FFT analysis as a creative tool in live performance

Michael Young; Sebastian Lexer
DAFx-2003 - London
This paper describes the use of real time spectral analysis to enhance the creative opportunities in improvised live electronics/instrumental performance. FFT analysis allows musicians to observe in performance a visual representation of the spectrum, displaying the spectral characteristics of audio resulting from performance activity and/or computer processing. These characteristics can then be explored during performance, assigning areas of special interest within the spectrum to parameters which in turn control (or at least influence) electronic processing. This creates an effective, easily manipulated but potentially highly complex performance environment, encouraging further interaction between improvising performers, and allowing subtle and complex links to emerge between the timbral features of actual music (result) and the act of performance (cause). We hope to increase awareness of the performance-specific potential of familiar analytical tools, of which FFT is one example, and their unfulfilled creative potential.