Truthfully, I’ve only played a handful of live sets on the modular. I do, however, come from an improvisation background using guitar and pedals, and a decade ago in New York I had two weekly fully-improvised gigs, one quartet and one duo, that lasted for a few years. I developed an approach back then and I think I borrow some of that approach now with the modular. The difference is that I have much less familiarity with the modular as an instrument as I had with guitar and the mostly static selection of pedals I used to use.
Lately, I’ve been changing up the modular every few days, just searching for that alchemical gold. This results in barely having a saddle on the thing when it comes to performance time. I’m also new to 12U having only played a single show with that much hp. I have a show here in Austin in a couple days and I just today settled on my case configuration. I’ll be playing a 30-minute set and as of now, I don’t have anything planned. Tomorrow, though, I might end up with a vague map—at least for the beginning and end. That map will probably just be choosing a couple/few tonal centers and general vibe. But the thing is, having a map doesn’t mean that I need to use it. It’s just comforting at this point of unfamiliarity with the instrument to have some sort of overall compositional form to fall back on in case I try to juggle too many scarves/balls/knives.
Most importantly, though, is that I prioritize doing what feels best in the moment. My goal is to find the zone. You know, to discover that place that opens everything up where what you’re creating surprises and delights yourself. That’s when the music is truly relevant to the present moment. And for that reason, I don’t try to play any existing structures. It feels too much like sight reading, which I was never really good at.
A useful tool I’ve started experimenting with is to remind myself of the handful of configurations that I’ve been digging lately. Just with a clever name and if needed, a couple directions (Any re-patching, René scale preset, O_C Quantermain scale selections, Pam’s clocks or preset, dark/bright on filters, whatever is most important). That way, if in the moment I realize that I need a change and I’m not already confidently making a change in some desired direction, I can choose from the list. It’s kind of like flash cards for practicing. Whether or not I’ll use the tool in performance is yet to be seen. I don’t really want to, though. I’m hoping to have it all up in the noggin.
I love the timer idea. I’ve always just used the stock iOS timer, but man @marcus_fischer that app is great. I will definitely use it.
I’ve also started using an external mixer with two FX sends, delay and verb. It’s great to have faders to ride and having a little bit of EQ on each channel is also great. Most importantly, it’s freed up space in the case for more core modules not having to mix and apply as many effects in the case to get the sound I’m going for.
So, yeah, that’s what I can share now. Maybe after Wednesday, I’ll have more to add.