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RE: Yuppies and Loops - Re: Looping show -- Comments
I'd like to comment on the questions posed by Dr. Doubt -Goat from his
band's concert at a Starbucks in Yuppie Central, Portland, Oregon. I
played concerts in NYC with an Electro Harmonix 16-sec. Digital Delay and
other EH goodies back in the early 80s, and I have pondered these
questions for many years, hence I feel I can add something to the
conversation -- which I love by the way; I have been reading the list for
a while, singing birds and all.
1. Is it possible to play in a non-club setting with a mixture of ambient,
illbient and pop and have an audience that will understand?
>> IMHO, the audience's understanding is such a Holy Grail. What
>makes this up? Is it school education? Is it the positive open-minded
>attitude? How does that come about? I am convinced that children raised
>on U.S. television and Hollywood movies cannot appreciate "newness,"
>innovation. They've been conditioned for the expected, the "sweets."
>Any bitterness prompts them for the remote. I understand that in Europe
>people are more appreciative of outlandish artistic efforts, and will
>listen to you, to see what you have to say. They might even find it
>inspiring and have you come back.
So, do you have to stand up and explain what you are going to do,
where you're coming from, etc.? Must there be some preceding hype, radio
interviews, posters glued on walls, etc., for people to "want" to listen
Audience acceptance of such a gig as yours hinges, I think, on the
awareness of your intentions. I've been to many Fripp performances where
I felt disconnected -- I like to know what Fripp is thinking about, what
he's been reading, what musical experiments he's been doing the past year,
etc., and from that get a perspective on where he's "going" that night of
the concert -- makes all the difference for me. I also believe this
applies to people like Ace of Base and the latest techno stuff. Fans find
it more interesting.
How does that translate for us the unknowns? How can we make
them feel connected if they don't know us? Do we even need them to feel
connected? I mean, does it make a difference for Fripp if I'm connected?
I wouldn't bet either way, by the way.
2. Does the music-listening public really only want to hear remakes of
what they are used to? I play in a standards jazz band as well, and I
know we would have had an audience in the same setting.
>> Well, who were you playing for? I play my tapes to all kinds of
>people. I've got friends who are into James Taylor, Elton John, etc.,
>who make weird faces at my music. Other friends into Yes, Tangerine
>Dream, etc., their faces brighten up -- it's very cool to see that. I
>would like to know who are the people who frequent a spot before
>committing to playing loops for them. Scary: Play loops for
People who go to a concert hall have different intentions from
people who go to Starbucks, that's for sure. Same effect as when you play
Fripp or Crimson at a party in your place -- you're bound to alienate some
people. However, invariably, they like my Eno ambient CDs, and ask who's
that, etc. I have other quiet CDs like that that people like.
There's a great deal of reading about the therapeutic effects of
music, going all the way back to Pythagoras (who happened to hate brass,
saying they were loud and crass; he loved strings). In my experience, I
found that people can get hooked if my loops are harmonious, meditative,
quiet, and they will pay attention then. I've often wondered about
playing at a hospital and see what effects I can get. Maybe this year
I'll get the nerves to do it.
I had splendid experiences playing at a spiritual center in NYC
3. To what extent should the setting determine the performers actions?
i.e. is it appropriate to play chamber music in a rock club and
noise/performance art in the opera house?
>> I would repeat myself as in my comment to Question 2, except to
>add that we might consider the audience's intentions -- what can you
>calculate are the odds for what they are looking to hear that night? How
>could you "persuade" them to hear you?
There is a certain measure of focused concentration -- or outright
indifference -- in people's attitudes towards music listening. Are you
providing background for their conversation at a club, or are you playing
to their full awareness at a concert hall?
Then there' s the matter of party music -- when everybody gets on
the groove because they recognise the tune, and they love it, and they
even start "snaking" around the hall dancing. I do not believe it would
ever happen that you could get this reaction from people by playing a
"new" tune, something they've never heard before -- include me in there.
(But I wouldn't bet on it; anything can happen.)
There is a certain measure of knowing the tune because of the way
it's bonded to our memories, to who we are. I cannot listen to "Spirit in
the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum and not feel like I'm 10 years old again and
dancing at some party with the other kids... It's burned in my brain that
way. This recognition factor is very important for an audience to do
without intentionally when preparing to listen to loopers like you or me
play. It should be part of the "contract."
4. To what extent should the audience reactions have an impact on what the
>> This is a very good question. Should I start crying because they
>hate what I'm doing, or should I stoically continue until they bend their
>wills? Who are we playing *for* anyway? Are we playing for them,
>really? Shouldn't we go out and play for the sake of the art alone, for
>the development of our skills and the further expression of our
>creativity? Why are we creative? Why do we derive importance from the
>approval we would get from an audience? What important relationship does
>that have directly with our music?
Since we are treading on relatively new grounds here with our
loops, John Cage's efforts from years gone by come to mind. All of these
"modern contemporary" music (pardon my ignorance of more correct
terminology) people, who "prepare" pianos with steel rods and other things
stuck on the strings, and in general, some people say they desecrate the
classical instruments, all of these people must deal with a great deal of
resistance. We should be more like the Borg, I think: "Resistance is
futile." (Love that Seven girl.) (I would have no resistance with her
Zappa taught us all about the audience, as well. He sure got
flack. But he kept going. I've often wondered what his motivations were,
but then again, one listen to the "Sheik Yer Booty" and it's kind of
obvious. I got a tape I recorded of a concert of his in 1982 at the Pier
in NYC; we could swap if you'd like to hear it. The dude was joyous! And
you couldn't avoid getting joyous with him.
Remember how people got so agitated and negative from listening to
Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" way back like 90 years ago. These people
were waiting for stuff like Strauss, or Mozart, maybe, who knows? They
didn't know how to deal with Stravinsky.
Come to think of it, I'd be kind of scared preparing to play music
at Starbucks for the yuppies. But in the final analysis, you did well by
ploughing ahead and going through the whole two hours. You went ahead
with your musical development, and I think that's more important than
their walking out on you.
Should you change your music for their liking? Did Stravinsky? I
think we should focus on doing the best we can. If anything, the only
thing that scaled down Stravinsky's works was the lack of income.
Here's an extract from an article by one Nicholas Tawa (in the
Grolier's Encyclopedia) about the state of modern musicians in the U.S.:
"After World War II, atonality or out-and-out serialism characterized the
music of Milton Babbitt, George Rochberg, Elliott Carter, and Charles
Wuorinen; indeterminacy and fantastic sound production, that of John Cage,
Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown. Both groups also introduced
electronically processed resonances into some scores. The public accepted
none of it. Concurrently, composers more restrained in style took their
cue from neoclassicism or romanticism--Copland or Barber--and labored at
the other end of the creative spectrum: John La Montaine, Lee Hoiby,
Carlisle Floyd, Peter Mennin, Jack Beeson, Benjamin Lees, Ned Rorem,
Leonard Bernstein. A variety of independent styles set apart still other
composers: Alan Hovhaness with his Armenian cum Renaissance idiom; George
Crumb and his atmospheric evocations; La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Philip
Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams and their minimalist use of endlessly
repeated patterns; and the various eclecticisms of David Del Tredici, John
Corigliano, John Harbison, Michael Colgrass, and Ellen Zwilich. By the end
of the century there was a growing concern that contemporary art music was
about to lose its audience completely. Most composers became engaged in
trying to integrate all viable ideas from the past and retaining their
creative integrity while winning back the music public."
Read "endlessly repeated patterns" as loops? There's a lot of
further reading on this question.
5. What are the roles of the performer and audience? Should there even
>> This reminds me of that Utopia-band guy, I forget his name, who
>went on tour with some balls that he would pass around the audience which
>would trigger his MIDI synths, and this was meant to show how an audience
>could become part of the music-making process. Apart from inspiring some
>kids to become engaged with technological music, I doubt he made any
>imprints on the face of the modern musical landscape.
The only roles I know of are the musician as energy generator and
the audience as energy consumer, and viceversa. This sounds rather
depressingly like an economic equation, and I shouldn't say it, except
that it helps me explain how *our culture* views music and musicians. We
want to see an exchange of goods in all phases of our lives, and I do not
believe this works with art. Things die. Art is eternal. This doesn't
mean that there are musicians not wanting this. I am aware of a good many
musicians wanting to sell goods. I also know of good artists who create
striving for beauty, strength, the unpronounceable. How do other cultures
view the relationship we see as audience and performer? What are the
other points of view on this? Can cultures be changed? Should we worry
about that? Are we products of the times we live in? I believe artists
can change the times. Our collective attitudes and values are pretty well
expressed, I believe, in a good artist's creation. Our culture, however,
is pretty much muddled up and confused. There is too much stuff happening
too fast -- at least for me. And we are trying to cope with it by
19th-century or even 17th-century means. We need new perspectives, new
languages, new ways of managing our knowledge.
But, like the waters of the river after the storm, things clear up
later. Years later we declare Bach one of the greatest, when the people
of his day couldn't care less for him, the local organist. I am ever so
thankful for him to have continued on with his work, to develop it even
though he probably didn't feel "successful" enough in his lifetime. And
with almost two dozen kids! What if he had said "Screw them, I'll never
play for them again"? Would that have qualified as selfish?
What is pitch dark for some is bright enough for others.
There is an extra amount created when you look at the sum of
musicians plus audience. That something extra, the unpronounceable,
that's what is important.
I want to thank you for this ending up a bit therapeutic for me.
I feel renewed and want to go back and kick some ass with my loops.
Although my EH 16-sec. Digital Delay hasn't worked in years, I'm now
saving up for my new Echoplex next month from a shop in San Rafael. I'm
also getting Acid for my Windows machine -- it's gonna be cool...
Javier Miranda V.
From: Rev. Doubt-Goat [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 1998 12:35 PM
Subject: Yuppies and Loops, was Re: Looping show tonight, Friday in
To give an idea of the setting for last nights
gig, NW 23rd in Portland, OR is yuppie central.
It's a shopping district, full of little fru-fru
shops and restraunts. Starbucks is a chain
coffee house and suffers from the sterile
interior of all such chains.
Into this little world set down 2 musicians with
piles of electronic gear full of little blinking
lights, strange 10-string insturments, wild
whammies and machines that go !ping! Have them
play strange drones and dissonant loops,
interspersed with pop songs influenced by the
likes of Bill Nelson and King Crimson, set to
medium volume and then stir vigorously for 2
The result? Instant coffee house clearing! The
Yuppies couldn't seem to understand what we were
playing, the kid's either didn't understand the
loops or were bored by the lack of a constant
beat, and the old folks thought it was too loud!
When we stopped playing, the place quickly
My impression of the night was that we were too
weird for everyone who came through, with maybe
four or five exceptions. I have new appreciation
for what David Torn and Robert Fripp face when
they do this stuff.
The questions I have are:
1. Is it possible to play in a non-club setting
with a mixture of ambient, illbient and pop and
have an audience that will understand?
2. Does the music listening public really only
want to hear remakes of what they are used to?
I play in a standards jazz band as well, and I
know we would have had an audience in the same
3. To what extent should the setting determine
the performers actions? i.e. is it appropriate
to play chamber music in a rock club and
noise/performance art in the opera house?
4. To what extent should the audience reactions
have an impact on what the performer performs?
5. What are the roles of the performer and
audience? Should there even *be* roles?
6. etc. etc. etc.
Of course, I have my own ideas about the above
questions, so I would like to hear everyone
else's opinions! As loopists, I think these
questions are one's we should be asking
ourselves everytime we perform in a public