Milk Basket Bicycle

Milk Basket Bicycle is a piece for electric viola and laptop that uses live editing and looping techniques. Every element of the piece is performed live and in real-time. The violist reads from a part (that is included below), and the computer is almost entirely automated after the performer initially starts the patch. I made the decision to automate the patch because the timing between the computer and the violist needs to be as close to perfect as humanly possible in order for the loops to be in sync with each other. That way, at least one possibility for human error is eradicated. For the same purpose of timing, the violist must wear a headset with a click track, and for the ease of the violist, a second headset must be worn (preferably a noise-canceling model) on top of the first headset that feeds only the viola back to the performer (this is due to the pitch-shifting properties of the patch).

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The basic principle of the piece is very simple: Everything that the electric viola plays (except the "coda") is fed into a series of buffers and repeated for almost the entire duration. This has the effect of creating an electric viola ensemble, if you will. I calculated the beat number that each buffer needs to start recording on and used a counter object controlling a series of toggles controlled by a select object (as seen below).

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This allowed me to automate every musical event that occurs in the composition. As the piece continues, the pitch of the viola slowly begins to creep up a perfect fifth (for 273 beats, to be exact) and then back down again (over 91 beats) via the pfft~ gizmo object. I also automated the two dynamic changes of the piece using the line~ object (which, is very nice because you can feed it tempo-related data so that you can achieve dynamic shifts on the exact beat that you want).

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The percussion part of the patch is actually quite simple. At the beginning of the piece, a buffer records what the viola plays and keeps it there until the piece is over. Then, when the percussion is supposed to come in, the grain.bang object (created by none other than Nathan Wolek) uses white noise to control where it is going to grab the sample from the buffer.

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The last part of this composition (what I like to call the "coda") is really just meant to show off the viola (in addition to changing keys in the last thirty seconds of the piece so that what you've been listening to for the past three and a half minutes was actually just one giant supertonic chord, but that's beside the point). I used another set of pfft~ gizmo objects to add a couple of octaves above the viola, and several octaves below the viola. This created a massive sound in the hall that was somewhat reminiscent of an organ - or maybe a super-viola?

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Below you can find a video recording of a performance of the entire composition that took place on my senior recital (March 29, 2009 - H. Douglas Lee Chapel of Elizabeth Hall).

Performers:
Kimberly Hankins, electric viola
Jon Carter, laptop

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