All Waterfalls

As I write this, I realize I failed to write on this blog about “Bow + Arrow”, an EP I released in July. You can read all about it in this interview I did with Sunhouse.

This blog post is about my newest project in the works, entitled “Alternative Forests.” I'm reworking “Piano Forest” (a solo piano album I put out in 2015) for Sensory Percussion and electronics. Using the masters from the original record as the primary sampling material, I’m exploring a unique pallet of sounds that result from using Sensory Percussion with such delicate melodic material.

I tried playing four of the new songs live last week at a really crappy venue whose PA didn’t put out frequencies below 10k, which is another funny story unto itself. Despite the circumstances, it was a really fun night of trying new material and doing some improv with friends. Of the four new songs, “All Waterfalls” (a reworking of “Waterfall”) really stood out to me as being where I want it to be for the record, so I decided to go ahead and record it.

At my show I was using three drums to play the song, but almost all of the action was on just one drum. I had the somewhat eccentric idea that if I could squeeze everything onto one drum, I could record it outside in the woods using my smaller audio interface that can be bus powered off my laptop. So that’s exactly what I did.

Staying true to my convictions about playing electronic music truly live without supplemental tracks, all the sounds are played in real time. There is a lot of automation in the Ableton set, which mainly serves the role of bringing different sounds in and out over the course of the piece. I like to use this approach for the more concrete elements of the composition so that I can utilize all of the expressive potential of Sensory Percussion for actual expressivity and not just to make the composition function.

Instead of explaining all the details of how this works, I thought I would just make the Ableton Set and .sps file available to anyone interested in trying it out. You’ll need Sensory Percussion, Ableton Live 10 Suite, and CV Tools installed. Click here to download.

If you want to dive deeper in this workflow, consider taking a skype lesson with me.

One fun thing I employed in this piece was my latest Max For Live device, the CC to Pitch Bend Converter V0. It simply provides a few parameters that can be mapped to CC’s to control MIDI pitch bend. I made this explicitly to use Sensory Percussion controllers to do tap into pitch bend messages in a logical way. In “All Waterfalls” I’m using a speed controller to do a nice pitch bend on the bass. The device is included in the download, feel free to exploit it however you can dream up.

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