Elijah B Torn was introduced to me at the Warper Party. Apologies to Elijah, but the gimmick was a microcontroller-manipulated light bulb. “Hey, come downstairs, you’ve got to see this guy — he’s got a lightbulb that flashes in time to the music!” Actually, maybe that’s perfectly appropriate: crowded on our feet in front of Elijah on his laptop, everyone stared into his bright, blinking lightbulb, like a uniquely retro rave. Elijah’s music can lend itself to that.
If there are any doubts about this connection we like to talk about between handmade music and handmade other things, here’s Elijah’s work used as the soundtrack to British artist Julia Pott for one of Etsy’s Handmade Portraits. (Warning: Julia has an animation of animals talking about their crushes; my guess is that you, man, woman, straight, or gay, may be crushing on Ms. Pott by the time you’re done with the video.) It’s funny to hear Julia talk about introducing the human hand into her art as Elijah’s electronic sounds echo in the background, but by coincidence, I think some of what Elijah’s doing is about keeping an organic element in sounds.
Elijah has just assembled a video showing off the techniques he’s put together for his new album, “You Are Lucky I am Not a Vigilante.” As seen at top, Elijah narrates it as though he’s a malfunctioning android. There are plenty of weird and wonderful sounds in there, partly through some abuse of Live clips. I asked him to share some more details of what he was doing, and got this semi-cheeky response. Some techniques will be very familiar to long-time Live users, but may have a twist on them that fits Elijah’s personal style; others may be new (click images for larger versions):
Since I have been performing electronic music live a great deal, I wanted to write songs that had a more natural flow. Working in what I felt was a less visual way of composing instead sequencing in the computer in the hopes the songs would lend themselves to being performed live more easily and have less of the “let’s put the drum brick here and then the bass brick comes in here” style writing. A great deal of “Vigilante” was created out of improvizations with the bass guitar and laptop recorded to 4-track cassette. From these “experiments”, most of these songs were both written “to tape” and were then sampled back into the Ableton Live and reprogrammed either with Ableton features, NI Battery, Kontakt, or the Akai MPC 3000 (see theycontrol.us’s “How To Making Beats” video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlnjb0xuuGQ ) and combined with various 8bit drum machines, sid emulators, air organs and other things. This included (but was not limited to) running everything through external filters, boomboxes, aged tape delays and spring reverbs.
This also led to my streamlining my Ableton Live set to be more utilitarian. One of the main things I incorporated into my set was a “dummy” master track. All tracks are set to “Send Only” and sent to a designated Send which functions as a master track but allows me send all of the tracks to an external effect and be rerouted into an audio track input in the same set (then going to the main real Master track) without causing (the bad kind of) horrifying feedback. This more or less allows me to process everything through external effects and making new loops of the whole track with the flip of a switch.
some of the bizarre techniques from my video in further detail-
For the interference with Electromagnetic Scalar waves in “Gun Music 1” sound-
I am running my bass guitar into an audio track in Ableton Live 7.
The audio track is set to “Monitor In”. I have various “dummy” clips (or clips containing no audio information) but that contain a lot of clip envelope information. (For more on Dummy Clips check out the CovertOPerators) This allows me to automate modulation of anything from FX plugin in my audio fx chain to individual plugin parameters to control over the mixer including volume and panning information on the live input, in this case the bass guitar. This can be used to create anything from step sequencers to hands-free tempo synced filter freakouts. I also use Dummy clips to switch between different fx plugins as well as changing midi instruments when playing live.
For the echolocation of dolphins sounds in “Dangerous”-
I am a instance of Simpler on a instrument track. Sorry, I HAVE an instance of Simpler.
Simpler has the loop setting on with a very very short length (in this case 0.40%)
The start of the Loop has been midi mapped to a fader so that what is being played back and triggered can be within the piece of audio.
There is also a delay set to a momentary switch on the output of that instrument as well as having control of routing the instrument to an external delay (that is then run back into Live intro another audio track with the monitor set to input. I usually place a sweep-able filter on this track).
more information soon, I’ve already said too much!
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For something somewhat … trippy, here’s an animated GIF of what Elijah’s Live set looks like:
Elijah B Torn, Animated
I think it’s nice seeing artists sharing what they’re doing rather than treating digital techniques as trade secrets — there’s genuine pride in technique, for one thing. And there’s also the suggestion that just using the same techniques doesn’t have to yield the same results. Maybe computer-generated art doesn’t have to be as anti-human as Julia suggests above. Let us know what you think.
And certainly, it’s worth acknowledging that Elijah is one of an army of Live users who, rather than complaining about its limitations, decided to hack in what they wanted. For a great series on Dummy Clips, here’s the awesomely-powerful Bjorn Vayner: