Murmurations of the Krell
This is a solo live performance electronic music piece that was performed at Studio Z in St. Paul on June 15th, 2016. The piece makes use of no computers, sequencers or keyboards. It uses a Tim Kaiser Quad Oscillator, a Moogerfooger ring modulator, a rehoused Big Muff V3 distortion, two TC Electronic Ditto loopers, a Vox wah pedal, an Ernie Ball volume pedal, some 1980s vintage Yamaha delays and an equally old Lexicon reverb. I pulled these old delays and reverb out of mothballs because they're the only hardware devices I own that can perform these functions. I typically use computer plug-ins for this sort of thing, but wanted to refrain from using a computer for this project.
I'm happy with how the live performance went, but I decided to do some significant post-production work on the piece to more fully optimize it. I used the audio from the performance as well as from some of the rehearsals that I recorded to create the finished product.
Here's a video of the performance.
I've always been very interested in the idea of limitations when it comes to creating music. Whenever I start work on a new piece, I begin by establishing meaningful limitations to work within. I find this to be very freeing. (Stravinsky was right when talked about the freedom of limits.) Last Summer I did a live electronic music performance that involved a large amount of equipment in an elaborate setup. At some point shortly after that performance while discussing it with a friend, I mentioned, (kind of half jokingly) that I could do an effective live performance with a Quad Oscillator and a wah wah pedal. Though I had meant it as a joke, the more I thought about the idea of working within that kind of extreme limitation, the more attracted I was to the idea. So, I set about creating this piece.
Murmurations of the Krell is improvisational, though it is following a general plan and has been rehearsed. I would call this an experimental electronic drone piece. The only sound source being used is a Quad Oscillator that was built by Tim Kaiser. It has only a single output that I am splitting multiple times and running through a couple of loopers and various hardware signal processors, (including a wah wah pedal). The piece is notable for what it does not use. There is no computer, no sequencer, no keyboard or other conventional musical instrument interface. Just knobs, switches, faders and pedals. I found this to be a challenging set of limitations, but at the same time, stimulating.
The title of the work is a direct reference to the classic 1956 sci-fi film, "Forbidden Planet". In this film, the Krell were an ancient, long-extinct race of beings with highly advanced technology – a technology which eventually lead to their own demise. The electronic score for the film was created by Bebe and Louis Barron, and I feel that some of the general aesthetic character of my piece is evocative of their work.
Here's a little background information on the Quad Oscillator. Tim built the device using Alex Deeba's Quad Oscillator kit. Tim says: "it's basically a 4-way Schmitt Trigger [made by Texas Instruments] with four independent square wave oscillators. What's neat about this circuit is that it can be wired-up a few different ways. I use a version of the circuit that Alex figured out where each oscillator modulates the next. It adds a slightly more complex and unpredictable sound."
An image from the sound check showing the audio visualization projection.
My rehearsal setup at the studio.
These are some of the promotional pieces for the live performance that I posted to social media.