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Re: I just can't stop writing today...

At 11:46 AM 8/12/97, T.W. Hartnett wrote:
>I respond to Warren Sirota:
>>> > Why is it that in rock music, there's an acute shortage of "keyboard
>>> > heroes", in the same sense that say, Jeff Beck is a guitar hero?
>>> How
>>> > many breathtaking solos can you recall that were generated by
>>> something
>>> > with a piano-keyboard interface?
>>Well, gee, doesn't anyone here listen to jazz? Art Tatum? Bill Evans?
>>Fats Waller? Keith Jarrett? Herbie Hancock? Oscar Peterson? There's
>>plenty of breathtaking stuff there. This does beg the question of why
>>there's such a paucity of great *rock* keyboard as compared to great
>>jazz keyboard.
Well, I've always had a fondness for the synthesizer solo in "Rosanna" by
Toto, lousy song, sucky sellout band, but it's a solo that rips. Also, the
minimoog solo at the end of Heart's, oh geez, now I forget which tune,
either "Barracuda" or "Magic Man" is pretty great. And I pretty much
stopped listening to pop music in the early '80's.

As far as jazz, geez, there's at least a hundred astounding keyboard
soloists. I've been listening to the new re-issue of Miles Davis "Black
Beauty" lately, highly recommended BTW, a great live record, and was struck
by how great and interesting a keyboardist Chick Corea was before getting
infected by Scientology. Also, there's Marilyn Crispell, McCoy Tyner, Cecil
Taylor, Joe Zawinul, John Medeski, etc, etc

>Yes, I was hoping someone would answer that question, but I didn't want
>to ask it.  Again, where are the keyboardists on this list?
>>Oh, maybe you mean, "why aren't there any great *synthesizer* solos?"
>>That's easy. Synthesizers suck. (just kidding - they don't suck totally.
>>but there are many, many ways in which they truly suck.)
>Many, many, many.  And it's baffling--the idea is so great, but much as I
>love and use synths, any individual model of synth seems to fall short of
>analog instruments (I can hear the artillery fire already).  They don't
>hold their value, they don't hold people's interest.  Synths don't seem
>to produce a sound which is complex enough to be fascinating over the
>course of years.
There is such a variety of synthesizers that a blanket statement like that
is pretty much unsupportable. The earliest modular analogs make some really
terrific variable and "expressive" sounds. The next generation monophonics
like the minimoog and ARP odyssey made excellent solo instruments, I think
there's a significant body of work from the '70's to support this, Zawinul,
Corea, Hammer, etc. Sample-playback synths are basically a blight on the
face of creative music, but the newer generation of physical modeling
synths, like the korg prophecy or yamaha VL70 are wonderful solo
instruments, I have a VL70m and it really has a lot of expressive
possibilities, in fact this instrument has rekindled my interest in
monophonic keyboard soloing.

>I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the problems stem from the trend
>of using synthesizers to remove the "difficult" parts of making music.  A
>keyboard synthesizer makes it very easy to play a note--just press down
>the key and hold it.  Anyone can do it.
>The same isn't true of a violin, trumpet or guitar (and with an electric
>guitar feeding a high-gain amp, there's not inconsiderable technique
>required to play a rest). I think one of the sad truths of life is that
>if it's easy, it's probably not worth much.
Yeah, I totally agree here, but the best keyboardists really play their
instruments, the same as any violinist, trumpeter or guitarist. It may be
easier to sound good as a complete amatuer on a synth, but it's just as
difficult to master.

Dave Trenkel : improv@peak.org  : www.peak.org/~improv/

"...there will come a day when you won't have to use
gasoline. You'd simply take a cassette and put it in
your car, let it run. You'd have to have the proper
type of music. Like you take two sticks, put 'em
together, make fire. You take some notes and rub 'em
together - dum, dum, dum, dum - fire, cosmic fire."
                                            -Sun Ra