M.I.A. travels the world on the back of a Lemur…
Fusing the sounds of Dancehall, Grime and musical influences from around the planet, M.I.A. is fast becoming a global superstar. But whether opening for Björk, playing the world’s biggest festivals or touring with her band, M.I.A. attains creative enlightenment with Jazzmutant’s Lemur…
M.I.A. (aka Mathangi Arulpragasam) and her band are becoming as well known for the visual spectacle of their shows as the uncompromising nature of their sound. But it was while opening for Björk that the band were first introduced to the revolutionary Jazzmutant Lemur multi-touch controller – already a mainstay of Björk’s live shows.
Having immediately decided that Lemur was the controller for them, M.I.A’s technical and creative guru Andrew Plourde started integrating the controller into their own live sets – and with just ten days until their next live performance the pressure was on!
“I had never even touched a Lemur at that point, so it's testament to good design that I was able to put together the programming in so short a time without having to even read the manual!”
It may be early days as far as exploring the Lemur’s full potential, but the creative element that Lemur has brought to their live shows has been unparalleled, as Andrew tells us…
“Previously, the music was played back by the DJ and therefore was a static, stereo mix. But M.I.A. wanted more control over the music – to be able to loop a section or jump from one part of a song to another, to drop tracks in and out and process the elements on the fly.”
“So now the Lemur is controlling not only the audio, but the video as well. When a jump is performed to a different section of a song, or a section is looped, the video as well as the audio follow those changes.”
“Ultimately M.I.A. is not a static performer! Despite wanting more direct control of the audio and video, the show isn't about her standing at the controller, playing the tracks. The controller needed to be a ‘conductor's station’ rather than an instrument – she needs to be able to play it, walk away and come back to it later in a song, and immediately see what the exact state of play is.”
While technically they could have used just about any programmable controller to trigger and play the parts, in order to accommodate the dynamism of the show, they needed something that provided a wealth of visual feedback. “And nothing does that better than the Lemur,” Andrew says. “We can explicitly label buttons and create animated visual markers so there's no guessing about what-is-what when she runs back to the controller after surfing the crowd!”
“At the moment the Lemur is set up with one song per page. A timeline along the top shows current song position, while buttons below allow jumping to different sections of a track – either to loop or to play though to the end of the song.
One section allows for muting tracks (with a signal present ‘LED’ to show when tracks are playing audio), another for sending them to effects and manipulating those effects. Another section is for triggering individual samples – and processing them with more effects.”
“The sophisticated parser allows easy programming of multiple controller messages on one button. This allows us to create simple mute and effects ‘reset’ buttons. So after she has dubbed out a section and is triggering the next, she can quickly get the audio back to its normal state without having to fiddle with eight buttons, six faders, three knobs…”
“I know that so far we're barely scratching the surface of what this box can do, but for now, we’ve hit upon an interface that works, and that's all that matters.”
Further information from www.jazzmutant.com