Shackle is Anne La Berge on flute and electronics and Robert van Heumen on laptop-instrument. Their aim is to explicitly and subtly exploit shackling in both concept and material.

Category Archives: Shackle Affair

Closing the year 2012

by Robert on January 23, 2013

Shackle Affair is definitely a project that we’ll keep developing. We enjoy very much playing with third members and would like to expand on that. Organizing residencies, for example at WORM Rotterdam, and spend a couple of days developing new parts for the Shackle System. We’re also in the process of organizing a tour to the US in 2014, teaching our Converging Objecs workshop at Bilgi University in Istanbul, preparing a vinyl release of our Australia/NZ tour recordings, composing a piece for Shackle + church organ. This last piece will be premiered in the Orgelpark in November 2013.

Regarding the Shackle System, we are regularly rehearsing to get more confortable with the transitions and the control over the other player’s patch. For now we’ll keep it fixed, just learn to play it. Then we’ll find out what works and what not, and take it from there.

Stay tuned for more!

Shackle Affair: The Australie/NZ/Brazil tour

by Robert on January 23, 2013

With all this information about our activities in 2012 I almost forgot that we also went on a big tour. Visiting Wellington (NZ), Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney (AUS), Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) we performed 11 concerts and taught 8 Converging Objects workshops in 4 weeks. A huge boost to our performing and teaching skills. All performances were recorded, and we’ll release a selection of these on a vinyl release scheduled in the fall of 2013. We’ve been posting about our activities during the tour, to be found here.

Shackle Affair: Transitions

by Robert on January 16, 2013

Until early 2012, the Shackle System would assist in going from one musical atmosphere to another, but not HOW we would do that. The parts that the system would propose would become active if the countdown wasn’t cancelled. Then we would transition to the new musical section in a way we saw fit. This would sometimes be a hard cut, sometimes a gradual crossfade, and sometimes something less articulated. Sometimes in sync with eachother, sometimes not at all. In the new version we’ve added the display of a random transition together with each new proposal. Possible transitions are hard cut, crossfade, and ‘free’ (meaning do whatever you like). This helps us coordinating transitions. We are still learning to work with this. Quite often we don’t really obey the prescribed transition, or we’re just too late because of activities we need to perform to go to the new part (loading samples, changing flutes).

In the image, the box between the current part and the proposal is the transition box, showing either X (crossfade), | (hard cut) or — (free).

This could be a good moment to talk a bit more about the transitions. So the way the system works: there is a current part, let’s say EYE, a musical section where we would play sine tone related material. Then the system proposes a new section, let’s say SNAP, and starts to countdown from 15 to 0. The idea is that at the count of zero the new part, SNAP, becomes active and we as musicians go into playing snappy. But there is no rule nor some God telling us not to start playing snappy already a bit earlier – but then the other player might hit ‘cancel’ and we would stay in EYE, making my snappy playing sound out of place. We could on the other hand postpone the snappy playing a bit, and slowly do a crossfade after the countdown reaches zero. This whole field of possibilities is an interesting playground. Like the part proposal this transition proposal gives us direction, but leaves enough freedom to keep the flexibility and surprise of free improvisation. During the Converging Objects workshops we also found that players find it extremely difficult to wait with transitioning to the next part until the count of zero.

Shackle Affair: Player-Player Digital Interaction

by Robert on January 16, 2013

Initially the Shackle System was purely a cueing system, providing analog (visual) cues to the players and with players interacting in the analog domain as musicians. We’ve changed that by adding the possibility for players to control the other player’s musical software parameters. This control only happens in three parts: CLIP, LIMIT and SNAP. In CLIP and SNAP, I control a parameter in Anne’s Kyma system using the X-axis of the joystick. In LIMIT, Anne controls whatever funtion is active on the Y-axis of my joystick.

We are still learning to perform with this feature. We are used to playing our own instruments, but playing one instrument together is a whole different ballgame. It’s a bit like playing one violin with two players: one bowing and the other fingering. The great thing is that it forces us to listen in a different way to the other person’s patches. It’s a completely new way of playing together. Update: come to think of it, Shackle overall is a bit like playing one instrument together, as the system and our experience in performing together are binding our improvisations and determine to a large degree how we respond to eachother as players.

Shackle Affair: Player-System Interaction

by Robert on January 16, 2013

As part of the technical development of the Shackle System, we’ve looked into different ways of interfacing with the system. Specifically we looked at three aspects.

Presentation of the system to the players

Initially we both were looking at our computer screen to see the newly proposed parts. For Anne this made perfect sense, as she already has her computer screen there for visual feedback regarding her Max and Kyma setup. As I just moved away from looking at the screen, I wanted to find another way to get visual feedback from the system. The first option I considered was building custom hardware with LED lights as feedback. I soon realized this was not going to give me enough information, so I decided to use my iPod Touch. Using the AirDisplay sofware on both my laptop and the iPod, I could extend my computer screen onto the iPod Touch. I then modified the Shackle System window to fit on the iPod Touch screen. The iPod Touch is directly above my controllers, so without staring at it all the time, I can catch new proposals (blinking orange) out of the corner of my eye.


Interaction of the players with the system

An added advantage of using the iPod Touch was the ‘touch’ aspect of the iPod. I can actually hit the ‘cancel’ and ‘next’ button to cancel a proposal or request a next proposal on the iPod itself. So no need to reach for the spacebar on the laptop. I also added a switch pedal to my Arduino sensor interface to be able to cancel/next with my feet. This is also used regulary in Converging Objects workshops and Shackle Affair concerts to enable other players to cancel/next.

Presentation of the system to the audience and other players

We see the Shackle System mostly as a functional tool, enabling us to perform interesting improvisations. In that respect, there’s no need to show the system to the audience during performances. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of interest of audiences to understand a bit more of the way we communicate. We’ve been going back and forth about this, and haven’t found a good solution yet. During workshop presentations we usually show the system using a video projector, mostly because the participants need to see it, but this would also enable the audience to follow what’s going on. When performing with other players we usually use an extra LCD screen to enable the other player to see the system. Sometimes the audience can also get a glimpse of the system through that screen. That might in the end be the best solution: not putting to much emphasis on the system, but still opening up a bit to the audience’s interest.

Shackle Affair: Converging Objects workshops

by Robert on January 16, 2013

Shackle has been teaching Converging Objects workshops since 2010. Converging Objects is a series of workshops for acoustic musicians who improvise and use live electronics in their own setups, those who play with other musicians using electronics, or electronic musicians who improvise and work with acoustic players. As part of Converging Objects we introduce concepts and techniques for ensemble playing for both acoustic and electronic musicians. We encourage all participants to play their instruments and work with us on free and guided improvisation as well as developing approaches to using live electronics.

For us, the workshops also function as platform to test and improve our Shackle System. We regularly use the Shackle Multiplayer Music Game as exercise for the participants, and we use our Shackle System to structure the presentations at the end of the workshop. In that respect the Converging Objects workshops are an integral part of our Shackle Affair project. We have been adjusting our Shackle System to provide useful interfaces for the participants to work with.



Converging Objects workshops in 2012:

Shackle Affair: Shackle Multiplayer Music Game

by Robert on January 16, 2013

We developed the Shackle Multiplayer Music Game as the analog counterpart to our digital cueing system The Shackle System. The game is used regulary by ourselves during Converging Objects workshops as an example and exercise in structuring improvisation. The game is also included in the Shackle Stick package.

A multiplayer music game.

Setup: This is a musical improvisation game for 2-5 players. The Shackle deck contains 70 cards: 60 Section cards, 5 Cancel cards and 5 Next cards. The number of sections to be used in the game and the musical parameters for those sections are defined by the players before the game. There are 20 different section names and each section name has 3 variations on its musical parameters. One player is appointed the role of conductor. The other players receive a Cancel and a Next card. The conductor shuffles and holds the rest of the deck. The extra Cancel and Next cards are set aside.

Play: The conductor draws a card from the top of the deck and shows it to all the players for 10 seconds. This is a proposal to improvise on the musical parameters defined for the section on the card. If one of the players holds up a Cancel card within these 10 seconds, the conductor puts the proposal card anywhere in the deck and draws another proposal card from the top of the deck. If no one shows a Cancel card then the conductor puts the proposal card where it can be seen by all players and the proposed section is played. The conductor can draw a new proposal card at any time and this procedure is repeated. The conductor and players continue this procedure of proposal and play unless a player holds up a Next card which indicates that the conductor should draw a new proposal card from the top of the deck and hold it up for 10 seconds to propose the next section to be played. Players again have the right to cancel the proposed section by holding up a Cancel card within these 10 seconds.

Play continues until the players mutually decide that they are finished. An overall length can be agreed to beforehand. Players are encouraged to experiment with variations on these rules. Musical decisions take precedence over the rules.


Shackle Affair: Collaborations

by Robert on January 16, 2013

An important aspect of the Shackle Affair project is collaborations. We are constantly looking for interesting guest players to work with. With every player we aim to develop alternative versions of existing parts or create new parts of the Shackle System. Ideally we spend time together improvising with and without the system, record these sessions and extract interesting interplays that can be turned into a part.

Below a list of collaborations in 2012. Not included are the Converging Objects presentations with workshop participants. More about this in another Shackle Affair post.

Shackle & TimeArt (Sven Hahne & Matthias Muche) / February 2, 2012

The Cologne-based TimeArt ensemble and a Dutch contingency selected by Shackle presented a structured improvised music piece for 11 musicians at Trouw De Verdieping (Amsterdam) on February 2, 2012. A hand picked international group of virtuosic, acoustic and electronic musicians performing a 45-minute impro-composition. A collaboration between the Amsterdam Trytone organisation, the TimeArt collective from Sven Hahne & Matthias Muche and Shackle (Anne LaBerge & Deckard). Also with Angel Faraldo (electronics), Felicity Provan (trumpet) and Oscar Jan Hoogland (clavichord, elektronics). Supported by STEIM. The improvisation was guided by a version of the Shackle System. Three lcd screens were put in front of the players. Screenshots of the various musical sections can be found in a Shackle blogpost.

Links: YouTube, Soundcloud, Shackle blogpost

Shackle & Het Wereld Duo (Tessa Zoutendijk & Jaap Berends)/ February 15, 2012

Shackle performed a set with the Wereld Duo at the Jazz&lib at the Lindenberg in Nijmegen, using the Shackle System.

Shackle & Oğuz Büyükberber / March 25, 2012

Shackle performed a set with bassclarinet player Oğuz Büyükberber during the Brokken Middag in Zaal 100 (Amsterdam). For Oğuz we developed a specific interface to accomodate his low vision.

Links: image

Shackle & Oğuz Büyükberber / May 1, 2012

Shackle performed a set with bassclarinet player Oğuz Büyükberber in Zaal 100 (Amsterdam). This was the second concert with Oğuz. By this time he was more comfortable with the Shackle System and we could fully expoit the system. At the same time this was also The Shackle Stick Kickstarter Celebration Party, to celebrate the succesful Kickstarter project we set up to realize the Shackle Stick.

Links: Shackle blogpost

Shackle & Yedo Gibson / May 8, 2012

Shackle performed a set with saxophone player Yedo Gibson in Zaal 100 (Amsterdam). This was also the Shackle Stick Video-tape Concert, to record footage for the video to be included on the Shackle Stick.

Links:Vimeo, Shackle blogpost

Shackle & Lukas Simonis / December 8, 2012

Shackle performed a set with guitar player Lukas Simonis at the Delicatessen concert series in Wilhelmina Pakhuis (Amsterdam). By this time we had the experience of our Australia/New Zealand/Brazil tour and developed a more generic version of the Shackle System. Meaning: generic instructions for the musical sections useful for every musician, instead of just the flute or laptop instructions:

ANCHOR: grounded drones
BOLT: hectic fast changes
BOW: sustained and airy
CHAIN: solo and accompaniment
CHOICE: voice
CLIP: broken beats
CUFF: circular breath long tones
EYE: sines
FORGE: clicks & pops
IMAGINE: pianissimo
LIMIT: hot pink noise
LOOP: loops
PIN: choppy
RIG: D minor David Lynch
SCREW: glissandi
SHACKLE: free improv
SNAP: short statements
THIMBLE: fast and dense
TORQUE: sustained spit
TWIST: unpredictable silences
ZIPPER: melody


Shackle Stick Video-tape concert

by Robert on May 8, 2012

On May 8 Shackle celebrated reaching the $5000 goal in our Kickstarter project to realize the Shackle Stick. This Shackle Affair installment featured saxophone player Yedo Gibson. For Yedo a special version of the Shackle System interface was created, being shown to him on an lcd screen. The concert was filmed to create a videoclip to put on the Shackle Stick. The video can be seen here.

The Shackle Stick is a USB stick with Shackle’s music and a video made by Maarten van Rossem. The Shackle Stick is designed by artist Isabelle Vigier. We are using Kickstarter to gather funds for the final costs. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a US based funding program for creative projects based on donations from the public.


(Photo’s by Jeff Kaiser – Thanks!)

Kickstarter Celebration Party

by Robert on May 1, 2012

On May 1 Shackle celebrated reaching the $5000 goal in our Kickstarter project to realize the Shackle Stick. This Shackle Affair installment featured bassclarinet player Oguz Buyukberber. For Oguz, the Shackle System was displayed on an lcd screen with a specially designed Shackle System interface.

The Shackle Stick is a USB stick with Shackle’s music and a video made by Maarten van Rossem. The Shackle Stick is designed by artist Isabelle Vigier. We are using Kickstarter to gather funds for the final costs. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a US based funding program for creative projects based on donations from the public.

Below an image of the original design before the actual product was realised.