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Re: Looping and Composing

Hey all,

<<I'm wondering if some of you could explain a bit about how real-time 
fits into your compositions or your approach to composing? Also, how common
has this become among modern composers, and what sorts of things are others
doing with looping?  Any ideas about where these ideas are heading and what
sorts of things we might hear in loop compositions of the future?>>

I've definitely got more ideas in my head than on tape (or paper) about 
topic, but I'm going to share anyway.

The most obvious thing to do, and I think the most tedious, is to make the
looper play ostinati for you while you show off ("Buy the incredible 
It plays rhythm while you SOLO FOR DAYS!!"). This happens in every genre, 
course, but really, I think most everyone on this list is beyond that :-) I
think playing something like "Piano Phase" by Reich with a looper is a good
example of this kind of application. I was a little fascinated by Jon 
post about playing fugue with a looper. Jon, I get the looper/pitch shifter
connection, but how do you play through the episodes and so forth?

Then, of course, you can use it to slowly build static structures, out of
noises, pitches, what have you. This is the basic ambient/soundscape
application, with maybe something written on paper thrown in. This kind of
thing is when the "undo" and "replace" functions come in handy, 'cause just
when it gets boring, you can change things around a bit. I haven't heard
enough of Paul Dresher's solo guitar stuff to say with any certainty that 
is what he does, but he's on the list. Maybe he has something to say on the
subject? Steve Mackey is another guy who does "classical" electric guitar 
loopers, etc.

What I'm interested in (for now) is the use of the looper as an interactive
electronic device. One idea is, when playing from a score, to punch parts 
the piece into the looper. Over time, you get different parts of the piece
burbling around, reinforcing (or conflicting with) the rest of the piece. 
is sort of the "live electronic tape" approach. You could have the 
trigger the punch ins, or have someone else control it, which makes things
even more interesting. You can also use various effects on the looped 
for sonic variety/chaos. You don't have to limit this to guitar music, of
course. Any instrument can work, as can ensembles. Really, the only 
problem I
see with these instruments for "serious" composition is the fact that they 
repetition incarnate. For repetitive music applications, they're great, but
for variety and developement, it's problematic. Even Minimalism does not 
on literal repetition alone.  

As for who is doing this kind of thing, there's Paul Dresher (of course) 
Steve Mackey (who I mentioned above), both of whom are guitarists, and I'm 
sure who else. Brian Ferneyhough may be doing this kind of work, but would
definitely fall into the third (tape-on-the-fly) catagory. Paolo Vallado is
down at UCSD, isn't he? Can you speak to the Ferneyhough issue? Overall, I
wouldn't say it was common, and considering the general conservative 
trends in
contemporary music it probably won't be to common, at least in the near
future. Of course, there will be people who are happy to try this stuff, 
as it
does offer some intriguing possibilities. There are plenty of composers 
doing electronic music. 

Anyway, there's my .02. By the way, can anyone UNSUDBSKRIBB me? :-) 

Drew Wheeler