As a company that makes musical instruments, we’re always fascinated (not to mention very gratified) when we see an artist totally master something we’ve created. That’s why when the first videos of DeLaurentis’ virtuosic Push performances began appearing online a few years ago, we knew this was an artist to keep track of. What impressed us most was not only her proficiency with Push 1 and Push 2, but the restraint with which DeLaurnetis put her ample instrumental and vocal skills into the service of musical expression, as demonstrated in her cover of Portishead’s ”Glory Box”.
Prompted by the recent release of an EP of electronic interpretations of several late 19th and early 20th century French classical works, we spoke with DeLaurentis about her musical evolution, the unique interplay between her voice and her instruments, and some of her go-to techniques with Push and Live.
How and why did Push become your main instrument? Also, did you have vocal training or are you an autodidact?
I’m from an artist family, my father is a jazz-pianist and was arranger for Claude Nougaro, my brothers are a bass player and a drummer and my sister is an actress. My name “DeLaurentis” is the heritage of my Italian grandfather who was passionate about film. So naturally, I started by listening and singing jazz standards in clubs and at the same time I studied music at the Conservatory of Perpignan and then musicology and jazz at the University of Mirail in Toulouse. I have always composed and improvised melodies, harmonic suites and songs, on piano or synth. I’m a self-taught producer and I started making music with Cubase and Logic software. I was influenced by jazz, film scores, techno, trip hop and Laurie Anderson, one of the first women pioneers of electronic music, who inspired me to start producing and mixing music on my own.
My main goal has always been to convey the first emotion of inspiration we can have with a voice or a piano through software. So I use my voice as a core sound – at times rhythmic or melodic, harmonious or evasive and that brings a warmth to the electronic tones of the music. There is nothing more personal and unique than a voice. And so, my songs usually start out as piano and vocal-based compositions, which are then built up like a screenplay, with introduction, exposition, development, climax, and ending.
In 2015, with my first EP, I swapped the piano for Ableton Live and Push. After a cancelled gig with my music partner at that time, I realized I wasn’t able to play my own songs by myself. That’s how and why Push became my main instrument. After 6 months exploring, discovering and working on my solo set up, Push enabled me to feel independent to produce and perform by myself.
"If the 20th century started with Maurice Ravel, it ended with Daft Punk and we can definitely make a connection between the two."
Now, I can loop my voice, assign effects (vocoders, delays, reverb, filters…) and play different synths at the same time. I capture voices and ideas on the fly, replaying them, stopping them, changing the tempo and pitching while improvising. Most of the time, I sample all elements of the track (bass, synths, sound design, voices..) and I make a specific Drum Rack or Sampler for each song. I assign colors to sounds and it’s always a different painting. I like to associate colors to the atmosphere and the mood of the music.
During a song, I will switch back and forth between Note Mode to Session Mode to loop voices, play Drum Racks or instruments and launch clips and scenes. One of my favorite tricks is the “Convert audio clip to Simpler” function on Push, using the Convert button. In slice mode, it splits my voice into portions of time on the 64 pads of the Push. Then I can play it as a new instrument and it’s very inspiring. That’s what I use in this video to replay the strings of my violist friend Mathilde Vrech.
You recently released an EP of interpretations of compositions from the classical canon. How do you come to these choices? And could you walk us through the process of adapting these compositions for an electronic sound palette?
The EP is called “Classical Variations Vol.1” and on it I adapt and revisit in a modern way and with my electronic touch some famous classical french works from the end of the 19th century & early 20th century: "Gymnopédie N°1" by Erik Satie, "Pavane" by Gabriel Fauré, "Aquarium" by Camille Saint-Saëns, and "Boléro" by Maurice Ravel.
Reworking pop songs or film score themes is one of my favorite exercises! Maybe it’s my family’s roots in jazz where there are no two similar version of the same standard. Last September, I was looking to revisit a classical music piece with my Push and I chose the famous “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel.
I had no idea what kind of feedback I was going to receive and I was a bit worried about it. Indeed, it’s risky to mix classical and electronic music. But I still posted my video and the result was very positive! This gave me the idea to release an EP with other French impressionist composers belonging to this same astonishing neo-classic period.
With these variations I wanted to bridge the gap between French Music and French Touch. If the 20th century started with Maurice Ravel, it ended with Daft Punk and we can definitely make a connection between the two. My goal was to respect the score while creating a new surprising production and harmony. I wanted the listeners to be able to recognize the original melody but also to be able to recognize my own touch.
That’s why I used my voice a lot for the sound design, especially with the new Echo device. Behind a natural voice recording, new colors and unsuspected shapes appear and it stimulates inspiration with new directions.
Instead of playing melodies with traditional and acoustic instruments, I used the wavetable synth a lot because the palette to modulate sounds is infinite. For example, in “Aquarium” I used a harp-like sound from Wavetable and it inspired me to play Push in a new way, like a guitar!
I also used my Prophet Rev 2 to record bass lines. In these variations, the rhythm is quite minimalist and I picked the old school sound of TR808 or 606. The only acoustic instrument I recorded on the whole EP is the cello of my friend Octavio Angarita in “Boléro”. The mixture of organic strings and synthesizers is a proven recipe! I always think about the collaboration with Bjork and the Kronos Quartet.
Each variation is connected to an emotion, the reason why I called them, Cosmic, Love, Fantasy or Time Variation. For “Gymnopédie N°1” by Erik Satie I imagined a warm summer night watching the NGC7293 nebula (also called “Eye of God”) through a telescope. The Love Variation on “Pavane” is an imaginary love story between its composer Gabriel Fauré and Comtesse Elisabeth Greffulhe, to whom he dedicated the piece.