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Re: What's wrong with loops

I posted this reply to the Oreilly Digital Audio Site article called
'What's wrong with loops?'

SUBJECT:  A looper replies:

I hear the frustration about looping programs like Garage Band, Acid and 
Ableton's Live.

The inherent block nature of laying down loops and repeating them can 
frequently cause a lot of stasis:  especially harmonically:

That being said:

When you first learn how to play a guitar or a piano it take a long time 
learn how to play more complex harmonic pieces or progressions.

Similarly,  when one learns how to use loops either in a software program 
in a live looping situation,  it takes time to get sophisticated doing 
a thing.

Let us please consider that the first mass marketed live looping box, the 
Lexicon Jamman
didn't hit the scene until 1995.   My brother and I bought one of those 
immediately and began trying to learn how to use it at once.

The first mass marketed looping program ACID didn't appear until the very 
late 90's (I'm not even sure exactly when 1.0 appeared).  I began trying 
make interesting music with that paradigm in the year 2000.

Imagine not only that you started using a guitar or keyboard ten years ago 
but that they only invented the instrument 5-10 years ago.

Sophistication takes time so to judge the looping world right now 5-10 
into it's
initiation is really a little ahead of the game.

To critique it.............by all means.........there's a lot to critique.

But if you could have seen and heard the sophistication and astonishing 
musical diversity that 40 live looping artists from 9 countries displayed 
Zurich this summer or that 50 artists from 7 countries displayed in Santa 
Cruz and San Francisco in October I think you'd have a different take on 

This thread was brought to the attention of the huge live looping mecca 
website, Loopers Delight (almost a million webhits a year) and most people 
agreed that the world knows and hears about the 'block' orientation of the 
Garage Band/Acid/Ableton's Live paradigm but that very few people know 
how sophisticated the International Live Looping movement has gotten.

Even as far as the Garage-Aced-Live world goes, please go listen to what 
Beyond is doing with Ableton's Live before you right the whole paradigm 

Additionally, I have been reading the excellent book on the making of the 
seminal modal jazz record, 'Kind Of Blue' by Miles Davis.

Miles felt in the long run that the spelling out of complex chordal 
and the whole bop multi chord progression approach was incredibly limiting 
in the long run.

'Kind of Blue'  opened up the soloists to playing more harmonically free, 
precisely because the scale was limited.........it left more space.

When Teo Macero used some of the very first tape loops of the drummers on 
'In a Silent Way' (which birthed the fusion movement) he also similarly 
openened the way for the percussionists and the melodic and chordal 
to do much, much more with rhythmic placement.

There is a lot of sophistication in music that comes from chordal and 
harmonic complexity
but the use of loops has also led the way for a tremendous upsurge in the 
publics exposure and appreciation of complexity in rhythm and timbre in 
past 20 years since samplers became really prevalent.

I've found in my own life of performing and composing in styles as diverse 
as rock and roll, world music, abstract electronica, found and invented 
sound, funk, soul, jazz, etc. that no matter how sohpisticated a listening 
audience that it is pretty difficult to throw more than a couple of layers 
of complexity at them and expect the audience to 'get it'.

In other words,  I you have bop rapid fire chordal changes or complex 
stacked, suspended chords over modal approaches that it's really difficult 
to play with just as much attendant
rhythmic complexity (polyrhythms, complex odd time signatures, stacked and 
dense interlocking rhythmic parts)  or with as much attendant timbral 

Try playing Donna Lee with the timbral complexity of Nine Inch Nails or 
of the Industrial bands and it just doesn't work.

Play music with the rhythmic freedom and intensity of high powered Indian 
musicians and then lay dense chordal structures or complex and rapid chord 
progressions and most people will fail similarly.

If harmony is your thing...........it's beautiful.   But there are artists 
as complex and sophisticated as Mark Isham (who's music I adore, by the 
who use loops..........they just are using other approaches (timbre and 
rhythm, primarily) to create their complexity.

It's all good.  It's all the human spirit trying to express itself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Wonderful Solstice and a Bitchen Kwaanza 

Rick Walker   aka  |()()p.p()()|
Y2K5 International Live Looping Festival
Every October in Santa Cruz, California