Looper's Delight Archive Top (Search)
Date Index
Thread Index
Author Index
Looper's Delight Home
Mailing List Info

[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

Re:Beyond Fripp (long)

As far as some people's expressed concern on the "static" nature of 
Fripp's looping work, I think it's a somewhat unavoidable part of the 
process he uses in creating the loops.  A lot of Torn's work is edited in 
the studio, which gives a lot more flexibility in arrangement and 
dynamics. Given that most people have only one loop device in their rig, 
you're going to be limited to adding information into the loop.  Even if 
you've got an Echoplex, the Undo feature isn't going to allow you 
introduce a radical, appealing change to what you're doing.  It just lets 
you remove the last layer or two, depending on how much memory you've got 
installed.  That's not much of a compositional manuever, and unless 
you've specifically planned an overdub to be removed for effect, I doubt 
that Undo really functions as other than a "Whoops!" button for most 
people.  I avoid using it because maybe one in 20 loops strike me as 
fatally flawed.

Too often I've had started something and either made a mistake or what 
appeared to be a mistake, and found five minutes later that I've mutated 
it into something beautiful.  That's part of my concept, and it may be a 
personal preference, but from what I've read of Fripp's approach, it also 
includes the acceptance of hazard as a crucial part of the piece.  I 
prefer to spray information around for the first few minutes without 
thinking about it too much, and then see what seems like a good idea.

Several people have stated that they prefer "1999" and/or "Radiophonics" 
to "Blessing of Tears" (for those of you not familiar with the texture of 
those records, the first two are more dissonant and angular, although 
both have streches of more "pretty" music, whereas "Blessing" is 
mournfully beautiful all the way through, or, droningly facile, depending 
on your viewpoint).  For general listening, I prefer "Blessing" because 
it's more tranquil.  If I put on "1999" or "Radiophonics" while I'm at 
work, even quietly, people start to ask what I'm listening to, in a tone 
that suggests they hope it's nearly over.  They're spicier textures, much 
like "Thrakattak" (again for the unfamiliar, an hour-long release of 
group improvisations which often sounds like horror-film music right 
before the bogeyman jumps out of the shadows), which I love, but I'm not 
going to put it on everyday.  It's like listening to Ligeti--it's uneasy 
listening, and few people can listen to it for long without getting a 
little edgy.  

Someone said that "Blessing" was a fairly easy texture to imitate, and 
I'd agree, but I don't find either "1999" or "Radiophonics" difficult to 
imitate.  Once you're familiar with the form, it's not difficult to 
imitate the "generic" disturbed Frippscape (even going back to 
Eno/Fripp's "Index of Metals").  That's not the point.  Fripp has spoken 
repeatedly of how music truly occurs in the interaction between the 
audience and the performer, and listening to recorded Frippertronics or 
Soundscapes is very different from experiencing it in person, even if it 
"sounds" the same.  Most people don't get a chance to attend a 
Soundscapes show, and fortunately the CD's are available.  With 
Frippertronics, only the backing tracks were released.  The shows that 
"Let The Power Fall" were drawn from consisted of material similiar to 
the album tracks with Fripp soloing in real time on top.  There are 
bootlegs of this, but Fripp has only released a few examples of the final 
product.  Despite that, I think there's a lot of value in the 
backing-loop tracks.

Other looping artists, such as David Torn, Michael Brook and Steve 
Tibbets, work primarily in a studio context.  Loops are used to build 
tracks upon, but it's not the same sort of high-wire act that live 
improvised looping creates.  You gain control of dynamics and structure, 
and perhaps lose on the magic of the moment.  Understand that I'm not 
knocking Torn/Brook/Tibbets, I've got and love all their stuff, but it's 
a different path.  The live Brook that I've heard is based on playing 
with pre-recorded backing tracks.  I'm not sure if Tibbets has ever 
really toured, and Torn probably won't doing much touring in the future, 
due to health and the economics of the road.  Our loss.

I don't think it's possible to have improvised looping ever match the 
shifting dynamics of edited studio work.  Even if you had multiple loops 
available to you (say four 32 second loops) with the ability to mix them 
in and out, how well could you keep track of what's going on, and how 
good of a job could you do, in real-time, towards organizing it into a 
structured piece?  It's a noble goal, but in the same way that you can't 
improvise a concerto, I don't think it's possible to whip up a coherent 
piece in public.  I wasn't attracted to looping so that I could 
cut-and-paste instrumental songs on the fly--I wanted to chase longer 
forms and textures, in a raga-esque manner.

Going back to Fripp's use of loops, it doesn't show up much in his studio 
work, except as what I think of as "background fairy dust".  There a few 
notable exceptions--the version of "Here Comes The Flood" on Exposure 
comes to mind, but even then I think he had ten minutes of Frippertronics 
and stuck Peter Gabriel's piano/voice performance on top, with a spoken 
word section from John Bennett, and then went to work editing everything 
together.  Indeed, the bulk of Fripp guest appearances in the last few 
years have been of the background-Soundscapes variety, and some people 
have speculated that he just sends the interested party some tapes and 
lets them pick through to find what might be useful to them.  I'm not 
saying this is a bad idea.

Travis Hartnett