Approaching the work
Many of Daniel’s recordings incorporated other performers or post-production treatments, meaning that these fully mixed stereo recordings were quite ‘full’ already, not did we necessarily have access to the constituent parts given the recordings were made in various locations and over differing periods of time. However, on his CD (In Dust & Rhytms, 2012), each track presented a unique solo didj piece, each effected to varying degrees by live digital signal processing (DSP) and simply named as Pulse One through to Pulse Six. I was drawn to these recordings, firstly because of their solo simplicity and potential for later additions, their rhythmical power and variations (indeed, aptly named ‘pulses’), and often unusual but evocative timbral effects. Secondly though, there was an attractive connection to some of my earlier work (Ibid) where I had sought to map out and understand improvisational processes though the analyses and manipulation of recorded performances using various software tools in a computer-based digital audio workstation (DAW). In this, various aspects of musical performances were ‘mapped’ using the DAW’s on-board facilities to understand such musical elements as key signatures, shifting tonal centres, chordal structures, tempo changes, dynamics, instrumental interplay, etc. This not only drew out some of the fascinating aspects of improvised musical communication, it simultaneously highlighted many of the shortcomings of the contemporary recording software in that these tools can indeed have forceful “kinetic laws” (Adorno, 1973, p. 3).
To explain further: modern DAW designs1 ‘expect’ contemporary popular music-styled arrangements where performers often adhere to fixed tempi (and/or perform to metronome ‘click tracks’) and employ repetitive harmonic structures, ‘loops’ and form arrangements. Not that I intend disrespect for much inspirational music that has been created in such genres, but rather, that in these last decades many aspects of the software haven’t evolved as much as they might in terms of musical breadth. If then one is working with variously live, erratic, extended, improvised or experimental works – commercialised software tools tend to become much less functional in terms of further arrangement ‘smarts’ without the assumed frames of reference. In my earlier research then, I was not only examining ‘free’ music, I was also grappling with ways in which to try to bridge the gaps between improvisation, composition, arrangement and the production of final recordings by using the technology to learn and manipulate the work into more refined shapes.
To return to Daniel’s ‘pulse’ pieces then, given their solo nature together with shifting tempi, time signatures, and often illusive tonal /cultural /pitch references, they seemed well suited to further explore, develop and apply these earlier approaches. More email went back and forth with Daniel who confirmed that he’d like to be part of the process – I’d work on some of his material, send some versions, he’d respond with other recordings and so on. We also spent time in identifying just what resources we both had easy access to, some aspects of how we worked with these, along with very specific arrangements and agreement about the file formats, sizes, transportation methods etc.