Reflections on the new 2013 live setup

by Clint on January 19th 2013

Last week synnack performed at Planet Myer Day 11 in Leipzig. The set debuted several new tracks in the works, as well as our new video work. Here's a video of the start of the set plus the first track we played.

The new AbletonLive-to-Maxforlive-to-Max-to-ResolumeArena-to-Projector setup for the visuals worked flawlessly.

Outside of the new visuals, a few new updates to my Ableton Live setup to share:

  • Several new synnack tracks near completion. At this show I played "Hieroglyph" and "Thorium"; both from the upcoming v3 release. (More on the new release soon...)

  • I'm using Live 9 exclusively. Using a beta build on stage is sort of nuts but Live 9 has been extremely stable for me. (I used b59 on stage for the curious). It worked like a champ. No issues.

  • I redid my Live set to only require 8 tracks. I had about 12 tracks in the last version of my set I used last year. It always required using the left/right bank select buttons on the APC40 on stage to show the clips I wanted to fire in the grid, or to show the right "Track Selection" button for me to select a given track for the "Device Control" knobs to work on it via the "blue hand" (Ableton Live users will get that...). This is a huge pain on stage and is distracting from acting on the spontaneous ideas that pop in my head while playing. So for 2013 I decided I would force myself to only require 8 tracks so everything for a song would be in one display on the APC40. The downside is some things are submixed down to combined clips so I have less flexility to only play specific things, but it was a good tradeoff. Having everything right there greatly simplified navigation on stage and let me focus more on the performance.

  • I also used a new Max for Live device I created that gives me a large visual status of the currently playing clips. This was a HUGE win. When you see people bent over their laptops on stage squinting and staring at the screen in Ableton Live, often its to see the status of the currently playing clips to see how long they have left before they might consider firing something new. My new "Clip Status Monitor" device blows this up huge. I can see it from across the stage. The net is that there's much less squinting at a laptop screen and more focus on the music. I will post the device up to soon when I clean it up and comment it correctly of course.

  • The set looks deceptively simple but thats the point. It's easy to read and find things on stage. 7 tracks of audio clips, and 1 track with nested racks of samplers of all the things I want to play on top of the other tracks Live. You'll also notice a "Visuals" group track. That's where it gets complicated. I have many Max for Live devices there interpreting the audio into numbers that get used to control the visuals. (how this works can be found here and here)
  • I'm still giving up for now on the idea of using iPad(s) on stage. It would be so much simpler to fly to a show with only my 2 iPads instead of the APC40... but I still find I much prefer actual knobs and buttons on stage. I'm old sure but having physical knobs, faders, and buttons just feels better. I will incorporate it in there some day, especially for X/Y controller type things. But for this show, it was just my APC40 and LPK25 (I'm so old I actually do play parts on actual synth keys *gasp*)

  • A review of the night can be found on the Reflections of Darkness site. As well as some cool pics of the set at The review makes me snicker a bit but in a good way. I intentionally do not interact with the audience and keep all the stage lights off. We are trying to focus them on the sound and video. The synnack sets are meant to be more and more like an art performance than a "music concert". So in a way, even the criticism in this review are spot on, but things I choose to do intentionally. Some cool pics though. :-D

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