Archive for improvisation

Amazing iOS live remix app Ninja Jamm launches

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2013 by fgitler
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The main interface of Ninja Jamm (shown on iphone 5 here), using both clip and drill modes. Coldcut’s Beats & Pieces, shown here, comes with the free app when you download it.

I love working on various sound and music projects, but can’t find the time to lose myself in music production as often as I’d like. Then I started using the new Ninja Jamm app, developed by Ninja Tune & Seeper, and solved all that. Since downloading the free app, I’ve done remixes on the subway, waiting to get my hair cut, sitting in a café, a taxi, waiting for carrots to cook or laundry to finish the dryer cycle.

It has the thrill of an intense but simple arcade game (Pac-Mantronik?) and the temporal/tactile magic of MPC beat-making. Even as I compare it’s interface to a video game, do not mistake NJ for a toy. It’s running full 16bit 44khz sound, versatile and powerful. Each Tune Pack, (all songs by Ninja artists at the moment, with more possibilities expected soon) gives you many sounds to manipulate (41 sounds per tune pack) at a wide array of tempos (from sludge/drone slowness, to fast-forward chipmunk music) with an of different effects, and many different ways to completely remake the songs using the provided ingredients. And this is a live mixing process, there’s no editing or sequencing capability. Rather the focus is on live performance–the result of decisions made in the moment. This makes it a bit closer to djing than the more painstaking process of studio production work.

I’ve uploaded over 40 songs in the last month, and each one took less than 5 minutes to make (4:57 is the recording limit of the app, though you may jamm without recording as long as you like). You can then upload your live recording to a Soundcloud account. These files are uncompressed WAV files, and can get up to 50MB in size, so keep that in mind when uploading. Tune Packs also tend to be between 30 and 50MB. You’ll likely want access to either a fast data network or wi-fi when uploading your mixes or downloading the packs.

Here’s my latest, a slowed-down version of the Coldcut classic Beats & Pieces:

In addition to the free Tune Pack included from Coldcut, there are packs available for purchase ($0.99 each, with two EPS discounted) from Dj Food, Mr Scruff, Two Fingers, Bonobo, Emika, and many more, including a pack from Luke Vibert that is an exclusive song available in no other form.

I’ve used other iOS music apps in the past, including Propellerhead’s Rebirth and Figure, but nothing else has been so easy to actully make complete compositions with. Even if you have little or no background in music production, the app comes with an excellent interactive tutorial, and trial and error teaches an inquisitive user all kinds of cool techniques. For more info: updates are posted on the Ninja Jamm website, and the the Ninja Jamm Facebook page. Also I’ve compiled a bunch of links, videos, and reviews over at Stumbleupon. And yes the app is currently iOS only, but and Android version is in the works as are other exciting features. Hard to believe this is only version 1.

Christian Marclay at the Whitney

Posted in Practice, Theory with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by fgitler

On Saturday 7/17 I went to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City to see a performance by Christian Marclay and Shelley Hirsch. Marclay is an artist, musician and composer, who most famously has been using turntables to manipulate sound since the 1970’s. He comes not from the hip-hop dj traditions of Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, but rather in the vein of the experimental art and compositional techniques of John Cage, Nam June Paik, and The Fluxus movement. He has performed with Sonic Youth, John Zorn, and many others.

The show itself will be up until September 26th, with numerous performances and events. There is also an enormous chalkboard wall, where vistors may contribute to writing a ‘score’, multiple sites for the musucal performances, video works, and collages/collections of Marclay’s. One piece consists of clothing he has collected that has musical notes on it, and a bottle of nice whiskey with glasses. when performed, models put on the clothing, share the whiskey with some musicians, and they play the notes the models are wearing. A collection of LP album covers bearing musical notes on the covers in another piece. With these pieces, Marclay is taking musical notation that is being used for illustration or decoration, and asking musicians to make it functional again, by interpreting this as a score–a task that will require mental flexibility, imagination, and a proabably a good dose of humor as well.

In the back corner of the exhibition was a room with couches, and a sound system playing Marclay’s manipulations of vinyl records. A case in the corner showed records that had been broken or cut, and then put together with fragments of other records. These sound collages were instruments that Marclay has played in performance. Other records had marking and stickers, much like those of a hip-hop turntablist. I’ll try to put up images of these records here soon. I found these objects utterly fascinating, perhaps because they destroyed objects I’ve been taught to revere and preserve. By breaking them and making something new, Marclay has managed to continue the Dada aesthetic tradition in a powerful manner.

Marclay at The Whitney

Christian Marclay and his score (projected). Photo by Sarah Howard

For the performance on Saturday, vocalist Shelly Hirsch performed Marclay’s score, which consisted of a slideshow of photos of onomatopoetic words from production packaging and other such advertising/signage. “Zip”, “Zoom”, and “Bang” etc were performed by Ms. Hirsch in a improvisation that consisted of pop-culture references to songs, jingles, as well as reactions thoughts, and just sounds. she used three different microphones, each treated differently. one was very straight, un-treated sounding, one had more reverb added, and the third had a variety of effects that I believe Mr. Marclay, seated across from here, was manipulating via laptop.

From the perspective of a theatrical sound designer, it was an interesting scenario. The performer was reading a score/script, which the audience was reading at the same time, and improvising her performance, while the composer/sound designer/artist, was improvising his treatment of the performance. Ms. Hirsch did have the option of choosing which microphone to address… It might have been more interesting (to me) to have Marclay choosing/mixing the sounds, rather than her choice… this would have been more akin to the jamaican dub style of mixing, which can be done live as well as in the studio.

I did have to set up a live vocal effect years ago, for the production of an adaptation of Timon of Athens entitled Beggar to The Air. This was turned into a one man show, except for an otherworldly offstage voice that we ran through an effects processor (my elusive Stanton/Vestax DDG-1 stereo delay unit). Live it was performance. had we recorded the voice, effected it, played it as a sound cue–would not have been the same thing.

I hope to get back to see more of the performances at the Whitney, before the show is over in late September. If you have the opportunity, it is an eye ear and mind opening experience.