workshops all week long

Fifty people got together for a week during the Swedish summer to improve in music. I was one of seven teachers and my focus at the camp was live looping. On the first day students were organized into six ensembles as to provide a varied instrumentation within each group. I did one mandatory live looping workshop with each ensemble plus a couple of opt-in open classes. Click the player below and listen to this five minute medley what exciting music the students came up with!
[audio:http://www.perboysen.com/audio/BJWM2009_looping_medley.mp3|titles=Live Looping Workshops Medley|artists=Deltagare vid Blekinge Jazz World Music 2009]

Workshop details:
After a short demonstration – where I explained a few basic commands like record, overdub, multiply and reverse – the ensemble sat down with instruments around a microphone and control MIDI pedal. One person created the first loop and then the next person in turn was to add something. I gave no musical directives – what you are hearing in this recording is just the music that was spontaneously improvised during the collective looping process.

Technical details:
We were using the freeware live looping software Mobius as an AU plug-in hosted by Apple’s Mainstage on a laptop. The MIDI control pedal board was a Behringer FCB1010. When a looping piece felt finished and no one wished to add more playing, I saved all loops by the Save Project command in Mobius. After the camp week I imported all those loops into Logic to mix and create this medley.

The Student's Concert

Listen to the final concert!

At the end of the week the students performed a public concert in front of an audience. Since I had a laptop I decided to record the concert with two stereo crossed microphones. Click the media player below to start the one hour concert stream:

[audio:http://www.perboysen.com/audio/01_stenristarna.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/02_emigrantvisa.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/04_woman.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/05_there_wont.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/06_spelmannen.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/07_allofme.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/08_malaika.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/09_lisbet.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/10_tango.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/11_katarinas.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/12_theherd.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/13_varldensfralsare.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/14_arabisk.mp3,http://www.perboysen.com/audio/15_hurduvander.mp3|titles=Stenristarna,Emigrantvisa,Woman On Vidda,There Won’t Be Another You,Spelmannen,All of Me,Malaika,Lisbet and The Hobyz Medley,Tango,Katarinas Humpa,The Herd, Världens Frälsare,Arabisk sjuåtta,Hur du än vänder|artists=BJWM2k9 Students and Anders Hagberg,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students,BJWM2k9 Students]

While you are listening to the concert you may like to check out my pictures from the camp week!

If you have additional picture or video links to share, please post them here in the comment section!

During the week I had one hour off and decided to use the free time to attend Kristofer’s workshop Percussion As Second Instrument:

And here’s the slow version, for all of us thick-heads… Please follow the master:

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“First Meeting” trio concert downloads

concert_mars2009
One night in Mars 2009 I met up with these two guys to play a completely improvised concert together. They had been playing together before, but not with me, so I was excited not to know whatever to expect on stage. It turned out great fun though and someone was even recording it.

We’d like to share these seven pieces that were born on stage that night:
[audio:unitrack4a.mp3,unitrack3a.mp3,unitrack3b.mp3,unitrack3c.mp3,unitrack3d.mp3,unitrack3e.mp3,unitrack3f.mp3|titles=Improvisation 1,Improvisation 2,Improvisation 3,Improvisation 4,Improvisation 5,Improvisation 6,Improvisation 7|artists=Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen,Kristofer Johansson / Niclas Höglind / Per Boysen]

Kristofer Johansson: cajon, snare drum and other percussive objects.
Niclas Höglind: 8-stringed guitar, Apple Mainstage laptop.
Per Boysen: fretless guitar, alto flute, EWI, Apple Mainstage laptop.

An interesting aspect of this group improvisation is that we were instantly recording ourselves and arranging this live looping to go with the bands playing. This was done with MIDI foot pedals and the live looping software Mobius.

Niclas and Kristofer are also active with Unit.

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How to use chord progression in live looping

When you loop live it can be quite a challenge to make use of such a basic musical component as a simple chord progression. This may have to do with the sad fact that some looping devices can only play one loop and this loop can not be re-pitched either. Not much to do about that, I’m afraid. The two techniques I’m about to describe relies on using many loops and on modulating the pitch of one loop. As an example I have uploaded this video where I play a song with a melody theme that stretches over a progression of five chords. I create these five chords in the beginning of the piece, as separate loops, and then I simply swap loop as the melody passes through the chord progression. At the middle section, the breakdown, I change key from minor to major by pitching up the dominant chord of the minor key five half steps. This makes this major chord land at the tonica pitch – and so we’ve moved from minor to major in the same key! Notice how the rhythm of the loop changes as its pitch is being modulated. This happens because I’m using Rate/Speed Shift rather than Pitch Shift combined with Time Stretch. Since I’m overdubbing two layers of eight note arpeggio playing, to build “a chord”, this Speed Shift break-down section also goes into some odd grooves. I think those kinds of “poly rhythm accidents” are great fun and a reason I  love varispeed and don’t miss the time calculated pitch shifting function I had with that old Repeater (looper) back in the days.


Gammal fäbodspsalm (Old Cottage Psalm) from Per Boysen on Vimeo.

The Bare Bones Course
For those of you who want to know exactly what is going on in this live looping performance, here’s a step by step walk-through (using Mobius software looper):

  1. Kicking “Record” EXACTLY on the first downbeat as I play the arpeggio of the first chord, B minor.
  2. Kicking “Overdub” EXACTLY as I play the fifth note in the arpeggio. This causes four things to happen: (1) the arpeggio loop starts playing back the first four notes I just played in a loop, (2) my recent playing will overdub a second layer to the loop and (3) the technical tempo is set by my looper (Mobius standalone software looper) and a MIDI Clock signal is sent out through the OS X IAC Bus (internal MIDI pipe system on Mac). (4) My pre amp and effect rig software, Apple MainStage, is receiving the MIDI Clock tempo signal and corrects its tempo setting to follow what I’m playing and looping. If you listen carefully you may hear a filtered delay slap-back gated to short 16th note slices behind the 8th notes I’m playing. This is a typically useful application of musically synced effects in MainStage. I hope this explains why I don’t like to play live looping with a click track; it’s more fun to start playing as you feel the music coming out through you rather than adapting to a machine. I don’t mind a lot of machines adapting to my own playing though. That’s sort of the point in using instruments – you express yourself through them and not the other way around :-)
  3. Kicking “NextLoop” somewhere before the loop reaches its turnaround point. My looper is set to “SwitchQuantize=Cycle”, which means the first loop I record sets the resolution for when all kind of “switching” commands will be applied. I like it that way because you can relax and focus on the music; just kick the pedal at any point during the last cycle before you want the switch to happen.
  4. The looper switches from Loop 1 to Loop 2. Now the old loop I just recorded stops playing back and nothing else plays back instead, since this is a new and yet empty loop. I have set up my looper to behave like this when selecting an empty loop slot: creating a new loop of one cycle’s length and putting it into Overdub Mode. So, you see the point; that I can seamlessly start to overdub my live playing into a new loop (Loop 2) that has the same length and tempo as the first one I created. In this piece of music one loop cycle equals one musical bar and that makes it easy to play a different arpeggio for the second chord (F# major) without loosing the tempo. This time I don’t have to worry about kicking pedals with a precise timing. I play the F# major arpeggio for two bars and make sure I kick the “NextLoop” pedal again during the second bar/cycle.
  5. The looper switches from Loop 2 to Loop 3. I perform the same routines but with the difference that I now play other notes: an eight note based arpeggio matching the chord A major.
  6. The looper switches from Loop 3 to Loop 4. I perform the same routines but with the difference that I now play other notes: an eight note based arpeggio matching the chord G major.
  7. The looper switches from Loop 4 to Loop 5. I perform the same routines but with the difference that I now play other notes: an eight note based arpeggio matching the chord D major.
  8. Kicking “Direct Call Loop 2”. Loop 2 is the F# major chord arpeggio and I want to start the melody line with an upbeat from that chord.
  9. Stepping through the loops while playing the melody. Now, the song doesn’t utilize the chords in the same order I created the chord arpeggio loops. On the MIDI pedal I now kick this sequence while playing: “Loop 1, Loop 2, Loop 1, Loop 3, Loop 4, Loop 5, Loop 2”. The melody stays for two bars in each loop except for Loop 4 which goes on for 4 bars.

The mid section, where I change the Loop Speed/Rate, uses only Loop 2, the F# major arpeggio. This is a different technique to induce chord change in live looping and I like it better because it is all open for improvisation. I have a pedal bank set up to speed shift a loop into any of nine optional intervals. If you know the intervals and the key of the source loop, then you have all the information needed for improvising melodies as you also improvise chord progressions. I use to compare this to two hand improvisation on the piano; not very complicated at all, you just have to get used to dividing your consciousness into following and coordinating two simultaneous processes. This is a powerful technique for doing what I call Instant Composition, improvisation that also includes musical structures. I’ll post a video on that later, because I’d love to see more live looping musicians follow into this exciting new field!

You can learn more about and download Mobius at circularlabs.com



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What is Livelooping?

Livelooping is enormously fun – You can do it too!
Livelooping is about creating, juggling with and reworking loops to create complex music on-the-fly, normally without using prerecorded material. This is not the same as the static loops typically heard in the background of some contemporary music. Livelooping is more like standing by the edge of a huge canyon and sing back to your own echo. Then you take it one step further by catching the echoes and rework them to create a building of music. While doing that you stay on top of the roof and keep on playing to create new material for the next floor. The building grows, changes, falls apart and grows back into different directions…

In order to start livelooping
you need at least one loop based real-time sampler, or software loopers in a computer. By controlling recording, looping and editing with your feet you will keep your hands free to play instruments that provide the raw sound material for looping.

A new way of listening
For an audience a livelooping concert can be an incredibly inspiring experience. You are not presented a finished artwork that is locked into its composed form. Instead, you are able to follow in detail how each musician is adding his parts to the music – note after note, loop after loop. It is like an instantly evolving ritual of magic that never repeats itself.

I think livelooping can bridge the gap between composer, director, DJ, musician and remix artist. It is a true crossover technique and a meta instrument that can ultimately free your creativity!

Livelooping.org
Loopers Delight
Comparison chart of looping tools