Jon is like a lightning rod for me. I have a lot of ideas around that man and it’s always fun to knock around ideas with him. Today we were talking about how looping musical parts has become so easy and as a result so boring that much of the music is just a few bars repeated over and over. Anybody with a laptop can do it. Now, what would be more interesting is to contrast very open “timeless” improvised sections with very tight loopy groove sections. Yes, Jazz musicians do that a lot – improvising open parts, BUT they don’t usually enjoy a pretty chorus anymore. So, the idea would be to contrast improvised group recordings with very tight, and yes, predictable chori. Imagine walking out on thin ice and then finding a path, then floating on ice and then finding a bridge. Wilderness/Home/Wilderness/Home. Searching. Finding. Repeat. Following a verse that stretches time and melody, we arrive at a chorus that beckons and seduces and is comforting and familiar. Naturally, because different recording methods would be used for verse and chorus, the instruments would sound different from section to section, but I don’t think that would bother me. It would add to mystery. This would truly be digital recording. The medium is the message. I mean working with a beat/bar grid is obviously something digital, but it’s kindergarten digital rather than advanced digital. I am talking about a hybrid technique of recording that combines the quality of making music in the moment (no grid) with the comfort of a pop chorus (grid). Using both instead of one OR the other.
I suspect that grids and loops might be the sort of thing people might not enjoy as much 20 years hence. Those were the barbaric early days of digital recording, they might say then. They had discovered grids and loops and it took 10 years for audience and musicians to get sick of that and move on.
There are some radio stations that play exclusively grid and loop music and you can nod your head to same beat for hours… like a clock…
By the way, a little while ago Jon showed me the intro for a Transit2 piece that keeps playing in my mind. He contrasted human drumming with drummachine bits and had fieldsounds and synth floating over and behind it… some parts were changing as a filter slowly modulated the frequencies. Very very cool. Transit2 will be an amazing album.
PS: Full Disclosure. The album La Semana, which I still consider to be one of my finest moments, is a grid and loop recording. After my son was born I was withdrawn and did not want to deal with an engineer or with musicians – except for Jon of course, but he is family – and so I did the entire album by myself, except for the bass performances. All of the percussion tracks you hear were recycled and looped from earlier performances, mostly Dave from The Santa Fe Sessions, but also other stuff from my 15 year library of sounds (everything from 1990 on has been digitized and is available to me in 24/48 quality). In order to make the percussion loops less obvious I did a lot of new palmas and made many thousands of small edits to the loops in order to have enough variation. It was an incredible experience making that album, from the depth of lost to the joy of finding.
This post inspired the song “Azhar” on Thira. Thank you!