Percussion & Electronics

Thoughts On Playing “Fixed Media” Compositions

Most of us probably agree that simply finding scores of ‘music with electronics’ can be quite an endeavor, and like all compositions, each comes with unique challenges. Surely we begin learning with the written notes, but with ‘music & electronics’  the electronics requirement also offers unique challenges. Whether discussing setup, or learning to play along with the accompaniment, each can be equally challenging if not altogether cumbersome.

Depending on the piece, some are easier than others in a variety of ways and one of the easier forms of ‘music with electronics’ compositions is what I consider Two Channel compositions – those involving ‘tape’ or “fixed media.” In my opinion, the most challenging, or perhaps more annoying, aspects to learning a “fixed media” composition is that there is no “tool” for this. I mean, we can all use an mp3 player of any kind most certainly; however, the reality for many who have played such compositions is that cueing to a precise location on any audio player is challenging or perhaps plain impossible.

Some composers have begun to take on the challenge with this dilemma by learning a little bit about MaxMSP from Cycling74.com. These handful of composers are giving the proper rehearsal “starting positions” within their Max apps for efficiency. While generous and helpful, it does concern me that a composer has so many “hats” to wear already and this is just another to add to the long list.

Confronting this dilemma with my growing knowledge and interest into MaxMSP led to an interesting idea: “A Practice Room” of sorts. So I decided to build an audio player that allows a User to capture precise points in time (milliseconds)

and store that data in files for quick retrieval. Once I knew what I wanted, the ideas, aka features quickly began to grow and so did the project. I attempted to includ what I’ve thought might be  necessary from the perspective of the musician. We just want to practice efficiently; and if a tool can help us achieve that, then we usually want it. This app does that.

Below are some examples of what it looked like at the beginning as I began to hash out some ideas. It’s indeed come a long way. Also, if you have a Mac and are interested to see more or download a Mac OS version of the software, check out The Practice Room Page.