I’ve had a note in my endless TO DO list for about a month now, and am finally getting around to it!
sort improv – MIDIfy & dbase them!
At a guess I’d say I have about 120 bits of original music floating around my hard drive, all improvised or things I have saved or exported while working on something else… Some have had development work done, and have a clear future to them.. many don’t… but they all are potentially worth developing. But… its more fun to noodle around, starting new things rather than putting in the hard work to actually finish things. Hence the note above, its a small step towards a new modus operandi.
This process is related to one idea in the ableton LIVE MAKING MUSIC Book – specifically the CATALOG OF ATTRIBUTES although it is aimed primarily at building a database of references to other peoples music, so as to help clarify direction by referencing specific attributes (the tempo of this song, the bass sound of this song etc etc) – I don’t need that help, many years of listening and playing and thinking mean I know what direction/s I want to head in. But the process is useful to get an overview and to track individual musical ideas.
Here is the plan:
Any time a new bit of music is started, it must be logged into a database, at the time or soon after.
This database will have standard technical notes: key, tempo, instrumentation/elements etc as well as a few descriptive comments and a few comments about direction and evolution. But it will also contain a link to a rough mix of each piece of music. The aim being to still allow myself to improvise and write freely, but simultaneously add to this database and have an overview on individual music pieces as well as overall projects…
I tend to create music via a few different means
1. playing and experimenting in Ableton LIVE
2. playing and experimenting in ProTools
3. playing acoustic instruments
4. playing electronic instruments
Anything I start in LIVE or ProTools is fairly easy to manage, although I am also getting into the habit of printing external instruments (eg a recent dubby tune started in LIVE has some organ from my Korg SV1, so I retain the MIDI but also record the SV1 to audio, so the session is self contained and doesn’t rely on me recalling the external setup/patch or my intent or memory of how it sounded. I am also forming a new habit of printing or freezing virtual elements, I went back to an old LIVE session a while ago only to discover the developer had discontinued development of the instrument plugin and never upgraded it to 64 bit so it would not work in latest ableton LIVE. It was somewhat painful nervously downloading 32bit LIVE hoping it would then work….)
As a minimum I always record improv on acoustic instruments to my little Sony D100, so whether its playing vibes, marimba, melodica, drums, guitar, bass or whatever I have trained myself to always be in record. A few times in the distant past I have found a great melody or something, and had to go find a recorder, only to get distracted and lose the melody or feel of the piece. Ideas can be so fleeting, if you aren’t already recording then you risk losing them. Sometimes I even resort to whistling a melody eg if I am driving, but the goal is always the same: capture it for future reference & development. Occasionally I will properly mic up an instrument, but regardless each of these recordings will go into the database. And as a part of this process I will also convert each of these acoustic improvs to MIDI using Melodyne.
Effectively the same applies to improv from electronic sources. I have my modular synth set up now with its own MOTU 828 interface, so I can capture 8 channels of audio from the modular. Whether or not the modular or any other of my synths is clocked to ProTools or LIVE varies a lot, often not… but regardless that material ends up in the computer. And the database.
I’ve started my database in Filemaker Pro, but theres nothing particularly necessary for it be Filemaker – data is data, can export it to any better platform if one is found.
If you are a musician or composer do you do this? Or something like it?
The need becomes more obvious when there is a finite project underway eg an album or something. But just as i stash written ideas and save photos and design ideas into a database, it seems like a step that should be a permanent part of the creative process, regardless of the medium.
The upside to this process is rediscovering long forgotten fragments of music, often recorded late at night etc… Stashed but not forgotten!