Verneri Lumi is one of the most prolific and diverse artists you will hear (and see) and is involved in everything from experimental visual art to live music to playing in the band RinneRadio. As we discover here, he uses a Jazzmutant Lemur to great effect in all of these situations...
Verneri Lumi has a varied musical background, brought up with sounds from the 60s and 70s and learning how to play both acoustic guitar and drums from an early age. At just 16 he plunged into electronic music armed with a minimal gear set-up. It was to be the start of an incredible music journey...
"I lived in a pretty small place and there were not many nice things to do other than play," he recalls. "After a while I felt I was more into rhythm than harmonies so I started to play drums. About the same time electronic music caught my interest and we started a live House/Drum & Bass band the with percussionist (and also my present band mate) Juuso Hannukainen. First I only used an Akai MPC because PCs gave me a hard time and programming with pads was more natural to me than to use a mouse and a step sequencer."
In 1990 Lumi saw Richie Hawtin perform at the Koneisto electronic music festival in Finland."It blew me away. I got in to techno and minimalistic kind of sound manipulation. There was no turning back after that."
Lumi continued his own musical journey and was touring with a rock and pop act when he was asked to play in the long-standing, pioneering Finnish band RinneRadio, which he describes as"blending jazz/ ambient wind instruments and electronic beats and soundscapes". The band is 20 years old this summer and we released a new album On a few months ago.
So you might say that Verneri's musical experience is already vast but another string in his bow is his sound design work for live performance. "While I was into techno I discovered something called 'new circus', like contemporary dance but with different instruments. Sound designing for dance and circus companies is now my main job and interest."
"With some performing artists it is possible to use live mics and sound manipulation with movement and/or set design being the source of the sound. We also started to experiment with 3D animator and visual artist Merja Nieminen and are now trying to create a performance that experiments with different spaces in visuals and sound with strong interaction in a live improvisatory environment."
"It can be programmed the way I need it," he says of his Lemur. "I have a lot of different kinds of controllers but their knobs are always in the wrong order or I just forget how I had them set up the last time I used them because I had to change mapping, or it wasn't logical. With the ability to program (and to label objects), it can have very different functions in different applications. I can build tools inside Lemur's patches, and I don't necessarily have to follow the same logic of how I did it in Ableton Live, for example. It can, and it does, give me new angles for effects and instruments like I can put together many effects and control them as one device."
So how does Verneri use his Lemur for specific tasks? "For me Lemur is still at its best in a live environment," he replies. "In RinneRadio I use it as my virtual mixer and effects controller. I have two laptops running Ableton Live, one as a sequencer/looping base and the other as a mixer. They are completely separated so I'm not too stuck with the tempos. All the pre-made and real time loops go to different channels in the mix computer depending on what they are. Then I have different kinds of effect chains for different elements prepared i.e. drum stuff can go through EQ, distortions, pitch delays and so on. With the Lemur I can control the whole chain as one device with one interface."
"The band leader, Tapani Rinne, plays different kinds of clarinets and I also manipulate his sounds through various pedals and plug-ins. One of my most used patches in the band's live environment is a delay/short loop looper interface â€“ I use it to make unplayable rhythmic elements and riffs out his playing. I have three different kind of delay plug-ins in Live's rack with different kinds of timing and filtering possibilities. I control them with a few custom buttons and three fader objects. Delay sends are organized in a way that I have just one button to control the send although delay can have different input channels depending on the instrument. So it is possible to react fast."
"Actually I think Lemur shows its sharpest tooth in mixed media," he says. "I got my Lemur about a year ago and it has really given us a huge amount of help with visual artist Merja Nieminen. It gave us and our computers a common ground to communicate. She uses Max/MSP and I use Live. She knows a little about sound and I don't know much about her 3D patches or their capabilities. In our last rehearsals I moved around in her programmed space with the Lemur and, at the same time, I had control over the sound. We had the sound following the space's structural environment, with pan, EQ, reverbs, etc. She could also throw some new objects in or start moving things. With one instrument we play one audio-visual piece together, although we have a long way to go."
Aside from this Lumi is also using his Lemur for contemporary dance and circus pieces. "It's very useful to control many sound sources with tight reactions and timing on what's happening on stage. There can be ready-made songs, mini mics under the stage and costumes with a couple of different speaker systems in the same piece. To change the situation with good timing would be hard with normal hardware but with few buttons and faders programmed on one page it's easy to follow. Overall I can now dig deeper. I can have more and more complicated device chains in stand-by, ready for action."
Verneri is currently on tour with RinneRadio (see http://www.rinneradio.com) and working on a dance piece, Connective Patterns, by Sari Palmgren (http://www.zodiak.fi). "The piece includes video documentaries of other dancers shot in different countries and cultures. It's a performance that maps out connective and disconnective patterns in our environment and in our bodies. I don't have a clue yet how I will do it but it's most likely that the Lemur will have part in it!"
"After that there are a couple of different circus performances in France. The first one in May is called Fur!, directed by Maksim Komaro, in Parc de la Villette, Paris. It's a piece that was premiered last May in Helsinki. I did the music, and some of the live sound parts in it. Then in June in Nexon, France, there's a performance called PieniÃ¤ Paloja, also by Maksim Komaro. Live music, a lot of juggling, ring trapeze and rope acrobatics (http://www.circoaereo.net)."
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