String Quartet Session #2 – 11th of May 2018

Session length: 2 hours
Location: Olavskvartalet Studio Pieces: 60 Loops by Pierre Jodlowski
This session was plagued with problems from its first moments. It was decided about two hours later, that the session should just stop at this point. Some of these issues are out of my control, while others were my own fault and will be fixed as promptly as possible.
There had already been some schedule changes, so the use of the studio was a bit down to luck. Problems already started once I got into the studio, a cable to link my own laptop to the main system was missing as well as the main pre-amp. They had been moved a few days before for tests and not re-installed yet. The engineer also didn’t come until the previously discussed time slot, and even then, a bit late. Already there, having a full quartet having to wait 20 minutes to set up, is not a good start to any session.
The second problem that came up was some internal routing problems. The system in the studio is explained in another post. However, for some reason we had some trouble with the correct routing this time. And once it was set up, the main problem was with monitoring. Some of the problems stemmed from the monitoring equipment, which is starting to be old. One of the Aviom units started making noises, so we had to split one of the signals between two quartet members. The next issue with monitoring was how the multiple channels between the HDX system and Aviom did not correspond. At first, we tried to just do the rehearsal with only the master channel but this did not work very well for the quartet as they couldn’t get the metronome as loud as they wanted compared to the tape parts.
The third problem was some sync issues between the click track and the metronome parts. The quartet were the first to hear this problem and it was small, but after a while one could hear that they weren’t completely in sync. I’m not completely sure of why this problem arose, but I am thinking it might have something to do with the difference in sampling rates between some files. Therefore, I will be converting everything to 44.1 and 48 as to avoid further issues. Because of these issues, the general mood in the studio was rather negative and that is never a good start.
Out of the little playing we managed to do, a few interesting observations came out of the quartet. The first one was a comment on playing together. The monitoring system was with headphones, and it made the quartet a bit more uncomfortable. Even disregarding the other issues, I could hear in the recordings that they weren’t as comfortable together, and not as rhythmically together as normally. One player expressed it as feeling that she was playing alone although they were besides each other, because of how she felt she could only listen to her headphones. The other players agreed unanimously. It was mentioned that they felt it would be better once the monitoring issues were fixed so they could choose exactly what they each individually wanted. They did however say that playing with headphones will take some getting used to. I asked them if they would actually prefer a PA system (or a typical monitoring system in concert situations), to which they answered that they would prefer learning to use the headphones. I’m slightly uncertain if they meant that, or were perhaps slightly shy.
Because of the problems, we had some discussions about which part of the composition to rehearse to try to optimize our time. This led us to discuss their own perception of how well the electronics are elaborated and how the piece is written. Now, this is not meant to be a critique of the piece, but the musicians’ perception of how the writing and electronics influence them. They found that the first section in 7/8 is more difficult, especially because of how the electronics start on off-beats, while the 5/8 starts off much easier with the first loop falling on the 1. At the same time, I understand how this playfulness by Jodlowski is the whole point of the piece really. They also felt that the 5/8 section is easier to play without any click track clews because of the inherent “groove” in what they are playing. In effect, they have compared this last section to a groove quite close to some rock music. They did not know of Jodlowski’s interest in rock music either.
A camera had also been loaned to be able to film the session, but there was no point since the session never really got going. However, the project now has a possibility to loan a camera to film the sessions for studying purposes afterwards.
We also discussed a bit how changing the synchronization method would be and how. I had expected to be able to test out a first version of the score following with Antescofo triggering the tape. However, it wasn’t possible to test out then and there because of the problems (although it will be possible through some of the recordings). It was mentioned by one player that it should at least be better than now, referring to a third party triggering a tape. This was an interesting observation, which didn’t get directly answered by the other players. It will be an issue and idea to bring up again after testing other synchronization methods to see their reactions and what they personally prefer.
A final discussion took place on our current plans to move forward. The quartet thought it would be a good idea to have a second piece to already start rehearsing so that we can perhaps soon book a few short concerts as tests for ourselves and have something to work towards. The idea was mainly to have a piece that serves as a contrast to 60 Loops and its rhythmical focus. This also suits my own research as I don’t need to have many different pieces that
test out the same concepts and techniques. This has also given me
an opportunity to look into my database of compositions and
choose a few which I find might be interesting before the quartet
votes on what to play.