Computer Music Live (Part 1)

The live performance of “Computer Music” is a topic that comes and goes fairly often, and it has a fair history to discuss as well.  In the late 70s when electronic instruments became extremely popular people were greatly interested in seeing these machines perform. I remember seeing older clips of bands such as Depeche Mode where the performers stood nearly motionless playing a synthesizer with only one hand, the concept seemed so dull and foreign to me but my father who was watching these clips live explained to me that due to the complete fascination of these new sounds it simply didn’t matter how much of a performance was given. There was still a lot of room for human error in these performances, they did not use DAWs or any other beat mapping software and were simply keeping to a click track, each performer dependent on one another to keep in time and make it through the piece.

Fast forward thirty three years and solo acts such as Avicii top charts and headline festivals and it’s fair to say that a live performance from these producers is hardly traditional; usually involving live mixing with decks or triggering clips mapped to a sequencer. People are often confused by how someone turning dials and pressing pads is a live performance but it certainly is, of course a producer cannot construct an entire song live in front of an audience but he or she can alter the song and give themselves enough control to adapt to their crowd. To make things more interesting for the audience, electronic artists spend lots of time and money trying to make things more exciting. Examples of this include large light structures that react in real time to the music being played or new control interfaces such as deadmau5’ touch screen (pictured below) which allows the audience visualise how the performer is changing the sound.

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Screenshot from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hegqRGDQ_OA

There is a large effort to keep the audience aware of what the performer is doing now, and it also allows the performer to feel more connected with his audience, it adds some more of the pressure involved with more traditional live music performance as human error is more a factor. Another thing I have begun to notice is live musicians joining a producer on stage and I’ll cover that in my next blog.