Folding: Imitative Counterpoint in Improvisation through Live Sampling

Picture 1Folding is a study in using live sampling as an extension of the classic technique of imitative counterpoint. The title refers to the molecular folding of proteins and other molecules: atoms link together at angles and fold over themselves as they form the molecule, and the resulting shape affects the function of the chemical. Similarly, the voice of an improvising soloist is folded onto itself live to build a musical form.

The work is a hybrid between composition and instrument. The software is equipped to make decisions at a small level on its own, in order to maintain interest without requiring constant intervention by the performer, but it relies on the performer to initiate changes from one state to another. The software uses delay lines and pitch shifters to turn the soloist into a quintet.

The six states of the software’s behavior dictate the approximate delay settings for each voice:

  1. Now (acting as a harmonizer, or in homophony),
  2. Near (within the last few seconds, an echo or stretto ),
  3. Then (recalling a previous timepoint specified during the performance),
  4. Same (recalling a randomly-chosen timepoint from earlier in the performance),
  5. Different (each of the four delay lines go to different points in the delay line, exploring and recombining moments from the past, which may be used as a developmental or transitional section), and
  6. Early (recalling the first material played in the performance, or a recapitulation).

The solo instrumental performer is able to choose the behavior of the software (as one of these states) and how to play in relation to them, for example he or she may play the same material, so all recapitulate the opening material or may play a new countermelody to it. In some performances, performers have enjoyed having me or another computer attendant direct the software as they respond to their past selves, recontextualized in performance through the software.

Performance with Jayson Beaster-Jones, tenor saxophone (MP3)

Performance with Eric km Clark, violin

This work also has a distinct voice when used in a feedback system, when it hears only its own output. Compare this with “Tappatappatappa.” “Folding” with feedback:

To run the software:

  1. Download and install the free Max runtime for your operating system (Mac OS or Windows): click here
  2. Download the performance software (ZIP), unzip it, and open it with the Max runtime.

For solo performance, I can adapt the controls to your MIDI or USB controller. Contact me to let me know what device you’d like to use in performance!



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