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Re: Basic intro (OT)

On Fri, 17 Aug 2001 13:36:18 -0400, "Liebig, Steuart A."
<Steuart.Liebig@maritz.com> wrote:

>** i suppose i should have been more precise in my wording of this. how
>about "pure sine waves"? that is, not mixing of numerous sine waves bu 
>pitch frequency series played by pure sine waves - - that sounds boring to
>me. ymmv. (and the fft may "demonstrate," but what do *your* ears tell

That any single sound is not music. Music is by definition a combination
and sequence of sounds, and using a single sample is just like using a
single note (or a sine wave): it's boring. There are cases where it
works, but it doesn't work because it's artistically interesting in and
of itself, it works because it's placed into a *context* in which it
works. Whether your "note" is a sine wave, a kick drum, a piano key, or
a 16-second drum loop doesn't matter; artistically, it's not interesting
until it's placed into a larger context. The sample may be *sonically*
interesting, but that isn't YOUR art, it's someone else's. 

>** i guess it depends if you call triggering one note on that keyboard
>"playing." i wouldn't. 

Neither would I, which is exactly what I was getting at. No matter how
long or complex your sample is, it's still effectively only one note,
and the amount of creativity and originality involved is directly
comparable. Even if you have the coolest goddamn sample on the face of
the planet, if you loop it and say "check this out" it's *artistically*
just like playing one note on a piano. Think about how you'd do it on a
hardware sampler with a keyboard, and consider whether doing the same
thing on a piano would be impressive or just flat-out pathetic. 

>i'm not sure that you would necessarily sample those items. don't
>you usually sample more traditional instruments being played by people, or
>electronic instruments as used in an already existing pices of music? it
>seems to me that the reason *you* would sample those would be because of 
>non-generic and personaliazed sound of those events. 

It depends on the situation. I've constructed entire songs from a single
sample pitch-shifted and timestretched in various ways and passed
through effects to create the illusion of different sounds. A low-pass
filter and fast attack turns a 303 note into a bass drum; bandpass and
distortion turn it into a snare. There's a great range of nuance and
humanity available with samples, IF you work at it. Certainly it would
be much, much easier to just grab several samples, but it's interesting
from a theoretical standpoint to say "look, this is all the same
sample". Whether it's interesting from a practical standpoint is another
matter entirely, and whether it sounds good is yet another.

>From the critic's standpoint, theoretical interest is important. From
the performer's standpoint, the practical interest of the piece matters.
But from the lay listener's standpoint, it's only important whether it
sounds good. I think that's why so many obviously untalented musicians
become popular: they sound good. A performer may look at how they create
music and go "why, it's all studio trickery" and turn up his nose. A
critic may look at the structure of the music and say "why, it's almost
childishly simplistic" and turn up his nose. But the public listens to
the music and says "hey, that sounds good". 

I don't think anything a performer or critic thinks should impact that.
If the public isn't going to say "that sounds good", what exactly is the
*point*? Performers nodding at each other over how creative the
production is won't make it sound good. Critics gushing over how
original the theory is won't make it sound good. But conversely, the
public buzzing about how great it sounds isn't going to make it art. 

In the end, it's about goals. Who is your audience? Critics? Performers?
The public? Realistically, it's a combination of all three: the
admiration of critics will win you awards, the admiration of performers
will give you credibility, and the admiration of the public will give
you popularity. How important each of those things is to you will
dictate what's important to your work. I'm not concerned with awards,
and if I had to choose between credibility and popularity I'd choose
popularity. So original theory isn't all that important to me, and
creative production is only slightly important. I primarily care whether
it sounds good. 

Is it art? Sometimes. It can be. But no, I wouldn't say *everything* I
do is art. That doesn't mean I'm not an artist, it just means that
sometimes the artistic validity of my work is questionable. Every doodle
by Van Gogh wasn't art, either.

>** i'm not convinced that a sample can really truly capture that 
>but this is probably a whole other kettle of fish.

Not all of it. Samples never sound quite right. They're *missing*
something. Different people have different ideas as to what that
something is, but I think most musicians have noticed it; they blame it
on digital/analog sometimes, other times they blame it on
unoriginal/original, and I don't think any of that's altogether true. I
think "recorded" and "live" just sound different. Recordings of
recordings start to mutate and degrade in a way that isn't obvious,
because -- BIG dose of whacked-out opinion here -- they're getting
farther from the original team that produced the work. I don't really
know how to explain that, it's just something I halfway perceive which
doesn't make any sort of logical sense. 

>Samples capture *some* of the
>original's emotional content, which can be carried over for further
>** interesting, this almost seems to be somewhat contrary to your 
>above - - or maybe that's what i'm driving at. 

I don't think a sample captures everything. When you watch someone play
piano in person, you can see the emotion on his face, and there's a
certain dramatic component to how he moves. If you hear it from the next
room, something is missing -- and if you record it and play it again
later, something else is missing. So if you sample that recording and
record it, you have something missing again. That's three generations of
something going out of the sound, which might be described like:

- Someone is playing this right here, right now.
- Someone is playing this over there, right now.
- Someone played this some time ago and recorded it.
- Someone recorded a recording of someone playing this some time ago.

No matter how much of the humanity and nuance you record in the sound,
you keep getting farther from the original artist. The human connection
gets more and more faint. It can be enhanced if someone knows who played
it, or if the recorder of the recording of the recording (damn that gets
tedious) associates himself as a "bridge" between the original artist
and the listener. This is where recognisable samples have value. 

And here, I almost wrote a very long essay on sampling as a directional
weighted graph with comparisons to network routing protocols, but I
think few people would follow it and nobody would care. :P

>** the interesting thing that strikes me *right now* about this whole
>sampling thing - - in terms of how i understand *your* usage of it  - -  
>that is *referential* rather than *generational*  . . .  in other words it
>doesn't necessarily *generate* any new information (particularly 
>rather  it *refers* back to someone else's generation and attempts to
>recontextualize it. 

With the caveat that this isn't the only sonic weapon in my arsenal,
that's a pretty accurate description. A lot of my work partially boils
down to a background track overlaid with recognisable samples that
effectively say "think about this, now think about this, now think about
this" -- leading the listener through several concepts to draw
connections. Sometimes that has a purpose and a point; other times, it's
just a train of thought thing. The musical value of what comes out
varies likewise; just like sometimes you can sit at a piano and play
something great, and other times you'll play something that just plain