Project W/A\V is a performance system for violin, and controller using Ableton Live. All of the elements of the performance system turns a usual monophonic instrument into one that can play melody, harmony, and rhythmic elements at the same time, allowing for large soundscapes to evolve. Using these electronics will help expand the tonal spectrum of the acoustic violin and open up a whole new world of useable sounds that would not be possible otherwise.
Innovation Through Technology
The violin is considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the known world, and has gone through many variations, but recently, the violin has seen only a gradual amount of innovation in the idea of using effects, in comparison to more modern instruments like the guitar. Most of the changes to the violin have been aesthetic changes such as the shape of the body, the length of the fingerboard, the materials of the strings, Using different materials such as carbon fiber for the body of the instrument, and even the bow itself has made a large evolution. What I wanted to attempt with Project W/A\V is to step forward in live manipulated audio using one of the oldest instruments of the world as the source of music.
The idea of improvisation within electronic music is not newly found. but the improvisation between controller and a musician as separate artists has been something that I have been wanting to see in the world of electronic music. The idea that the controller has the ultimate power of changing the timber of the acoustic instrument while the performer must play musically and in sync with one another. This level of subliminal communication is something that is commonly seen in small, classical and jazz ensembles. Being on the same wavelength in another way than just playing different parts to the same music.
After learning about the flexibility of Ableton, I decided to make a live set with effects sends taking place of a physical pedal board. The Individual sends each have individual and unique effects on each all of which are able to manipulate through macros. These sends are then routed receive audio from the live violin track. On the violin track there is one knob for each effect send that is available, in this case 8, and this allows for great flexibility with the mix of the “wet” signal. I think the interesting part of this is to figure out which effects blend well with each other. So in total, the controllerist has the ability to make small and delicate changes to the individual effects, while at the same time being able to make large sweeping changes using instrument rack macros, all while being able to manipulate themix of the 8 effects that have been laid out as sends.
Project W/A\V began like any innovation, as a solution to a problem. As a violinist, I wondered how I could implement electronics into my own performances. I toyed around with guitar pedals and ran into a couple of major problems. My largest concern was that the effects that I wanted to use were static. What if I wanted to make a filter sweep? What if I wanted to change the size of my reverb? What If I wanted to change the rate of my tremolo? What if I wanted to mix the signals of each effect? I would have to stop playing, reach down at my pedalboard and change those settings, and even then, the effects would stay unwavering. With this in mind I began to research more into what was already available at the time within modern electronic music. I was enamored of the flexibility that some of my favorite DJ’s had with their sound. They were able to manipulate the sound in every which way possible. I was envious, and I decided that that type of flexibility would be something the I would like to implement to the instrument that I know, the violin.
My goal with project W/A\V is to be a developer in the world of electro-acoustic music by shedding new light on a fresh way to manipulate an acoustic instrument live. With a growing audience for progressive modern music. With our growing knowledge of music and technology and a expanding taste for electronic music in the mainstream, this only seems to be an appropriate and strong step forward in the world of electro-acoustic music and new music as a whole.
Project W/A\V’s future is very exciting because I believe that even though the work of this project is done, its applications in different performance and compositional situations make this performance system very versatile in different situations. The promotion of it is something that I plan to attend to after I leave from Berklee Valencia with a focused mind and newly found contacts through Berklee. While I was prototyping this project, I quickly realized that this made it easy for people to really get into controllers. The macros that Mayur and I developed made it so that any knob that you would twist would make a drastic effect and would make the process of learning what each element did, easy to recognize and remember. In a way it almost seemed like the music couldmake itself. It could make for a very simple learning tool to teach people the benefits of introducing controllers into the music making process.
Even though Project WAV started out as a performance system for solely me to use, I soon began to realize that this project could be more useful in other like-minded individuals hands. I plan to release this template to anyone who would want to use this. The great thing about the project is that it could work with any amount of instruments of any style or any genre. It’s totally open ended and the possibilities are endless. I hope this template inspire more people to think about how electronics can help cultivate and push the boundaries of what people consider to be a “classical” art form.