The Flickering Dark

This is a sort of proof of concept for a new type of live pa I’ve been working on for the last 8 days.  Not so much a demo as it’s only 20 minutes long, more an experiment for me to see if this was a valid way to play live.

There are some benefits to being left home alone (plus a dog) for 16 days, while the wife goes on vacation with her sister.  Knowing I’d have this time to myself to work any schedule, and do whatever I wanted in the meantime, I planned on writing a LOT of music.  I prepped material for a new Machinedrum live set, I bought some new apps for the iPad, I even prepped some song writing templates in Live just in case I got an idea.  In short, I got all the BS out of the way before she even left 🙂

Of course, things never go according to plan, and literally on the day she left I got this left field idea to try and get a working live pa set up with Stylus RMX and Omnisphere in Ableton Live.  I’ve tried it a few times before, but always ran into hurdles that kept me from getting it set up in a fluid, performable way.

The key this time, was that I realized I could use Live’s Looper devices, much like I do with the Elektron RAM machines in my Machinedrum live sets.  So I have one instance of RMX and one Omnisphere (Omni) in the set, and I use them both in Multi mode.  This way I could use a Multi in each device for each of my “songs” in the set.  With a Looper on each of those tracks, I can capture the audio from them, and have it start looping immediately while I switch to a new Multi on the plug ins.  Switching the Multi in Stylus was only time I needed to use the trackpad in fact.

The only tricky bit was figuring out how to fade from the audio looping in Looper on each track, to the new material I had just loaded.  I ended up using an audio effect rack, with one chain for the Looper, and one for the dry audio.  Using a track fader on the APC, I could crossfade from looped material and new stuff for the next song by mapping a fader to the chain selector.

I used 3 tracks of drums from Stylus, and 4 tracks of synths in Omnisphere.  The APC40 would handle clip launching, and tweaking all the Stylus and Looper parameters.  (Stylus and Omni both have excellent MIDI mapping utilities btw.)

Here’s a couple views of the Live Set:

I used OmniTR on the iPad2 to control everything in Omnisphere, from switching sounds, to tweaking everything live, to selecting the Multi for each song.  Strangely I’d get an audible glitch when switching Multi’s with TR, a super short audible pop.  Even more strangely, this did not get recorded in the audio I saved to post online.  ????

Anyway, pretty happy with it overall, even if it does sound a little confusing on paper.  I’ll start working on some more material for the set over the next month or so.  Fun stuff, enjoy!

23 Replies to “The Flickering Dark”

  1. I’m listening now and i can say that’s a really a nice set, there are interesting sound into it.

    It’s interesting also your live setup, of course i don’t know it in detail, but it’s a long time that i’m searching a comfortable setup with live to perform more like a “real live” than an “only pushing button” live set and maybe your setup could bring inspiration. 🙂

    And thank you also for your tuts, nice bits of inspiration!

  2. Yep, for the reason of “don’t interact” with the laptop i’m currently loving NI’s Maschine, it really don’t require almost at all to see the laptop monitor.
    But i’ve not found yet the time to setup it for a “live” live set.
    In the past i was used to use a pair of Yamaha AN200+DX200 with another yamaha vintage keyboard, all together midi chained. I miss that time because i was able to press play and start to improvise, but with softwares you have to program a lot before starting to have fun because of the almost unlimited possibilities.
    I hate to say this, but sometimes “less is more”. (Despite i mainly think “Less is Bore!”)

  3. Thanks man, glad at least some people are listening to it 🙂

    Don’t give up hope man, it takes time to make your dreams happen. Just keep at it and remember to have fun!

  4. Fun…yes…I vaguely remember that word…

    I think I had an epiphany this weekend in what is giving me so much trouble in the production process, and the issues are: #1 I approach every project as “Ok, we’re gonna make the absolute best thing we can here” (which of late I have come to believe is the wrong approach. Enforced quality doesn’t=quality, enforced quantity will eventually yield quality) and #2 I get really bogged down in time consuming processes that I need to develop shortcuts through. Like I seriously do NOT need to be trawling my entire 100 million googajillionbyte sample library every time I need a kick drum sample. I tend to reinvent the wheel every time out which is just too much to ask, hence low output. So I need to refine most of my processes. Minimum effort—>maximum results as you say.

  5. I think that’s a common problem for people, with storage being so cheap and available, people tend to save EVERYTHING. Kind of defeats the purpose of speeding things up though, if you have to hunt twice as long to find anything.

  6. To what extent do you, personally, reuse specific basic samples and patches? Like if you find a good drum sample will you never use it again, use it a lot but only in the context of a specific album, etc? (Ditto with bass and synth patches.)

  7. I have a collection of about 300MB of drum samples that I can turn to if I need to layer things up and get some beats going. Though lately a lot of my drum work has been either synth based with the Machinedrum, or using Stylus RMX, so it’s been some time since I used my drum samples.

    For synths however, I really never save patches to reuse, I tend to start from scratch each time.

  8. Does that not make you want to dig out your eyes with a fork? The whole starting from scratch thing, I mean. How do you not end up spending hundreds of hours per sound and the composition ends up not done?

  9. Typically, in the case for synths, I start with presets that are close to what I want, then tweak to taste. I’ve been doing synthesis for years, so I’m pretty quick at getting what I need. Besides, that’s half the fun anyway. 🙂

  10. Now the problem you had run into previously was that you didn’t have the power to run VSTs in a Live PA, but now you’re using Omnisphere and Stylus. Is their multi modes what allows you to get around this? (I don’t have either of them so I don’t actually know what multi mode is. I’d get Omnisphere but I’d have to get a bigger hard drive.)

  11. Not so much using Multi-mode, as that was always the plan. The trick this time was realizing that I could use a Looper to play the current song still while loading a new Multi in each instrument. In the past I was always trying to put multiple instances of each instrument into Instrument Racks, and then I was running out CPU power. With the Looper trick, I only need to have one loaded and running at any time.

  12. Other things I thought of but forgot to write in the last one:

    #1. Are you now writing content specifically for the PA sets rather than cannibalizing your already-completed studio work?

    #2 Aren’t you a bit concerned about using a controller that depends on WiFi for a Live PA set? My thought is, “Ok great. But what happens when you play a joint with no WiFi or lousy equipment that goes in and out a lot (cheap relays etc) or “Oh I don’t know the password to the router. The owner is the only one with that and I can’t get a hold of him…”?

  13. 1. I did for this set, and I do for my hardware sets, but it’s not something I plan on doing all the time. Nice to just change it up once in awhile, try new workflows and see what works and what doesn’t. Honestly I’m a little burned out on just writing “songs” these days. It’s fun, but I like the challenge of doing that plus orchestrating a full on performance too. Planning not just about flwo of parts in a song, but in the set as a whole. Fun to push myself to do bigger projects like that.

    2. No need to mess with routers and the like on OSX. You can just connect directly to the laptop via ad hoc or Bonjour networks. Sure there’s still the chance something might go wrong, but MIDI cables fail, USB cables fail, power supplies go bad, etc. There’s always some element that might go wrong, so you just plan for a backup and roll with it.

  14. Ok so I took another look/listen to this and there’s more things I don’t understand:

    1) It sounds like you’re doing your normal fx tinkering during playback, yet theres only 2 actual audio channels, so whatever fx being used would have to effect either all the drum sor all the synths. What’s actually happening?

    2) Why bother with doing this through MIDI live? Why not dump to tracks and use audio clips with an effect rack on each channel of audio?

  15. There’s maybe only 2 audio tracks in Live, but I have control over all 7 midi tracks for muting and soloing, as well as direct midi mapping to the 7 differrent parts in Stylus or Omni. So some of the audio effects you here are actually me directly changing parameters in one of the Omni instances via the iPad. Or me shortening the AMP Envelope release for just one of the Stylus parts. Neither of which I could do with just the audio files.

  16. So, turns out this is a pretty brilliant way to work. I’ve successfully recreated a Live-Reason version of this and am tinkering with it. Really cool. Thanks for posting all this.

    One last question (yeah right): when you list Heavy Drums and Light Drums, what does that mean for each? Are these elements of a single kit that are playing at the same time or…?

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