Improvizone

Plans for 2009

Andrew Booker 2008-12-29 23:56:59

With 2008 now running on fumes, and as a follow-up to my retrospective a few days ago, I've written down a few plans for 2009. Or at least, ones which I think have a reasonable chance of coming anywhere close to fruition.

More free CDs
Remember SE1, the free Improvizone CD from 2007 that we dished out to promote the gigs? I'm working on two more such free CDs right now.

One disc will contain the majority of our 28 May 2008 gig at Ember, our last one in that venue to date, in which Mike, Os, the Laffsta and I fabricated a good hour and a half of presentable material. I posted one download fairly early on (this one) of what was effectively the soundcheck. I quickly deemed the whole thing to be usable pretty much from start to finish, which is why I have not posted any more downloads from it since. Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I began thinking in concrete terms about mixing it for a CD and realised there was too much. That's OK, there was a bit in the middle I didn't like so much, though it had a good beginning. So I uploaded that just before Christmas. The remaining hour or so needs a little cleanup here and there, some mixing adjustments, otherwise I'm going to leave most of it as it is, warts and missed beats and all.

So that's one CD, seventy minutes of minimally edited material from as much of a complete Improvizone gig as will fit on one disc. It gets nice and hairy and crazy somewhere in the middle, meaning we're not quite at chocolatey Café del Mar wife-friendly status just yet with this album, but as a whole, I think it's really good.

The other CD I have planned is going to represent the state we often end up in when we play to an attentive audience and let our hair down a bit. The ambient atmospherics are there, but at times the rhythm section play a bit harder. The common features of this kind of material tend to be that it comes from gigs at the Plough in Walthamstow and features Nick Cottam on bass. Nick is the only one with properly long hair to let down, really. Thus, this CD will probably be a Plough collection (mostly unused bits from our 05 Dec 2007 gig there), though I do have one other drum-n-bass rock-out I might include from Imbibe, which had the Laffsta plucking the cables, plus guitarist James Hender doing some stunning, completely non-ambient-chillout fret sprints.

One question has arisen in my head around the Ember CD. Should I split long pieces into separate the tracks, fading one out before the other begins, or should I glue the whole gig into one seventy minute piece?

My answer to the first would be, to hell with it, glue the whole thing together. The trouble is that people, myself included, very seldom have an entire 70-minute free period to listen to music, and that assuming they end up ripping the CD onto their mp3 player, which I have no problem with, many mp3 players have no fast forward or location memory facility. Nobody will ever get past the first five minutes, and will curse me from their office desks as they are forced, yet again, to cease playing and field another call from that pesky IT recruitment agent menace.

On the other hand, I like the idea of presenting the whole lot to put on and forget about. The music is, after all, intended to be background music, and presenting it in one long blobule might encourage people to use it as such. I may adopt the compromise of producing the Ember CD with one very long track, then maybe making them available chopped-up as mp3s separately when we've got rid of all the copies. The rockier CD will comprise separate pieces from different gigs, so those will be logically separate.

As with SE1, once again the CDs will be free, but the recordings are not for the downloads list, they are for people who come to the gigs. We won't be dishing out copies in shops as posh fliers this time, although the packaging for these will be card wallets, so they would be much better suited to being left around if we did.

At least one gig per month until the summer
I think I may have found a venue in London W1 for gigs in the first half of next year. It is to be found somewhere in that vertiginous picture I stole from Google Maps. The reason I stole it is because it is now history. The H-shaped building near the middle is the old Middlesex Hospital which closed three years ago and was knocked down last Spring.

W1 is an area of town where I really want us to be playing, though I have nothing really against Upper Walthamstow, where a few more evenings at the Plough playing ambient space rock would be nice too.

I plan to be settling on the core players of Mike and Os, with either Nick or the Laffsta on bass, depending on the venue.

E-drum software
This is my project to make a software drum machine that generates a slightly different sound sample each time I play a pad. I'm still tapping away at this application, and may or may not have something in operation by the time we next do a gig, though I've not devoted a huge amount of time to it, snatching a few half-hours here and there.

The approach I've taken thus far is to generate a sound in advance of it being played. The alternative is to generate it while it's being played, which a modern CPU is easily fast enough to do, but which could give me a headache when I'm trying to play four sounds at once.

Generating in advance is not without its problems. I'm building up a queue of ready made sounds, but the that means I have to make sure a sound is available in time for when it needs to be played. One thing I've tried is to have a kind of revolving carousel of 20 or so sounds, re-generating ones I know have been played. If I don't get to regenerate them it doesn't matter, it just uses the previous sound. But I do have to make sure I'm not trying to play a sound from the queue at exactly the same time as I'm trying to regenerate it. One general deficiency of the queuing technique is that the software can't immediately respond to changes in velocity (how hard I hit the drum) in any way other than in volume. In theory I could assign a velocity (or any other modulation) change to one of the generation parameters, eg note length. But I woudn't hear the consequence of the changes until several sounds later.

So I might try on-demand generation after all. Also, I can add more sound generation techniques over time as an ongoing enhancement project. Plus I could take up Os's offer of help turning it into a VST plugin. Plenty to do on this, in other words. Another idea would be to make the GUI as interesting as possible to watch, and use it as one of the evening's video projection sources.

It will have to be fairly damn interesting though, to compete with some of my slowed-down phone-camera studies of the lower ground floor of the Pompidou Centre. I mean, come on...

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