Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"If we can just find a way to get rid of these writers and directors, we'd really have something"

I am not sure if I ought to be horrified or amused by this article in the Times which takes up ever-dwindling space in the Arts section to discuss the creation of a song by a thoroughly untalented, untrained writer via some fantastic new looping software. Apparently it is, according to Nic Harcourt of Morning Becomes Eclectic, good that people flex their creative muscles, it tears down a barrier, and it is in line with the fact that people who don't have musical training write a lot of hit songs already.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: one can only blink. Just another example of the MySpace-ization of the Times, and another example of how easy putting of block A and block B next to one another passes for "creativity." Breaking down a barrier? How, from those talented mongrel hordes who keep all the art to themselves--let us who don't want to learn have a piece as well?

I do understand that there's a difference between writing a song for MySpace and making a good string quartet or opera. But soon, will there be a program for that as well?

I move for amatuers to take over Morning Becomes Eclectic. After all, those people with culture and purview who have spent time investigating their topics have hogged the mic long enough.


Blogger Quinn Skylark said...

Danny, come on, I don't think this is something you need to be worried about. Looping Software like Garage Band and Acid Loops are more like toys for those who like to play with sound. I have a copy of Acid Loops that I use to make podcasts for work, but I admit to using them to produce strange soundtracks of beats and processed sound-effects...but that's just for fun. It's not serious art. It's like doodling.

However, if you gave the tool to more competent musicians (or someone with latent talent), they might be able to use the tool to fashion some interesting stuff. These looping tools are also multi-track mixers that allow you to record on a variety of tracks and then mix them together using your laptop computer. Looping tools might not generate the next Mozart, but they do give low-budget pop/rock bands a chance to record their stuff on the cheap. Awhile back (before widespread availability of this software), The Beastie Boys made an album (Paul's Botique) consisting almost entirely of samples...and it's a damn good slab of pop art. There's no reason some little genius can't get ahold of these tools and make something wonderful with them.

But as far as the bedroom DJ is concerned, you can't discount the I-made-this factor. For example, In the Times article, Mr. Walker is enamored with his little tune. Anybody who listens to it, knows its a piece of crap, but he kind of falls in love with it, and wants attention for it. But that's okay, it's always better for people to make stuff than to while away their hours in front of the TV set. I wish everybody would make little songs, just like I wish everybody would paint pictures and publish little magazines.

To be fair, I come from the school of punk rock, where you didn't have to know how to play a guitar, you just had to pick one up, learn a few chords, and join a band. Some of those people eventually learned how to play the instruments and we ended up with guys like the first generation's Elvis Costello and the second's Mike Watt.

So it goes against my grain to criticize tools that bring art-making down the scale and into the bedrooms and garages of people who want to make something with their own two hands, and then distribute it through their own non-commercial channels. Such trends are directly in line with the DIY ethic that I spent my formualative year following.

That said, this stuff exists OUTSIDE of what it is you do. Nobody is going to put your string quartet on the same shelf as the Acid Looper who just made a great tune by connecting the dots. I don't think that Nic Harcourt is saying that it these tools unlock creativity so everybody can make great art, but that the looping sofware allows people to make something, anything. Which is pretty nice in the end.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

It is interesting to call punk rock, with its willful and famously vaunted inability to play an instrument, a school. I don't disagree with the personal empowerment of it all, nor do I disagree with the idea that from this occasionally someone rises out of the mire and becomes great. I really don't. What bothers me so tremendoulsy--and here is where I think i DO have to worry--is that the lack of musical understanding in our culture crossed with this new DIY at-home technology is going to make those of us with talent more of a pariah. Or will resign our years of work and toil to the dustbin of "that's what the gifted do," off in a corner, alone.

Or, push it there more than it is.

I suppose it would be akin to a program where a full screenplay could be authored in seconds, then the movie cobbled together in half an hour. It would be great fun, be responsible for a lot of very slick-looking bad movies, and give a lot of people a sense that they know what they are doing. Yes, from this lot we'd get another Greenaway or Scorsese or Antonioni or whatever, but not until a lot of the users pursued grants and schools and careers believing that what they were doing was good--and the art climate being what it is, there would be honors granted because, well, many people on panels or admissions committees would find personal resonance with the dilettante factor.

I am not saying this looping software is the end; I am saying it is just another thing against which we trained people will be compared. It gets people thinking "why are they all working so hard? It seems so easy." That's a little dangerous.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Joe Ardent said...

The cream always rises, and the advent of tools such as these can only, in the long run, serve to both broaden the audience, as well as engender real respect for those that can actually make something amazing and beautiful.

10:26 PM  

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