Mac OS X Con: Improvisation via Ableton Live

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

[I removed this on December 28th after Scott made a comment on this website about it. He didn’t ask me to remove it, but his comment caused me to read over what I had written. And I am a flaming asshole. He didn’t really do that poor of a job, of course — the tone of my transcript comes from a combination of a little competative spark (since I would present something similar later at the conference) mixed with the trick of writing really obnoxious comments as a way to keep myself entertained. Really mature, right? Anyway, I forgot that this weblog is, like, public when I put my harshness online. Scott wants me to put the transcript back. So here it is. Please. Let the rudeness reflect poorly on me and not him…]

* * *

[Here are the details for this panel, fully titled “Modern Musical Improvisation via Ableton Live.”]

[I’m downstairs in the large Magnolia Room, where I will also be presenting tomorrow. Mr. Ableton Hipster has his screen projected with a Betapop graphic on it. He also appears to have an Evolution controller. They have a reasonably nice PA set up, here — good for this size of a space.]

[He’s using Live 4, I believe.]

[So far: Terrible. He’s just babbling about the features in no particular order.]

Scott Tusa: BT uses this. So does Sasha. Sasha runs Live through Logic. Delays are cool. Like the Ping-Pong Delay and Filter Delay.

[Here come some cheezy dance beats. He’s showing off how it automatically fits the loops to the tempo.]

Scott: Longer audio files you have to beat match yourself.

[Now he’s playing music. He has a mic hooked to an input channel and is singing into it and adjusting the filter on it. It’s also reverbed out into a washy pulp of sound. And has Erosion applied and a bunch of other effects.]

Scott: Resonator is very cool, kind of like a vocoder. You can use it to make chords or whatever. This opens up all sorts of possibilities.

[Now more of the same music — now with a piano loop. And some kickin’ kick drum.]

[Someone’s asking about the resonator so Scott’s showing it off. Now we’re getting into MIDI mapping.]

[Now he’s go the beat back and is playing a drum into the mic. Not sure what it’s doing in the computer. Oh. I guess he recorded a loop with it live. He’s now moving the start and stop points in the sample view so their right around his drum solo sound. And now adding some effects. Still have the cheezy techno beat plodding along in the background. The loop is a bit off, so he’s fixing it. Live has a little metronome built in that helps him. Kind of a cool feature.]

Scott: I’m going to add some delay. You can’t really go wrong with delay. I’m adding a filter delay.

[Now we’re getting into using MIDI, the big new feature in Ableton Live 4.]

[Some guy is asking about using Live while playing another instrument like a keyboard. Scott’s giving some workarounds to make life easier in the situation, but it seems like you’re not really going to be playing the piano and running Live at the same time. Though, Scott says, you could dedicate a few keys on your keyboard (if it’s MIDI) to control Ableton Live. Pretty clever solution, I must admit.]

[Guy asking the question just said he’s mostly seen Ableton Live demonstrated as a DJ tool, not for “real musicians.” Ooh! Fighting words… He looks like a metal band roadie.]

Scott: Once you get into the app you can do whatever you want.

[We’re doing MIDI sounds, now, though the loops he plays are still kind of generic, cheezy techno beats, unfortunately.]

[In Live, tracks are either solely audio or solely MIDI.]

[Now he’s got Impulse running — that’s the beat sampler that somes with Ableton Live 4. He’s recording some loops in using his external keyboard and Impulse. Trying to sound like a real drum kit. Showing us the quantize feature.]

Scott: Stuff I’ve done is with other laptop artists. You can use this with bands, too, if you’re a drummer or just the “laptop guy.” U2 brings huge rigs to run sequences while they play live. And it’s so easy to edit while you’re on the road touring.

Scott: Live 4 fully integrates Audio Unit plug-ins.


Scott: So I use Battery and all my Native Instruments stuff. And all my other plug-ins.

[This music is, um, terrible.]

Scott: This is a more traditional DJ set, like if you want to have a party with your friends.

[Opens up a new file and plays some very, um, cheezy techno. No other way to say it, really.]

Scott: Sometimes I add a beat marker every 32 or 16 (sometimes 8) bars when I’m pulling in long audio files of other people’s tracks. I can then mix these in with my own stuff. I can also use the fader to mix between to tracks like a DJ. A lot of these loops I just found on the internet and in GarageBand.

[That explains a few things…]

[Scott appears to subscribe to the “throw piles of mediocre loops together at once” school of electronic composition.]

[I have to admit, though, that integrating Live into a full-on DJ set with other artists’ tracks is a neat idea.]

[Scott doesn’t know the price of Live 4… Does that mean he might not have actually paid for it? Shocking!]

[Afterthought: He didn’t do an absolutely terrible job, as it might sounds reading this description. I just don’t care for that kind of music and the sheer density of the nerd population at this hotel has me feeling edgy.]


Posted Mon, December 27, 2004, 6:06am EST by Scott Tusa

thanks for ripping me a new one, that was pretty funny. I'm glad somebody in the room was listening. i think i put the others to sleep. next time i'll watch out for those cheesey dance beats. Pretty harsh, but i appreciate your honesty(sort of)


Posted Tue, December 28, 2004, 4:28pm EST by Josh

You weren't that bad, really. I just was kind of extra cranky that day and I think I saw you as "the competition" with my own presentation. Heh. The negative tone was much more of a reflection of my own immaturity than of your presentation skills.

I'm not a dick normally. Really.

Sorry about that.

I forget that this website of mine is kind of, um, public and that I should watch myself.

No problem

Posted Thu, January 6, 2005, 5:51am EST by Scott Tusa

No problem, i actually thought it was kind of funny. you should put it back up, i told a few friends to check it out. they were defensive of me, but they thought it was funny. The presentation was not the best i've given by far, and i thought it was cool to have anything written about it, bad or good. I appreciate the apology though.

Back up...

Posted Fri, January 7, 2005, 6:14am EST by Josh

Whelp, it's back up with a big, fat mea culpa.

By the way, do you have a site or something where I could actually check out some of your sounds? Tried to find Soltek through Google but couldn't...

my site

Posted Fri, January 7, 2005, 7:44am EST by Scott Tusa

yah, i do have a site, its dedicated to a production team i work with, but theres some tracks on there i've produced and mixed. Long lines was written by a vocalist named alejandra and myself.

Things Could Have Been Worse

Posted Fri, May 27, 2005, 8:58am EST by EmanonamE

At least you didn't trash a track played by New Order's bassist without noticing the cams mounted in the studio, or stopping to remember that he might be watching everything you did from the television in his bedroom. That actually happened to me, which is why [see Name_field].