Live looping, like all similar kinds of live improvisation, must be one of the most hazardous things any performer can do on stage. Some live looping can be of the more structered kind, however, and here are some examples of this availiable today on Youtube.
Steve Lawson and Lobelia, “Love Is A Battlefield”:
This is looped tracks as a rhythmic background for melody, vocals and solo performances. Many buskers and one man bar bands use this method extensively in performance.
John Clarke, “Mosaic For Shadows”:
John Clarke is a skilled and talented guitarist focusing on flamenco guitar. In this piece he uses a looping device as an integral part of the writing and performance of the song, not layering loops as such but rather playing distinct parts, looping them and then playing a complimentary part or melody over it.
These are examples on using live looping as a songwriting/performing tool. On the other side there is live looping where the loop is entirely improvised and the loop itself is the musical piece. This approach was made famous by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp in the 1970’s on the albums No Pussyfooting and Evening Star.
Fripp later made the system of tape loops portable and called it “Frippertronics”. He toured with it and recorded several frippertronics albums and used it as backgrounds in songs in many other projects. In live performance he usually would rewind the loop and solo over it, as in the following clip:
In the early 90’s, he rebuilt his looping rig with entirely digital gear and now refers to his looping as “soundscapes”. Thanks to the availiablity of increasingly cheap and increasingly competent hardware, live looping and soundscaping has become more widespread. There are several recurring live looping festival every year all over the world.
There is an enormous wealth of loop music to be found out there – some of it complex and challenging, some of it sweet and gentle, but all of it taking a risk in being created right there, as you listen.
There will be more on this subject in the future!