Tag Archives: mobius

Art film soundtrack: Tenor Sax live looping

Pose in Ivana – Reinvention of pose from Heidi on Vimeo.

Here’s a nice film that uses music I created by playing my Tenor Sax and Mobius looper; i.e. my “meta instrument for live looping”. This approach to live looping is different than the typical “Boss looping pedal layering” technique in that it draws on the methods discovered in the fifties by the folks involved with Musique Concrete at IRCAM in Paris (as well as the San Fransisco Tape Music Centre). Everything Pierre Schaeffer could do in the fifties with tape and scissors can now be done instantly while also playing an instrument to provide the source audio to be processed. The video was shot in New York while the cut-up performing technique of this saxophone goes back to Paris; both cities often associated with the Tenor Sax.

Lovely Harp Guitar!

Just a quick video upload testing out my new Tim Donahue signature Electric Fretless Harp Guitar. I think it plays like a dream… in fact I have been dreaming for decades about certain aspects of what this instrument has to offer. Tim designed it and has been playing this and the fretted version since the eighties and just recently initiating manufacturing of his harp guitars. You’ll find more on that at www.timdonahue.com

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!

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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