3 min read

Komoy Live System

Hope Valley Kick Drums

I am at the very, very early stages of constructing a new live performance system. Komoy Live System is currently built in Max. Above is a video I just made on the way to 65days rehearsals. Just a proof of concept at this point. It is sample-based. No synths, but given my usual pattern of development it is only a matter of time before I get it spitting out MIDI to other boxes or Ableton Live.

For the moment though, I want to see how far I get before falling back into my MIDI safe place. I want to build something that is somewhat performable, and more importantly capable of generating markedly different performances each time. Looking for that sweet spot between composition/automatic music generation. As much as I am a fan of the live-coding community’s ethos of real-time, transparent, exploratory performance-composition, I want a system where I can hide my working-out when I want to, and be able to confidently deliver X minutes of bangers on demand. I am also trying to avoid reverting to melodic patterns/western scales as far as I can help it. It is very easy to get lazy with that using default MIDI systems. I cannot do proper FM synthesis for quick and dirty microtonal stuff. Maybe I’ll try to remember how to use Scala at some point, but for now good old fashioned sample-mangling is the plan.

The overall idea is to not make One Max Patch To Rule Them All, but rather smaller, more managable patches that do one thing well, all hooked together by a central clock. And then, eventually, some kind of capture/recall system probably based on JSON that is capable of grabbing snapshots of some/all the patches at once, so when I stumble into a good combination of elements, I have a means of later recreating it. I’d also like to be able to seamlessly load/unload patches on the fly and have them immediately hook into the clock. Even better would be to have some kind of A/B DJ-style mixer setup to be able to crossfade between different patch combinations. And then OSC-everything to hook it into Unity...

This system is part of some wider thinking about how to approach automation & generative/algorithmic music from an explicitly anti-AI stance. (Maybe it should be called Komoy Luddite System? It is certainly a machine capable of smashing itself…)

It is also tied back to my last album, and the thinking around that. By the time that record came out, to be honest, I thought I was eager to move onto the next thing because that has always been the general trajectory of how I work. After a few months of not being sure what to do though, I re-examined this assumption and realised that maybe I see things differently now.

Certainly, grumpy old Adorno's pithy observation that 'progress begins where it ends' has been living rent-free in my head since I read it a few years ago. Because the future is terrifying and it is not where I want to go. Tech and oil companies are doing everything they can to convince us their dystopia is inevitable. But it's not. Yet. (?)

And so what does looking backward even mean in this context? How to do this without collapsing into nostalgia or escapism, which, espeically if music is your chosen field, is surely the enemy? How to invent a future that isn’t ahead of us?

I don't know. It is weird these days, putting out any kind of digital art into the world, to watch it get swept away within hours by the endless churn of fresh content. Easy to decide that quantity is the most important metric of worth. But you can't turn out albums as fast as podcast episodes. And even if you could, I wouldn't want that from the musicians that I like. I want them to make a record once every few years maybe. That way I get to live with a record through time. To get to know it. It becomes a kind of relational tool. An anchor in time for my future self to navigate by.

And so if I think about my record Telex From MIDI City, I really put a lot into it. Several years of work. I am incredibly proud of it. And now I am beginning to think that perhaps there's a whole other facet of it that I can continue to explore over time. That writing it was just the first step of the whole process.

Not sure how clearly any of that links to the above video of my Komoy Live System proof of concept yet. But it all feels broadly part of the same idea to me. I am currently writing a proposal for an artist-in-residence thing, which might help me tie it together and expand on it a bit more usefully. I am also setting up the conditions here to publish/write in public along the same lines, so when that proposal inevitably gets rejected I have a place to continue developing things regardless.