Meeting with Neil
I met with another local area artist, Neil Cain, last night and just had a round of discussion about anything and everything related to electronic music. He is originally from Indiana, but moved out to the west coast for a while and got involved with the electronic music scene there. We discussed a lot of the prevailing mindsets of electronic musicians, and what we saw as interesting developments in the performance and composition of electronic music in general.
Neil noted that he thinks that many people get involved with electronic music because the individual can be a “one person show”, and can be free to experiment on all facets of the musical composition without having to rely on an another member.
Many of the performances he attended out west involved the use of laptops as a sort of control interface. This causes a couple of problems…
The laptop in itself is not a desirable control interface. While laptops are becoming more rugged, they still are unable to handle the array of dangers that some live performances produce. (many times the musicians will actually break the laptop on stage). While breaking an instrument (such as a laptop in this case) during a live performance isn’t necessarily a bad thing (the Who smashed most of their instruments on stage), in the case of laptops, the instrument actually contains most of the information for the entire program, and the show would come to a halt after it would fail.
Performer to Audience
Neil noted that there is a performance “disconnect” between the performer and the audience most of the time. The interface to the music is usually highly console oriented. The performer is unable to manipulate the music unless he disengages himself from the audience to concentrate on his laptop/console.
Quirks and Tricks
Neil had a number of tricks that he used to enhance the performance of his shows. For instance, he used a microphone connected to his screen as a trigger for effects/audio signals. He set the sensitivity of the mic very low, and then would drum on the back of the laptop screen with his hands. The microphone would only pick up the noise of the impact of his hands. This noise would be converted into signalling information to manipulate different musical or video control parameters.