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Buffalo Dance

Native American Style Flute Song
For Three Flutes by Scott August

Buffalo Dance is a song for three Native American style flutes in F#. The flutes played are a low bass F# made by Pat Haran, a mid range F# by JP Gomez and a high F# by Michael Guilino (who has since retired from flute making.)

The Three Flutes of Buffalo Dance

The song was recorded and filmed in real-time, using Ableton Live 9 and four simultaneous video cameras. Also performed live during the filming were midi instruments consisting of an electric bass, a percussion set, high orchestral strings and a synth-like pad. This was all possible due to Live’s ability to allow the performer to automate all the computer commands, (usually done by hand,) that needed to go from instrument to instrument and track to track.

Two live recordings (“passes”) were made. The first one consisted of all the instruments except for the high NAF, whose part overlaps the other parts in time. The second recording was for the high flute and the another performance of the midi strings to get them from a different angle. (A drum and electric guitar were pre-recorded.) Everything the viewer sees performed was recorded live at the same time as the filming so that “what was filmed is what is heard.” The audio recording was then mixed in Ableton Live 9 and the footage was edited with Final Cut Pro X, making the entire project produced on a MacBook Pro (Mid 2010.)

Buffalo Dance Sheet Music
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The idea for Buffalo Dance started in the spring of 2015 when I was preparing the material for my duet workshop, “Whispering Winds.” At that time I was working with a pedal looper and composing duets by looping a repeating line, usually a bass NAF, that had some harmonic movement in it. Over this I would layer higher flutes, working out the tunes that I wanted to present to the workshop participants. These pieces were always meant to be the basis for improvisation in the workshop.

Playing Duets at the Santa Fe Flute School

While working with a pedal based looper was fun, it was also frustrating because it was extremely difficult for me to hit the loop “in” and “out” points exactly the way I wanted them. Plus there was no way to easily switch between different loops through time, or add midi instruments and time-based FXs, like delays. After the workshop was over I decided to really explore Ableton Live, a software based DAW (Digital Audio Workstation,) which I knew excelled at creating multiple loops. This includes loops of varying lengths that can play back simultaneously and the ability to add midi instruments and delay and reverb.

Ableton Live 9 Recording Buffalo Dance

After experimenting with Ableton Live, creating simple loops and learning how to make the software trigger itself to move from loop to loop and track to track without me having to touch my computer during a performance, I wrote a piece that I could perform “live,” in real-time, and film the performance. That piece became “Beyond Summer.” “Buffalo Dance” is a continuation of songs that can be performed and filmed live in the studio.

In Harmony,
Scott August

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