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RE: Looping Catching on?

Happy to see this thread come up again....especially since the endless gear
babbling had gotten way out of hand, as it tends to..... It's good to
reflect on what in the hell we are actually doing with the stuff, right?
Anyway, I think it is often curious the way this topic progresses. Since I
know some of you, I think it has to do with your particular backgrounds and
where you come from musically. On one hand, the perception of Loopers and
Loop creation/manipulation as a sort of musical instrument I think is dead
on. It's not a passive thing that just sits there doing it's job, it
requires active, musical involvement and different musicians are going to
come up with completely different results based on their musical vision and
relative skill with this instrument.

On the other hand, this perception of "Loop Music" being "weird", or new,
or out of the mainstream, or difficult to find audience for, etc, I think
is really odd. Are you guys living on the same planet as I'm on? Anyway,
more on that below.

At 1:22 PM -0800 1/9/99, Tim Nelson wrote:
>>Another option is being proficient on your instrument, for you instrument
>>players out there. If you are a badass on that Warr or Stick or Tele or
>>French Horn, your loops may not be noticed as much, but John and Jane 
>>have something that they can appreciate
>I don't want to put words in someone's mouth, but I think this is
>antithetical to the point Paul made re DT's view of looping being 
>as a fad rather than an autonomous field of discipline... I don't think 
>of us are (at least intentionally) advocating the use of looping as a
>substitute for instrumental competency. Paul's point, to which I added my
>comment, dealt more with folks seeing looping as an "effect", as something
>added on top of an existing methodology.

I think this is an important point. Creating and manipulating loops is a
musical activity. It's something you are actively involved in, using your
tools as an instrument. You play it, much as you play a piano or
synthesizer or drum set. And this is an instrument that is still quite
young. There is a lot yet to be explored and developed here.

This is right at the heart of Matthias' and Eric's and my approach to
developing Loop, AKA the oberheim echoplex. We designed this to be an
instrument, not an effect. It's meant to have musicians interract with it,
explore it, learn it, develop their own techniques with it....play it.
Mostly Matthias' genius, really. But every step of the way, we try to think
of it that way - what will somebody performing with this want it to do? How
should each function react, how should it respond to the musician's
actions? How does it fit in a real musical context. Everything gets put to
that test.

>People see a guitar and half
>expect to hear BB King licks. Looping is still unfamiliar to the general

etc, there were many comments like this. I get the feeling you guys are
holding a very narrow concept of what "Loop Music" is. Maybe a little too
focused on that textural guitar thing?

Here on the earth where I live, Loop based music is everywhere. It's
hip-hop, trip-hop, techno, illbient, house, drum and bass, world beat
techno, industrial metal, acid jazz, new wave, ambient, dub, newage, etc.,
etc., etc. It's on tv commercials and movie soundtracks. It's on MTV. It's
modern and it's old skool. It's on the boring AOR/pop station I wake up to
in the morning, in the guise of ordinary pop music like sneakerpimps,
garbage, bjork, massive attack, etc., all full of looping grooves and
rhythms. KMFDM and ministry turned metal on its head 10-15 years ago by
using heavy guitar loops to create the brutal precision of their now
cliched industrial metal sound, changing that genre forever. The venerable
Chet Atkins explored it with his audience of blue grass fans. Hip hop is
everything from the ever palatable Will Smith helping us git jiggy wit it
to DJ Qbert reinventing the boundaries of the genre and what we think of as
instruments like some modern day Charlie Parker, and it's all got loops at
the core.

Now I know what you're gonna say. That's different, that's not what my
music is about, that's not what I mean by Loop Music, blah blah blah, and I
say that's not quite correct. We're talking about a general idea of using
electronic means to regularly repeat a sound as a musical performance or
compositional device. That has a huge range of possibilities. The "means"
can just as easily be an echoplex or boomerang or jamman for real-time
improvisational loop excursions as it can be a meticulous world beat
percussion loop sequenced in Cubase VST and triggered on a sampler. The
sounds can just as easily be your spacey ebowed and vortexed guitar as it
can be the Amen break in a D&B track. The general principle does include
your music right along with Master P's cadre of one hit wonders and all
that electronic dance stuff that may or may not be the next or last big
thing. It *is* all related.

What we frequently deal with on this list is innovations in how to approach
this loop idea. For instance, real-time techniques using something like the
echoplex give a powerful new approach to the musical use of loops. But
that's an evolution of technique, perhaps a powerful one, enabling some new
possibilities not there before, but still just a new tool for approaching
the older idea of loops in music. How different musicians integrate that
tool into their music will vary a lot, and it's really an exciting time of
innovation on the looping concept. And with the innovation of real-time
loop tools, other musicians join the looping ranks, since these tools allow
more traditional instrumentalists to explore ideas previously worked by
synth and computer based musicians. And that's great, a healthy infusion of
new perspective and ideas to push the concept. The old guys can learn a few
new tricks here, I think. By the same token, some of the new folks coming
in with wide eyes, flushed cheeks, and guitars still strapped on could do
well to keep the blinders off a bit and learn from the looping going on all
around in a wide range of modern music. Listen, learn, there's a lot there
to educate yourself on.

Is it popular? Well, people pushing the boundaries are never popular, so
that doesn't really change. But consider your audience, or who you think is
your audience. A crowd of balding baby-boomer rock fans is not going to
readily get looping. They want to see a finger move for every sound, and
the guitar player should look like he's suffering from constipation when he
bends a note. Fine, they're happy, they ain't changing. And neither is a
conservative symphony audience that doesn't like anything composed after
1900, or a crowd of traditional blues fans, etc. But the Beastie Boys pack
arenas full of 20 somethings who don't seem to have a problem that there is
no "band" on the stage. Maybe you won't quite fit with the B-boyz, but the
point is, there are a lot of people around who long ago accepted this loop
concept as normal and mainstream. Indeed, many under the age of 20 have
probably known little else.

So maybe, if the audience isn't getting you, it's not the music but the
wrong audience? Maybe you need to reconsider the context where you fit, and
need to explore some new territory. Maybe the old cats at the jazz dive
where you regularly play bass won't relate to your jamman and bass solo
experiment. So why not try hooking up with a progressive trip-hop dj and
let him mix your live acoustic bass loops into the tracks he spins in the
chill rooms of the local dance clubs. I bet you'll get a very different
reaction. Bail on the rock band and add live funky guitar loops to your
local hip-hop crew. The Hank Williams fans at your local bar throw bottles
at your atmospheric effected telecaster loops? Maybe you would do better in
a downtown cafe or an office atrium in the financial district?

Anyway, chew that...


Kim Flint                   | Looper's Delight
kflint@annihilist.com       | http://www.annihilist.com/loop/loop.html
http://www.annihilist.com/  | Loopers-Delight-request@annihilist.com