In the first installment of our new series Input/Output, we talk to one of our favorite artists about the inspirations, techniques and technology that went into her latest production. We’ve been following Holly Herndon’s many activities ever since her debut album caught our ears in 2012. Movement’s perfectly poised mixture...
From classical piano to experimental pop, Angélica Negrón wears a number of musical hats. We recently spoke to her about her music, and how Ableton Live is involved - from scoring to sampling to unpredictable new performance styles.
Angélica Negrón’s musical background reads like a perfect marriage of old and new - educated in piano and violin at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, she later co-founded electro-acoustic pop group Balún, and pursued ambient and lo-fi music under the name Arturo en el Barco. Most recently, she’s written pieces on commission for numerous festivals and ensembles, and scored two feature films. Through her unique lens, she has presented a meld of traditional and newer music.
In her piece, “Bubblegum Grass / Peppermint Field”, Angélica demonstrates her range of influences and ideas through the use of traditional chamber instruments, coupled with the Gamelan Elektrika. Conceived by Alex Rigopulos, the Gamelan Elektrika finds musicians playing traditional Indonesian Gamelan instruments, which then trigger a host of different sounds. These sounds are available as banks of samples in Ableton Live. As the performance progresses, a separate musician alters the sounds in Live - as such, Alex notes, “Elektrika challenges performers to trust silent instruments and develop an understanding of highly intricate and interlocking music - not through the sound of the individual, but through the sound of the whole.”
See a video of “Bubblegum Grass / Peppermint Field” in performance:
Angélica first came to Live when seeking an alternative to traditional musical notation applications. “After many years of mostly working with notation software,” she says, “working with Ableton Live has allowed me to easily integrate my interest for writing electro-acoustic music with the compositional process itself”. Working with Live allows Angélica to audition pieces while writing them - a special requirement for the pieces that she writes. “As many of my pieces also incorporate an electronic component,” she explains, “[auditioning pieces in Live] allows me to listen to both elements (electronic and acoustic) simultaneously, which is something I’m not able to do in a notation software.”
Beyond assembling parts for acoustic instruments, Angélica uses Live as a versatile sample editor and instrument, describing Sampler as her “main tool” for electronic composition and performance. “In my music I work a lot with samples of my own found sounds, voices or toy instruments,” she says. “Among my favorite sounds are random noises, wine glasses, nice sounding lights from my apartment, voices and toy instruments which I collect. I often also incorporate micro-samples from my previous pieces, which directly respond to my interest in capturing, retaining and evoking different moments in time through my music. I’m incessantly intrigued by how a distinct sample of a found sound can be transformed by simple manipulations and mere pitch shifting, and this is something I constantly explore in my work.”
Looking ahead, Angélica has new ambitions for using Live for her performances and recordings. “I’ve considered having ‘Ableton Live versions’ of my tracks”, she says, proposing pieces that would more heavily - perhaps exclusively - rely on parts performed in Ableton Live, rather than an acoustic ensemble. “For ‘Bubblegum Grass / Peppermint Field’, I’ve created an alternate version which could be performed for string quartet, which contains my Ableton Live version of the Gamelan part.” Pushing boundaries with classical and electro-acoustic music, Angélica is an inspiring artist to watch.
Learn more about Angélica Negrón and her music at her website.