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Somewhere in this thread we were asked "isn't what loopers do a lot
like what electronica/DJs do"?  This was intended in a technical
sense--"should they be on this mailing list too?", or more like,
"what name could we assign to this music we do".

Now, it's understandable that we might ask "well, are the two kinds
of music really similar?  Don't they have different philosophical

Now, me personally, I think there's a purely technical argument
(no good/bad, no right/wrong, no art/craft/pandering) issue here.

To me, when we're talking about sampling we're talking about an
extended sample, say with audible internal rhythm, which can be
"looped".  This is an attempt at giving a "technical" definition
at where in the continuum of sampling is relevent.  So, when a
DJ samples and "recontextualizes" something by playing it (perhaps
looped), and layered with other sounds, he's doing one thing.
Is this not like what "we" do when we create a loop by layering
multiple passes into it?

I don't think so.  An artist with a "performance instrument"
(say a guitar, or a saxaphone, or a keyboard set to play
sampled strings) has a particular vocabulary available to
him or her, which allows for the playing of one or more notes
of a large range of pitches, which can be combined into larger
pieces of "music" called phrases.  The core vocabulary (the
notes) is like the alphabet--the letters have no meaning
without adjacent letters to form words.

We can also talk about the larger vocabulary--what phrases
and chords our chosen performance-instrument-artist might use.
Clearly, artists work with the same core vocabulary (the same
12 notes--well, most of the time), but different large-scale

On the other hand, a recontextualizing artist using samples
of the type I described is unlikely to want to play those
samples at different pitches, since the tempo would change.
Even if he did, that sample would internally modulate, but
would still create the same phrase.

What I'm focussing here is an issue of granularity--a traditional
performance instrument has more granularity, and hence a
versatility of musical phrase selection.  The large-scale
sample performance has a more limited selection of phrases
(namely, whatever samples are available), but those phrases
are widely varying in all sorts of ways a single performance
instrument can't achieve.  (e.g., variability of timbre,
but that doesn't really cover things like vocal samples...)

Let me use a totally frivolous thought experiment.  Suppose
I start a mailing list, called phrase-loopers-delight.  Me
and many other people on the internet are creating this odd
sort of music which we, for lack of a better term, call
"phrase looping".  The idea is to take snippets of music,
say the riff from Black Dog, and play them into a looping
device.  You can layer on more and more phrase riffs.

Perhaps there might be some talented artist who could
create really listenable, interesting, and exciting music
by creating performances that just loop phrases taken
from Led Zeppelin guitar riffs.  (I doubt it, but suppose.)
Then, I don't think it really matters whether those riffs
are put into the looper by playing them on a guitar, or
sampling the phrases from the records.  Sure, it will change
the sound in various ways, but it seems to me the "compositional"
challenge in such music is in figuring out what phrase to
perform when, not the execution of the individual notes.

My point being, in that case, yes, I don't think there's
really any difference between the two, in the sense of
categorizing what sort of music it is, or in the sense of
whether they should all be on the same mailing list.  Yes,
both the guitar-players-of-Led Zeppelin-riffs and the
samplers-of-Led Zeppelin-riffs have a lot in common.

However, I don't think that's really very much like most
looping music, and I really don't think that's anything
like electronica and traditional DJ sampling (although,
hey, I could be wrong).

The exciting thing about "traditional" looping as opposed
to this presumably fictional "phrase looping" is that once
you've got this loop going, you're free to play "any" phrase
(or single note) you can think of.  While I'm sure a DJ
could use a "big 3" looper to do useful electronica, and
thus might be interested in our mailing list to share
technological know-how, and hence one might be tempted to
say "where are the electronica people, they could use
these instruments", it also seems straightforward to see
that the kind of music (and I don't mean rock vs. jazz
vs. new age vs. electronica) you get one way comes out
radically different from the other way, because of the
musical phrase limitations of one.

Of course, I could be totally wrong.

I'm tempted to try to refer to one group as doing
"layered looping" (DJs) and the other as doing "looped layering"
(loopers), but I'm not sure that really makes any sense.

Sean Barrett