Author Topic: Robert Rich Tour Blog  (Read 14540 times)

Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2010, 01:31:45 PM »
Nice review Judd - and thank you for coming, it was great to see you.

The RR gig here was truly a great experience for all of us, including Robert and his wife Dixie who I know had a great time as well.  Incidentally I wasn't able to fully enjoy it only because I was so wrapped up in the prep work and making sure everything was going smooth and everyone was comfortable. By the time I sat down as Robert started I had already been so tired and stressed and been drinking some hometown brews that I went to bed shortly after the end of the show (talk about a boring host! - I also wasn't feeling well). Regardless, it was a great time and we'd love to host an event like this again.

My understanding is that they sold very many, if not the most, number of CDs than any of their previous stops on this tour.  The Denver-area support for events like this is seemingly strong.  We had about 34 people attending and could have even thought about going to a proper small venue - maybe next time.

As for Diliberto's ridiculous rant, I am sort of irked by this asinine comment.  First of all, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, etc... the list goes on, are 1-man performance artists who do rely heavily on electronic elements in addition to acoustic instruments and there are limitations to what one person can do in a live setting in this genre, not to mention this is how they've been doing it FOR YEARS! (Hey Diliberto - maybe you could have ripped on these artists years ago before you got so much support from them). Furthermore, if a person isn't using a computer for some backing tracks (and it's likely only 30% or less of the content at any given point - not a scientific value, but it's about what I can gather observing RR and SR in concert in the past) then they're using hardware sequencers to do nearly the same thing.  The computer is simply a tool to provide a helping hand. John Diliberto has demonstrated here that he's got a very narrow understanding of EM and a goofy expectation for EM artists.  He should know better.

J.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2010, 01:36:10 PM by Numina »

APK

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2010, 02:32:15 PM »
I just read the John D. article. It does make a very clear point regarding 'live' performances that are often more 'live' in name rather than in practice. I wouldn't join Jesse in calling it an obviously ridiculous position. I remember seeing a photo of a Biosphere/Jensen live show equipment rig a year or two ago ... it was a laptop and a tiny midi keyboard. I know I'd be depressed staring at him 'playing' that for an hour or two and merely giving me a slight rehash of old tunes. Yes, we are in a genre where its very often one person who multitracks to computer to create the music, and this layering can not easily (if at all) be duplicated in a live situation. But don't fool yourself into thinking that playing along to a pre-prepared CD (or whatever) is the same as a fully live performance. The karaoke analogy used by Diliberto is an apt one. But this is not a black and white situation (very little is). Its not an all live vs. some of it is live dichotomy. I think John D. is down on the 'most of it's simply not live' scenario, and this should not, perhaps, be billed as live. Maybe we need a new label for these not very live 'performances'.

I grew up in England going to a ton of concerts. I tell ya, if the drummer stopped playing, and we still heard drums, we would chuck stuff.   ;D
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Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2010, 02:56:45 PM »
I would think that by now most people would know that they're going to a laptop concert or not and know what to expect (especially Diliberto and his knowledge of the scene).  I can understand a bored concert-goer watching a person just staring at a computer screen for 2 hours, but, again, if you're a big enough fan you ought to sort of know what you're getting in to (which is why I am personally not really interested in going to a laptop-based artist performance).  That said, Robert Rich and Roach alike are using the computer for elements that everyone really wants to hear but can only be achieved with the use of a computer or sequencer.  Furthermore, as I mentioned, it's a little late for Diliberto's critique on the subject as this has been the M.O. for many years now and to make such a disparaging comment seems like it's just a crabby dust-raising comment.  The guy hasn't really been all that incredibly supportive of the ambient scene anyway (save for a few blurbs here and there).  He's more into the old schmaltzy new age and big production contemporary stuff when it comes to going anywhere near ambient (just look at some Echoes playlists).  That's all fine too, but he should stick with being critical of the stuff he knows.

J.

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2010, 04:56:23 PM »
Well for where I am at in life, and pretty much the view I have personally held  in my entire live performance life really resonates with some of John D's statements. Especially this one:


"If that means a solo set, then scale it to what you can actually play live without backing.    If you really need a band but you’re not committed enough to go to the expense or find like-minded players willing to suffer for your art, then perhaps you shouldn’t be playing live concerts at all."

I personally for the last few years have held strong to this. At this point I disdain computers on stage and I have never been fully satisfied when Chris and I have used backing tracks, yet I have no issue with drum machines like an Electribe or an analog sequence like Robert spins out at his show, there is still something organic in that, but a dude and a laptop usually equals lame to me much of the time, unless they are actually playing soft synths as a instrument and not a backing track...obviously I am not an ableton live fan.

I admit to a personal snobishness that says "learn to play an instrument and interact with others who do the same."

But if people will come and see and buy tickets and enjoy it...who am I to say. I am just slightly surly tonight and enjoyed Johns piece, if anything it should make us think.
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Robert Logan

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2010, 05:13:29 PM »
I have no problem with someone using a laptop and controllers live - if that's what's required to get their sound across and if they're actually re-rendering the material on the fly in some way. Some musicians are doing very interesting things with home made patches and sequencers in a live setting and I've been to lots of beautifully intense gigs involving laptops. In some ways, I find witnessing that just as exciting as great musicians interacting on traditional instruments, because I'm not there to watch some visual demonstration of musical athleticism but instead to listen to fresh sounds.

Obviously, context is important, and these things can be done tastelessly. Miming, for example, is awful, and I find using computers to replace acoustic instruments or things that could be played by other musicians rather despicable. I also think that some live playing by electronic musicians is karaoke-like, but not for the reasons that the author stated. Some electronic musicians, for example, have the laptop playing almost everything, but arbitrarily play one part themselves and occasionally pepper that with a tap on a drum machine here and a squirt from another machine there and plucks on guitar there. I would personally rather they dumped all those bits and bobs that perhaps look more impressive or live to onlookers - and instead explore ways of meaningfully and substantially changing the sounds being spewed out from the computer on the computer itself. Or, as some have been doing, combining that live computer-driven process with more traditional and blatantly live playing on 'proper' instruments.       


Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #25 on: June 03, 2010, 05:15:39 PM »
That said, Robert Rich and Roach alike are using the computer for elements that everyone really wants to hear but can only be achieved with the use of a computer or sequencer. 
J.

I am not sure I agree with this, only in that both the folks you mention, used to create these elements live without the computer and I think it made for a more compelling performance, strictly as a performance for people to watch. I think that is something we often forget, when people come to see us live they are expecting a certain level of entertainment, not strictly music. The same extends to famous groups live, I am probably going to be stoned for this, but depech mode on the Exciter tour ...IE 4 guys standing unmoving at their keyboards was pretty damn boring from an audience perspective as well.

PV
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Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #26 on: June 03, 2010, 05:16:45 PM »
Well, I think that John D's comments didn't need to include Robert - and I'm not defending RR just because he was just here but the fact is that RR DOES play a lot of his own stuff and don't forget there is a lot to think about when working with electronic instruments.

I admit that I personally don't have the same chops as Vnuk or other big names when it comes to being able to play instruments live, but a lot of folks can't pull it off like that either and we'd be missing out on a lot of great music if we do write it all off - maybe we focus on the people who just use the presets, eh? ;)

it's worth mentioning that it's not easy performing electronic music - even if you don't use acoustic instruments and/or hardware devices are used to assist making the music happen. There's still a lot, and I mean A LOT that goes into an ambient album (1-fingered drone meisters excluded).

J.

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #27 on: June 03, 2010, 05:31:43 PM »
I agree working with computers and sequencers is like spinning plates  ;D
I also was not attacking Robert he has chops. And I could care less what folks do when recording their music if the finished album is good, then its good (well I do care, but thats a whole different post).

But I do think live needs to contain the artist hanging on by a thread, pushing themselves beyond their ability, improvising with adversity and the unexpected and needs to at least ...be live. Go to City Skies and Different Skies and Electro Music and there are plenty of cats who meet this criteria.

Some can and some can't, simple as that. We need to stop accepting table scraps and mediocrity (not talking about Robert again before anyone jumps on me) as "well that's all there is", or worst yet "Artistic".

Like I said, John's article should challenge all of us and make us think.

PV
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Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #28 on: June 03, 2010, 09:23:27 PM »
Paul - are you saying that you'd prefer an EM artist playing ALL parts live and just looping on-the-fly to achieve a fully live improvised set?  I do agree with most of this that you said: "I do think live needs to contain the artist hanging on by a thread, pushing themselves beyond their ability, improvising with adversity and the unexpected and needs to at least... be live".

I re-read John D.'s comments again just to make sure I'm reading the same thing as others... really, John D. has got to pretty much include 95% of all solo EM artists with this comment.  It actually doesn't even make sense to me because it's almost GOT to be done that way - either with sequencers, loopers, PC, or backing tracks on CD for that matter, unless you want a single sound out of the person.

John D. says "Artists like this make a pretense of live performance, but it’s barely a step above playing a CD on stage", that's pretty harsh words to associate this with the likes of RR or Roach coming from a radio host in this scene. In our genre, you're not going to see a 5-piece playing all the parts live (except for the specialty gigs that Vnuk mentioned), besides, I wouldn't want it that way myself.  If I want to see/hear Roach play, I don't need to have 3 extra people playing separate parts that they never played on the album just so it's all live. I'll take the backing tracks, loops, and sequencers just fine... but that's just me.

J.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2010, 09:30:38 PM by Numina »

Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #29 on: June 03, 2010, 09:47:07 PM »
This incredibly goofy quote by John D. really gets me: "If you really need a band but you’re not committed enough to go to the expense or find like-minded players willing to suffer for your art, then perhaps you shouldn’t be playing live concerts at all."  This scene can barely support the 1 artist playing a live let alone 2, 3, or 4 more people who he expects to fill in all the parts. Not to mention he's knocked out almost ALL industrial, synthpop, avant garde music, etc. in one fell swoop.  If he really sat down and talked about this with some of the folks who sacrifice a lot to tour - even if there are a few parts on "memorex" - and get a feel for what it takes then he may reconsider his position. He's also completely missing the personal element - that being these artists will often (if not always) visit one-on-one with the fans and make the experience more personable. Frankly, I would've expected more from Diliberto, but I'm afraid he just doesn't quite understand this subject.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2010, 09:49:00 PM by Numina »

Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #30 on: June 03, 2010, 10:00:20 PM »
Music, especially improvised music is a conversation between instrumentalists.

Unless you are insane, can you really talk to yourself for very long and be engaged or engaging? However when talking to others especially if it's the right people a conversation can go on and on because it IS engaging.

So I think Diliberto has a point. A one man show ultimately isn't that interesting to watch for an extended period. Even the Metheny Orchestrion idea would get old quick and that guy has chops galore and it has a visual element of the instruments on stage instead of sounds coming out of speakers from samples playing from some device. Also I checked out the Metheny video on his site www.patmetheny.com/orchestrioninfo and he said something I thought telling.

He mentioned when a musician is in a situation such as overdubbing and playing to themselves there is an imprint like a fingerprint to fingerprint (see the video at about 5:22.) I think he simultaneously hit on what is beautiful about the process and what is also a dead end about it. Because if you are only responding to yourself then it's much like having a conversation with yourself. It's one sided and probably not that interesting in the long term. I've noticed the same thing when doing live looping which is a common tool in electronic music.

In watching Metheny with his Orchestrion I was initially excited (in part because I love 19th century Orchestrion's) but quickly realized what he was getting out of the instrument was no different than what I have heard him do with other musicians. I would have been more excited to hear him use the process to come up with some new directions in sound.

When I see live performances part of what engages me the most is seeing how musicians get sounds out of their instrument and getting a sense of how the music is created. There is also an interplay in imperfection that is fascinating. Human beings flow, their tempo swings and the emotional connection that pours out from a really great set of players connects with the audience.
Disconnection only yields more disconnection. The man playing the computer is disconnected from striking the head on a drum, the audience is disconnected from seeing the force of the blow on that drum and hearing the explosion of sound it creates and so on. Disconnected. Disinterested. Disengaged.

The electronic music genre needs a shot in the arm. Badly. Getting three or four folks on stage playing together might just be the ticket to bring more interest in what is happening both on stage and off. Otherwise in performance you might as well resort to getting some Solid Gold dancers or Fly Girls or what have you to sell all that mouse jockeying.


Numina

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #31 on: June 03, 2010, 10:28:28 PM »
I got news for you - I've seen many... MANY electronic concerts with 2 - 5 people on stage and all they do is stare at a laptop or their synth.  It's no less boring or more live feeling - with the exception of an animated singer and/or lots of visuals, you're no better off.  I couldn't imagine it being markedly more entertaining (much less economical) for Steve Roach to hire extras to play the parts he can't live - perhaps bringing a couple folks who may have played or sung actual parts in the studio sessions that ended up on an album playing their specific parts live would be neat, but not hired hands who would likely be hidden in the dark staring at a synth screen only to be ignored at the end of the night when everyone is really there to enjoy 1 person's masterpiece of work and who all want to visit with the 1 person who made it all happen.

I completely know what you guys are saying and where you're going with this.  I know it seems like a band setting could draw in more people and might make it more exciting but I don't personally see that it would work out that way in this genre.  Frankly, I don't think ANYTHING would make the space-ambient EM scene garner droves of fans at this juncture. It's becoming a very niche market and is largely dismissed.  I think the interest will eventually return to the level of fans we saw in the 80s-90s but not until the brainless farts of the world grow up a little (but that's a whole other subject).

I should also mention that a lot of this music is meant to be listened to with eyes closed and not necessarily watched or intended to be visually stimulated by.  I think we all know that though.

Going back to John D. again, you just can't put people like RR and Metheny in the same realm of comparison.  HUGE apples & oranges thing going on there... which proves to me again that John D. is clueless on the subject of solo live ambient music production.

J.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2010, 10:32:14 PM by Numina »

ffcal

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #32 on: June 03, 2010, 11:03:05 PM »
As one who does not like performing live at all, I admire those who have the stomach for it.  But I don't understand John's use of Robert to make his point about live performance.  Robert is touring in support of a specific album, and that album doesn't happen to be based on a conventional band, in the sense of using the same core of musicians on every track.  I don't think it helps for John to apply a rock/jazz/folk paradigm to the live performance of ambient music.  I also think that creating music in the studio, regardless of whether it is done with one person or ten, is a form of expression that is fundamentally different from live performance; one form is no more legitimate than the other, unless you have already chosen sides.  Of course, the economics of traveling across the country to perform ambient music does not exactly lend itself to touring with a conventional band, either, unless you are signed to a label with some significant coin to subsidize it.

Forrest

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #33 on: June 04, 2010, 01:18:14 AM »
Diliberto's blog didn't challenge me or make me think at all. It's an old argument and it seemed rather mean-spirited including Robert in it. As Jesse says, he's been touring in this way for years.

Sure, watching some dude operating his laptop perhaps isn't the last word in entertainment, but watching a lot of 'real' instrumentalists isn't
necessarily that exciting either. What ever happened to 'stage presence' ?

Pete

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #34 on: June 04, 2010, 01:50:16 AM »
I recently attended a show by Thomas Köner. As much as I enjoyed the music and the visuals, I can´t call flipping open a laptop and just running Ableton Live a *concert*. More a CD presentation with the artist being around. Which is nice but not exactly a concert IMO. There´s nothing wrong with a computer on stage if it helps creating music on the spot but if that´s all there is... I´m not sure what to make of that.

Stephen
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modulator_esp

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #35 on: June 04, 2010, 05:39:43 AM »
Having put on and attended lots of ambient/EM gigs over the last few years I find that 'karaoke' style EM can be OK if it is done well and is entertaining, but personally I find it a lot less engaging than a real live performance, where all the elements are performed live and there is little or no pre-recorded backing

einstein36

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #36 on: June 04, 2010, 08:17:21 AM »
okay....gotta throw my .02 cents in this conversation:)...

I have been asked in the past myself why I don't perform my music live and I tell them like most EM artists is that ambient music is very complicated and sequenced out, but I have found that yes, I still need a laptop but only for the purpose of running the soft sythns since that's what I use the majority of the time and I can do improvised live playing just using the soft sythns playing in real time improvised..

also, watching a behind the scenes making of on performing live and one member of a band said that to have a really successful live avenue, one has to engage the audience even if that means stepping out from behind the sythn and maybe talk about the song, why you created it the way you did, maybe a joke about the song, hell...maybe talk about yourself and your life.....and the band member said this will help the audience members connect even more to one's music...
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Brian Bieniowski

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Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #37 on: June 04, 2010, 10:40:33 AM »
Over the years, I've been to quite a few live electronic music performances.  I've probably outclocked rock shows by now!

I can see the argument made that Dude Plus Laptop doesn't always make for great live experience, but most rock bands are so inconsistent live that it doesn't hold much water for me.  I watched Wolfgang Voigt "perform" Gas (essentially a CD listening party) and it was some of the most compelling moments of any music I've ever heard played anywhere. 

I think atmosphere goes a long way in these performances.  If they're in a nice place (Philly's St. Mary's church for example) or if the artist is "rich" enough to be able to bring interesting visuals, I find that I hardly even pay attention to the artist on stage, which seems preferable in this over-saturated age of retarded rock moves.  As with everything, I guess, personal tastes vary.

One of my favorite electronic music shows was Markus Popp playing Oval music before a Tortoise show in a crowded club.  I remember he had a big computer, because I think this was before the proliferation of laptops, so it was unusual to see a dapper fellow up on stage with just a computer.  Anyway, he played his gentle music over all the crazy talk and noise in the club and it was just a perfect furniture music kind of experience.  After a while you couldn't tell where music ended and audience began.

Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #38 on: June 04, 2010, 12:49:23 PM »
I should probably clarify my last post a bit. I have seen a lot of one man shows including Fripp, Rich, Roach, Vidna, Johnson and others. Doing it by yourself can be very on edge, engaging and it really takes a great musician to pull it off. And the guys mentioned above have done great music both off and on stage. The point is the format is getting old, much like Rock trio's did in the 60s so someone like JD who has heard a lot of music and has been active in the genre for 35 years (I think he said) he is probably making the judgment based on how many performances of this type he has seen over the years. The question here is what do you do as an artist to keep things fresh for an audience already familiar with the genre?

I like how small and portable laptops are as an instrument, but am not convinced they make a good instrument because for one they are the same thing folks type on all day to do their work. And there is probably an association with having the computer do it for you that is in the perception of most folks that devalues a laptop as an instrument as well. Which is not to make a statement either way of what a lap top is or isn't or could be, just a commentary on public perception.

Not to mention even in "sleeper" music one would probably like to have something to look at before they drift off. I know the Gathering series does a great job with their light shows in this regard. So some of this perception comes down to stage presence, presentation and showmanship. All lap tops aside. :-)

For myself at this point I would rather play with and see more musicians on stage than not. I think there are more possibilities with this approach and could lead to untraveled areas within the genre. A journey which I and probably others would find more intriguing artistically.

Re: Robert Rich Tour Blog
« Reply #39 on: June 04, 2010, 03:53:33 PM »
Hey Brian, What made the Wolfgang Voigt performance so compelling?