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Re: public response to looping

I believe you misunderstand me, I'm not talking about art vs 
entertainment or playing for free. I always charge something 
depending on the event, my regular fee is $400.00 and then I 
negotiate from there. In fact if I'm asked to play for some sort of 
benefit concert at minimum I ask that they give me a tax receipt for 
my regular fee since what they're doing is asking me to donate my fee 
and perform for free.

I'm referring to my motivations for playing what I play, which is not 
ambient but instrumental. I mostly turn down gigs that want me to 
come and do covers, but that is strictly my choice and no criticism 
of others who do. If I can't do music that moves me somehow, I'd 
really rather not do the gig at all. So I've been asking myself, just 
what is it that moves me? Why do I have this emotional response to 
instrumental music?

I remembered a gallery show I was playing at some years ago and there 
was this woman who kept asking the artist what she should feel when 
she looked at various paintings.... I've had people ask me the same 
sort of question, what made me write a particular piece of music, 
what sort of thing did I envision when I played this tune. It's as if 
without the song story line there a large number of people just can't 
allow themselves to go the journey the music will take them. To me 
every piece of music is a story or a journey, it doesn't matter if 
it's a traditional fiddle tune, an orchestral work, an instrumental 
guitar or harp tune. What is the story, where does it take me.

I do agree, looping is all about the technology, and yet it is more 
than that.... It's about what you do with that technology. I often 
think that musicians are a lot like photographers. We're always into 
the gear.... what camera, what lens, how was this photo manipulated, 
colours enhanced, etc, etc. I was at photo exhibition and this woman 
had done incredible landscape photography, won all sorts of 
awards.... with a kodak 126 instamatic.

I like structure in my dulcimer melodies which are mostly written in 
the celtic/traditional fiddle style (aa/bb/cc and repeat till you 
can't stand it any longer) So initially my looping has been the 
accompaniment sort, play some guitar or create some sort of counter 
melody that loops while I play my tune on the dulcimer. Lately what 
I've been playing with is more drone oriented and leaning more 
towards the ambient sound for my background sounds and then the 
dulcimer over top. It's sort of like the old photography trick of 
putting the background out of focus so the central subject stands out 
more clearly. In my case, the simple beauty of the solo hammered 
dulcimer melody being played over whatever looped background I can 
create at that moment.

I'm sorry if this has been somewhat long winded and rambeling, this 
conversation has really got me thinking again about what I'm doing and why.

Paul Haslem
Ontario, Canada

At 11:04 AM 12/12/2009, you wrote:
>Interesting conversation. I personally have been looping for about 9
>years now in a variety of settings. I must admit after years of
>practice, 10's of thousands of dollars of gear purchases and 4 years
>of college, I have a philosophical aversion to playing for free. I
>have had ALL the art vs. entertainment conversations. Both here and
>late night session in college. But I've always felt, if you really
>want to, you can satisfy both needs. Sometimes.
>In some of the more sophisticated pubs/bars I play in, (I play mostly
>covers), I can play tunes that I like and are interesting, for
>Instance, Grateful Dead songs: a vastly under-rated band among
>ambient enthusiasts, They played 20 minutes of totally improvised
>soundscape's (space) every-night.
>So I'll play a tune like Bird Song, and in the middle where they
>would jam, I will uses many of the techniques ambient improvisers
>use. This part could be taken out of the tune I'm playing and stand
>on its own as an ambient piece. But wrapped in a familiar tune in
>becomes part of the entire piece. This of course won't float many of
>y'alls boat, but I can still use Mobius and twist and mangle to my
>hearts content and still go home with $200 in my pocket.
>As far as the response of the public, looping is just another
>technological phenomenon they no longer question. It doesn't come up
>ever anymore. But I think you guys are talking more about the ambient
>improvised genre's more then looping itself. Right?