ClusterGam, Ableton Live Set by Dan Senn for live performance
ClusterGam3.4 by Dan Senn
A description of an Ableton Live Set for live improvisation and performance.
Click to Enlarge - MIDI files in ALive above

 Listen to audio excerpts from the following list (click red files ->).
9up|9+9up|1 (Taking Sides, video + sound)

Audio files in ALive above.

is constructed from the 13 lydes of my Prague Gamelyde and recorded for this project in 2013 at my Smichov Studio in The Czech Republic. Thirteen soundfonts were made, eleven samples for each, a single font for each lyde. The samples, 11 for each instrument, with the exception of the first (a simple bell strike) are textural and thus linear in nature. For example, number 10, as described below, is a recording of me "scrubbing" the inside of the bell, its rough surface with the rough edge of the pvc mallet, to create a small performance texture. To better understand this instrument, and most of my sound fonts created since working with the Fairlight CMI in 1980 at the Canberra School of Music, I have created textural samples which are themselves standalone performances which are then resampled for create complex structures. For this instrument, thirteen soundfonts are merged with each font uniquely meddled with. A MIDI file was created for one of the fonts, i.e. "8|4" (translates to "an improvisation using recorded texture #8 on lyde instrument #4"), when played back on instrument 10 will sound similar but varied according to lyde characteristics (a different instrument), performance whim, and setup decisions within Ableton Live. For me, while performing, preservation of "the moment" is important and has been for the past 40 years. I will rarely use an external time device, for example, in sample recordings relying on an internal clock telling me when the improvisation is over.

Here is a list of the recorded textures. 1) [C-2, c-b] bell strike and ring off. 2) [C-1, c-b] bell strike with turn (looped sustain) and ring off. 3) [C0, c-b] turn without a strike (looped sustain) and ring off. 4) [C1, c-f] single strike on bottom of wooden handle. 5) [C1, f#-b] about 8 strikes on bottom of wooden handle which starting at different points in the sequence. 6) [C2, c-f] long sequence of wood handle strikes with varied start points. 7) [C2, f#-b] long sequence of hand muted bell strikes with start points. 8) [C3, c-f] long sequence of mallet being tossed about in bell held upward with varying start points. 9)[C3, f#-b] with bell in one hand, the mallet is quickly rotated at the 90 degree joint striking the wooden handle and aluminum bell to create a long sequence with varying start points. 10) [C4-5, c-f] using top of pvc mallet, the lyde held by the handle, the inside of the bell is "scrubbed" and rotated ("scrubbed") to create a long sequence of sounds with start points (and pitch) varied by scale degreesC6, c-f, ends on C7] hard rubbing handle while holding in other hand and knocking into bell to create sequences. 11) [C6, c-f, ends on C7] sequences made from rubbing handle while knocking into side of bell.

An important aspect in the way that each of these recorded textures are implemented within each sounfont is that 7 of the textures,  5 through 11, are effectively mini-improvisations (stand alone works) in and off themselves. Some of these are short, like a sequence of 8 short strikes for a 5 texture. Others go one for 1-2 minutes. What this uniquely offers, however, is the ability to create 6 different start points in any one of these sound files which may be varied according to a) pitch, b) file start point, and c) numerous other fx which can be uniquely applied to a recorded sound. When a sound is manually or algorithmically triggered by a MIDI devise, the tendency is to perform only the earliest part of the file, not the entire file, and so the start point is most critical. With other variances applied (a-c just above), an enormous collections of sounds, all of which are made from the same sonic DNA, can be extracted from the original recording and soundfont.

The instruments cover ten 8ves, C-2 to C7. While in Note Mode on LPPro, this set may also be played in any scale mode but targeted for performance in the chromatic mode. Also, each instrument in the set is treated differently, which is beyond the scope of this introduction, as detailed to some extent in the previous paragraph.

Each of the 13 lydes in the Set above are represented twice, one for the stereo field between speaker 1-2, and the other for speakers 3-4. Live performances may occur in stereo (the recorded examples below are in stereo) but the instruments is designed for quadraphonic playback. The 26 columns on the right contain MIDI files which play instruments stereo location randomized. Therefore, to play 9|7 in the front speakers and rear speakers simultaneously will result in playback which varies for every playback as event locations will seem to move in a very complex manner within the performance space.

The final six fields are audio recordings of MIDI performances from the previous 26 fields/colums and arranged for quadphonic playback. In each case, there is 2 versions of a MIDI file recorded, and sometimes 4, to retain the 4-channel complexity just described, and sometimes I have added descriptive titling to assists my memory. But the main purpose of these audio renditions is to enable access to, say, ClusterGam 9, while using the actual ClusterGam 9 soundfont with a MIDI file. These are also created as stand alone compositional works and are represented below.

Ableton Live Set Index