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LOOPING PHILOSOPHY (Part 2)
The saga continues...!
On Sun, 3 Aug 1997, Kim Flint wrote:
> Even trying to draw lines between realtime and non-realtime looping seems
> wrong. If you make a recording (or performance) by doing the loops in
> realtime or by painstakingly cutting and pasting, what is the difference
> the listener? Different techniques and processes for creating similar
> results. Why try to keep them all separate?
Well, this paragraph has enough food for discussion to merit an entire
mailing list of its own. I'll scratch the surface...
First of all, I vehemently disagree with the assumption that realtime and
non-realtime processes necessarily produce similar-sounding results. A
live loop-based performance, undertaken with a strong grasp of the
fundamental techniques available, has a sound and a potential performance
arc that will only be realizable in step-time through a tremendous amount
of editing, if at all. Likewise, if you do a step-time composition that
requires extensive amounts of cutting and pasting (non to mention
treatments, such as timestretching, which are presently more or less
impossible as real-time processes), then you're making music in a way that
inherently cannot be done live and on-the-fly. There are simply certain
musical nuances in each area that are impossible in the other.
As for the remark that it won't make much difference to the listener,
that in itself is a whole can of worms. First of all, while I certainly
don't think that the receptiveness of the audience should be written off,
I also feel quite strongly that a large part of the craft of any art has
to be pursued for the love of and devotion to the craft itself -- and
whether or not somebody in the audience happens to pick up on it or not
is sort of irrelevant.
It's possible to read your question as, "Since most people won't be able
to tell a big difference, then what difference does it make?" One might
as well say, "Most people won't be able to follow the changes to 'Giant
Steps,' so why bother playing them in a solo?" Or, "95% of the listening
audience for this record is never gonna notice a detail like how much
reverb is being applied to the backing vocal track, so why worry about
it?" Or, "Only someone who's a painter is going to notice this kind of
brush-stroke, so why bother trying to employ it?" Or, "Only a filmmaker
will be able to appreciate this tricky camera work, so why bother shooting
In each question, the answer is basically the same: These are the details
of our art. This is *what we do*. I don't know who first spoke that
famous line, "God is in the details," but when it comes to this sort of
thing I'm inclined to agree.
One last note on real-time versus step-time. My own use of looping
generally revolves around improvisation; I've found it to be one of the
most consistently inspiring tools for improvisation I've ever used. As
far as I'm concerned, true improvisation is strictly a real-time
phenomenon. If you're compiling something in step-time, then you're
composing. Nothing wrong with that at all. But improv, at least as I see
it, is largely about composing spontaneously, right then and there. Even
if you're taking snatches of improvised material and then
recontextualizing them, you're still not really improvising anymore.
I also hold the live aspect as one of the aforementioned details of how I
approach this element of my art. This gets into issues of philosophy,
probably, but for me a part of the creative statement I'm making with
this method is that it *is* done live, and it *is* done on the fly.
Whatever sounds that are being heard didn't exist until they were played
right then and there. A lot of people might not notice (I've had some
people come up to me in the midst of a MIDI-less solo performance and
congratulate me on programming a great synth patch; I take it as a great
compliment). A lot of people might not care. It doesn't really matter
to me that much; it's about the way I approach the art.
One of the reasons I still hold Robert Fripp in high regard as a loopist
is that he's just about the only person I can think of who's consistently
gone out in public and done live, improvisational, real-time looping.
Yes, I realize he didn't invent this approach. But he's done it
consistently, and he's done it in a number of very musical ways.
> But much of what we talk about is
> looping as a technique, or a process, or an instrument. The process of
> looping in music is probably just as intesting to a drum n' bass musician
> as it is to an ambient musician. In that respect it is like discussing
> composition, or improvisation. The same ideas are applicable in vastly
> different genres.
I agree (see, we had to meet up at some point!), although I think the end
results of this shared technique can be vastly different. Ambient and
jungle, for example, seem to me to be about as different as you can get.
Ambient's general modus operandi generally seems to be about being
soothing, atmospheric music, which can just as easily be ignored as it can
be focused on. On the other hand, the most characteristic thing about
jungle I've noticed is that it makes people twitch like crazy. (Ever
watched people hear drum n' bass for the first time? It's a trip). So I
honestly don't know how much a typical Ambient artist would have in
common with a typical Jungle artist. Think about this, though: A
straight-ahead, solid-body-wielding bebop guitarist has an awful lot in
common with a shred-machine-armed rock musician. They're both playing
the same basic instrument. But we all know how many examples there are
in each camp of people who wouldn't want anything to do with the other!
> Discussing looping as an instrument is like discussing say, percussion.
> Have you ever noticed that percussionists who play totally different
> of music talk to each other like brothers/sisters? It's like they are all
> part of the same club. Guitar players for some reason spend a lot of time
> talking about why their brand of it is better than the other guy's, which
> is pretty lame. I'd rather see loopers following the
> percussionist/brotherhood model!
I agree again. See above...
...and stay tuned for part three!