Last fall, I was excited to be chosen as one of the musicians to accompany modern dance classes for UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for some time, but until last fall there were no openings. I had previously attended a handful of classes on a voluntary basis, joining my friend Seth Warren-Crow on percussion and electronics, and thoroughly enjoyed the process of improvising for dancers. After all, music for dance has been one of my primary artistic outlets over the last few years, and to have the opportunity to practice this craft on a weekly basis is most welcome.
I’m now into my second semester of accompaniment and am developing more methods and techniques to use in the class. While I continue to bring my saxophones (alto/tenor) for a strong physical/acoustic presence, most of my development involves my laptop set up. This is a somewhat obvious statement for me, as the laptop work provides the primary foundation, while the saxophone embellishes the laptops pitch-based material and aids sectional structure through phrase development. Also, I’ve been playing the saxophone for decades, and have become quite comfortable in a variety of improvisational settings; the laptop environment provides me with new challenges and opportunities.
From my experiences with Seth, I observed that the rhythmic/pulse needs of the class can suddenly change. This requires a dynamic response on the accompanists behalf; moving from a strong pulse to ambient and back. Some of my previous work with Max For Live patches was certainly going to be beneficial. I spent the previous semester fine tuning how I use my primary rhythmic M4L patch, C8 Sequencer; adjusting instances used, chance to trigger a sound, polyrhythmic complexity, and how this all is impacted by tempo. I learned a lot about controlling all of this in real time and will be making some changes to exactly how this is all controlled. For the time though, I’ve put together a demonstration/example of what’s been done so far and posted it to my SoundCloud account. I imagine there will be similar posts in the future.