Attack of the green pedals
Amidst Brooklyn's hustle and bustle, thereminist Pamelia Kurstin sets out to create an ever-changing wall of sound that shifts between avantgarde and experimental music. For the audience, it means the slow descent into a sonic maelstrom of mesmerizing drone-like quality.
Apart from being involved in countless studio- and band-projects, Pamelia frequently roams the stages of the world with her extraordinary solo performances. Read on as Pamelia reveals some of her secrets:
EoIpso: Can you explain the setup you use during your solo concerts?
Pamelia: I use an effects unit by Line6, which I call the "green pedal". One of its functions is to loop samples, other settings have analogue delay simulators, different types of tape head delays and things like that. Usually, I just use the loop setting. You can record up to seven seconds, unless you put it into half speed, so it can slow down your sample into half the original speed. If you start in half speed, you can have fourteen seconds, but maybe not as good a quality. You can add layers, one on top of the next, so eventually the first things you've recorded will decay, and you have room to put more layers on it.
I work with two of those units, so I can mix between them, like creating a loop on one device, and then build a new loop on the other and fading it out. If you use just one, you might get stuck in one place, and you don't want to stop the show and start all over again. It's easier to have two pedals to work with, so you can fade back and forth.
EoIpso: How did you find out about this floor pedal? Did you find it by chance, or did you have a stage concept in mind, whereupon you tried to find a tool that could help you realize it?
Pamelia: Someone had told me about that pedal, so I knew what it was capable of. I bought it and never used it for almost a year. Finally, it was out of necessity that I used it, because normally I would do gigs with other musicians, and then I had to do a solo concert. I was thinking: "What am I going to do for fourtyfive minutes? I don't want just one voice, I want some other parts to keep it interesting". Because of that gig, I started using the green pedal. The more I used it, the more I became accustomed to the way to use it, because it's really difficult to keep your body still when you're using a footpedal as well. Manipulating the theremin in itself is already pain, but to add a pedal takes some time to get used to.
EoIpso: Voilà, there was the concept for your live show: using two footpedals together with the theremin.
Pamelia: Yeah, to make it sound like an orchestra, because then you can have more voices rather than a monophonic instrument.
EoIpso: You play in pretty weird places like restaurants sometimes. I guess your music must be very confusing for an audience who does not know what to expect. There's no rhythm in it, it's kind of dark and atmospheric, with all these layers of sounds. Changes are very subtle, so in a way there's not much going on. It's nothing like your average Pop music stuff.
Pamelia: It's nowhere
near. Also, most people might not have seen a theremin before, or at least
haven't seen one live. People might have heard the sound, but they haven't
seen the instrument. I guess me using the loop thing is confusing, too.
It's best when you hear it from the beginning when it's a monophonic voice,
and then things get added, and as time starts to fly by, you realize it's
nowhere near how it sounded when it began, but it has evolved slowly and
grew into something else.