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Improvising with Kyma: Miniaturen X, Cecil Variations B, Lehnade 2

Presented by Eckard Vossas

Usually I tend to perform spontaneous and free improvisations adopting Kyma and its enormous means. Normally I start with arbitrarily chosen ready-made sounds (either found in libraries or elsewhere or intentionally composed and assembled), tweaking them (something like circuit-bending in software), rolling the dice, combining on the fly with other sounds and modifiers, building flexible combinations, bringing from time to time also natural instruments (either directly or through sampling) into this communication, and explore then the arising musical space; thus establishing a dialog of technical potential and momentary musical taste as well as emotional atmosphere.

For the Barcelona Symposium and to keep it simple I decided to restrict this free approach a little bit and to start with prepared frameworks, which are the "frozen" results of such explorations, and to walk from these starting points on the wild side of improvisation, not really knowing in advance, where it ends.

To these frameworks of departure I gave the following titles:

Miniaturen X: consists of a collection of several prepared Kyma sounds with diversified characteristics, heterogeneous, uncoupled and individual, all of synthesized nature. You can think of any miniature as of a newly built instrument with its internal spiritedness, which is probed by all sides, leading to short pieces in performance. Duration, course, movement and development of every miniature is not determined in advance. The sounds are constructed in a manner, that they provide a lot of parameters bound to MIDI or Continuum controllers, which can change the resulting sound character, sometimes drastically. I also like artifacts, popping up sometimes due to offenses against clean programming.

Every performance is controlled by tweaking these offered parameters or by playing with parameter settings found in earlier stages of improvisation and retained in Presets (thus every miniature is at the same time the result of an evolution of former performances). Very important is the excessive usage of controllers like the Continuum and a MIDI keyboard, which assist in translating musical ideas and feelings through the fingers into sounding. Most sounds depend heavily on the sensitive potential of the Continuum, some sounds are even silent without a Continuum.

Cecil Variations B: is based on a short sample of a Cecil Taylor solo piano theme, variegated manipulated and transmogrified e.g. by sample modifications and TAU methods with several live controls and exertions of influence. This flow of repeating piano pattern sound variations is combined with some timbre experiments on a sampled and alienated piano chord.

Lehnade 2: the title is derived from Thomas Lehn, an excellent improviser on old monophonic analogue synthesizers (mostly EMS Synthi A). In the core the piece consists of a Timeline track, which is the result of a random improvisation with a sound from the Kyma library leading to sound events sounding like those, which Thomas Lehn often produces, combined with some live played synthesized Kyma sound snippets.

At last some words about aesthetics: I'm primarily interested more in musical structures than in melodies and harmonics. The sound characteristics tend to be inconvenient, harsh, overdriven, raw, de-constructive, seldom atmospheric.

Remark: All sounds make extensive use of a full-sized Continuum as interface between mind, fingers and sound parameters, complemented by a MIDI keyboard and optional MIDI controllers, foot pedals etc.. Due to the circumstance, that is was unfortunately too difficult to provide the needed technical equipment at the venue in Barcelona, the improvisation session will therefore probably reduce to a sample session recorded at home by a video camera and presented on a DVD.

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