Looping is a central component in the music of both Huntsville, Dans les arbres and my solo work within the project.
1. Human loop
Often, when I play repetitive rhythms in the ensembles, I act like a human loop. My focus is continuously shifting between myself and the others, between what I do in the moment and what the others play. I shift between my own meter(s); taking care of my own beat(s) and pulse(s) on one side, and participating; bleeding into one of the other parallel pulses on the other side.
When I play with a machine loop, I try to achieve an independent relationship between the different looped layers. This is both in order to keep out of the typical monotonous electric-guitar-with-loop-pedal world1 (pioneered by for example Bill Frisell and Robert Fripp, and copied by too many to mention), but also to maintain the variation and the independence that the human loop offers – the kind of looping that we do in the ensembles (I loop like a human too in Huntsville, even if I also use a machine loop).
I found a flexible and versatile looping device built in MAX MSP, which I developed and got help re-programming, changing and tweaking it into a very flexible tool, with some interesting and useful limitations. This tool helps me make the loops more irregular, with more stops, pauses, variations – something I almost never did before. With this looping device I can record up to 6 different and totally independent buffers of sound, and I can scrub and move around in the sound file, zoom into tiny sounds, pitch up and down – most often I pitch down, slow down. Everything sounds better when it is slowed down.2
1. Human loop. From Dans les arbres at Final Artistic Presentation, 21 April 2015:
3. Machine loop. ‘Electronic mirror’, from studio session with Dans les arbres, August 2015 (00:52). Several layers of Dans les arbres-recordings are slowed and pitched down by the MAX MSP tool. Randomized start and stop points for each buffer.
4. Machine loop. From Final Artistic Presentation, solo album Stop Freeze Wait Eat (00:17)
5. Combination of Human and Machine loop. From a concert at Nesodden, March 2013:
5. Combination of Human and Machine loop. From concert at Norwegian Academy of Music, October 2014:
1Previously I tried to work my way around this by using several loop pedals, with distinct qualities, in a chain. At least, this offered a higher complexity. But, in the end, after listening to enough repeats, this also got monotonous. “Time does untangle complexity”. And, “…eventually everything becomes melody”. (Morton Feldman, “Vertical Thoughts“ in Give My Regards to Eight Street, Collected Writings of Morton Feldman. Ed B.H. Friedman, Exact Change (2000)
2It does. At least, with the MAX MSP patch everything sounds better when it is slowed down. When I record something on the guitar, it always sounds better when I pitch and slow it down to, let’s say ½ or ¼. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it sounds less like what I just played? Or that it somehow distorts reality, adding a murky filter, an… inhuman touch.