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Topic: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

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  1. #1

    Talking 1000 posts, dissing ALW, the "good old days" and the future of sampling

    A strange series of events lead me down an unexpected path of reminiscence this week - and since this is my 1000th post, I thought I'd mark the occasion with a few (well- or ill-) considered thoughts. I was having lunch with my wife at our favorite local Chinese restaurant - and couldn't quite put my finger on the "oddity" of the room. I looked around and nothing was any different than it had been before - but then it hit me - the piped-in music was very, very different from the canned Sino/Euro-trash they usually play.

    They had replaced their usual instrumental ethno-pop with an Andrew Lloyd Webber greatest hits album. Mind you, this was not your average cheesy cabaret soundtrack - this was really awful, saccharin-sweet instrumental clap trap that didn't even rise to the musical production quality of a SoundBlaster. Right-thinking people wouldn't even put these arrangements in an elevator. Needless to say, once it made its presence known, we couldn't get past it. So, we laughed it off and played an impromptu game of "name that musical" while waiting for the Hunan Chicken to show up. The usuals were there - we got a dose of "Cats" and "Phantom" - and by the time we got our food we moved on to "Evita" and "Starlight Express". There was even a little bit of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and "Sunset Boulevard" mixed in. But the real surprise came when I picked out a theme from "Song and Dance" - a lesser-known one-woman show that I produced with my girlfriend at the time - back in the summer of 1988. I was quite pleased with myself when I finally named a tune that my wife didn't know - and she had the audacity to suspect that I was making it up. When it went to the chorus I recited a few of the words and she surrendered...

    Anyway, that started me thinking back not about the old girlfriend but the setup that I used to create all of the tracks for the musical - only a Roland D-20, and an Alesis MMT-8 sequencer. I had a cassette four-track - but it kept screwing up enough that we ditched it and I played the sequences live through the synth, and adjusted tempo on the fly using the data slider on the D-20 (sending some form of control message to the MMT-8) - talk about cutting-edge! Looking back on it now, I would never dream of doing things the same way - but that's just it - things are so different now (both for me - personally and professionally - and industry-wide) that there's barely a resemblance. It really hadn't dawned on me until that day in the Chinese restaurant - I guess it's as much about *not* taking the time to look back and see how far you've come, as it's about "staying current". It's caused me to rethink the amount of time spent in splitting hairs with people over what application, plug-in, or virtual instrument is marginally better than the other. It also made me remember that - even with a painfully minimal setup - my arrangement was better than that garbage playing in the restaurant.

    And I also feel the need to say a few things in defense of Andrew Lloyd Webber. First of all, I don't mind his music - trite and contrived as it can be. However, there's a real gem in "Song and Dance" that made the whole thing worth doing (and my girlfriend at the time was very persuasive). It's a 5/8 piece in Db minor that falls well on the fingers and has some really surprising chord turns in it as well as a really stunning melody - not just catchy, but truly inspired. I also remember going to an international drama conference in high-school, and seeing a performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that truly blew me away. The person who played Judas had an amazing set of pipes (I'm talking about Christina Aguliera sit down, quit warbling, and listen to someone really do it kind of pipes - required for the part) and the production was so amazing that when the character commits suicide, his last note was jerked out of him by the drop, and the music cut out in perfect sync - and you could hear 3500 people gasp and hold their breath - with the next few seconds punctuated by the occasional choked-back sob during the low vamp into the next scene. This was an auditorium filled with a bunch of drama queens with chips on their shoulders (i.e. none of them wanted to see a musical during a *real* drama conference) and they gave ALW's work a 10-minute standing ovation. I don't think that anyone managed to fall asleep that night. I know I didn't...

    As much as I yawn and roll my eyes when ALW's name is mentioned, it's more from the fact that I've played a great deal of his music (and many times over, at that) as a professional trombonist and pianist - as well as music director and arranger. The thing that irritates me the most is when I see that Pavlovian response from people every time they hear ALW's name and coo in some glib sense of adoration. I was at a screening for the Society of Composers and Lyricists where they announced an impending screening of the feature based on "Phantom" with ALW penciled in for a post-screening interview. Everyone murmured approvingly with a low chorus of "Mmmm" and "Oohhh" and "Ahhh" - and I'm sitting there wondering if I'm the only one that's not interested... maybe it's just that people in L.A. don't get enough of the stage...

    I'm finding that all of these little (seemingly) myopic events, experiences and memories are instructive. They're telling me that I have less reason than ever to *not* make music. Between Garritan, SCARBEE, Worra, and a slew of other folks - I don't really need to explain "what I meant" to do with a piece of music. All I need is the time and patience to give my ideas full realization. I've said it before - and I'll say it again - it's truly "an embarrassment" of riches. From the huge, expansive orchestral libraries to deep and wide expressions of single instruments - 15+ years ago these kinds of instruments were unthinkable (well maybe a few folks were thinking about it back then ).

    So as I fade back into the woodwork a bit - I'd like to pose a few questions (and I'd like to keep this about sample library discussion so the thread doesn't get moved and sink to the bottom of the OT section).
    • What was your first "real" electronic music setup (tape decks and cutting blocks included)?
    • Do you think that *you* are closer to or farther away from being able to express yourself creatively?
    • Do you feel like you spend more of your time tweaking things like computers and sample libraries, or in actually creating music?
    • Do you think that the music instrument industry as a whole is healthy - and do you see it as impacting your future creative options?
    • What do you think sample libraries and samplers will be like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?
    Right now I feel that looking back 15 years only tells us that in 15 years things are going to be radically different.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  2. #2

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    I was at a screening for the Society of Composers and Lyricists where they announced an impending screening of the feature based on "Phantom" with ALW penciled in for a post-screening interview. Everyone murmured approvingly with a low chorus of "Mmmm" and "Oohhh" and "Ahhh" - and I'm sitting there wondering if I'm the only one that's not interested... maybe it's just that people in L.A. don't get enough of the stage...
    Interesting, I was there too, and I was one of the people who were oohhing and ahhhing. I think Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most prolific and talanted composers of our times and meeting him will perhaps be one of the highlights of my LA experience so far.

    When it comes to theatre, I would have to say that my favourite would have to be Sondheim, but ALW is no slouch either.

    I'll reply to the rest of the questions tomorrow and I try to narrow our gap in posts!
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  3. #3

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    Nice post! My first keyboard was a Hammond M3 organ back around '77, followed shortly by the holy grail synth of the time (well, to me at least)- a MiniMoog!! At some point I got a Sequential Pro-1 as well. I developed a technique by getting a similar sound patched on each mono synth. The MiniMoog would be tuned to a fifth. So, I played the open fifths on it with one hand, and the thirds (or fourths or whatever) on the Pro-1. Viola- instant three voice poly synth! Those were the days. Eventually a Korg Poly-Six came along ending the need for such craziness, and then a Sequential Prophet 600 which I bought instead of the then-all-the-rage DX-7. I've always been analog to the core!!

    My first multi-track experiments were done via the time honored technique of bouncing between two cassette decks via a mixer. After about 4 bounces things became inaudible. When Tascam introduced the original Portastudio it shook things up almost as much as the ADAT years later. Playing with that little four-track has directly led to being a studio-owner today!

    As for time spent tweaking vs. creating music, the last keyboard I ever made my own sounds for was the Roland D-50. After that it just got to be too much, and sounds were so plentiful it wasn't necessary anymore. I always felt bad though, because in the 70's and at least some of the 80's it was unthinkable that a keyboardist wouldn't program all his own sounds- as if there was any choice for most of us before things like the MemoryMoog and Oberhiem OB-Xa's were around!!

    Now it seems things are full circle. I have a virtual MiniMoog that lives on my computer that I can dial up sounds on. I have a whole orchestra in there as well. And a drummer. It's amazing!! Life is truly good for creative people in the 21st century.

    And I really belive that the developments of the next, say, 10 to 20 years will see astonishing changes. I think computers will be able to physically model real intruments virtually to perfection. I fantasize that perhaps even ways of composing via direct thought- no physical controllers at all, just direct transfer of thought to realization- could even appear eventually. It sounds absurd, perhaps, but who would have thought 20 years ago a machine would appear that corrects pitch in real time? Or prints sheet music generated from a keyboard performance? We used to joke about stuff like that. We knew it could NEVER happen. And yet, here we are.

    Is the musical instrument business healthy? I have no idea. It seems to be. I do have one major prediction- in the realm of synths/keyboards, the deicated hardware machines will disappear VERY rapidly from here on out. I think we're getting close to a major shift in that regard. There will be dedicated controllers and perhaps more robust computer platforms designed strictly for music (as opposed to business PC's that are being hi-jacked for musical purposes). But beyond that, all newly developed instruments will be sold as software. The idea of buying a keyboard that is somehow dedicated to one kind of hard-wired synthesis will seem as archaic as buying a typewriter to have an integrated QWERTY keyboard that prints out hardcopy. I suppose there could be keyboards that would also be expandable software-running platforms- in fact, that would be kind of logical. But not synths as we know them now.

    Yikes- what a ramble!! I'm going to bed. Great thread- I can't wait to see what other people come up with.

    Fred

  4. #4

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    Oh, last thing- Am I closer to being able to express myself musically? Are you kidding?? I JUST bought GS3 and a bunch of libraries. Haven't even had time to set it all up yet. 20 years ago I had an organ, a couple synths and a Wurly piano and I could gig in a band, and that was cool. But in this day and age I command orchestras. I can be a virtual drummer. I have access to huge pipe organs. I replaced my beloved MiniMoog for one that is polyphonic and totally reliable (if Windows doesn't crash) for $200. I can record everything I do with professional quality. I can fix my voice with Autotune. I can create parts for real string players to perform in about an hour and print them out and they look great. I can write perform and realize darn near anything I can imagine at this point in time, by myself if I so choose, and I can put it on the Internet and let people anywhere in the world hear it. We live in science-fiction times, people!!!

  5. #5

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    Quote Originally Posted by FredProgGH
    We live in science-fiction times, people!!!
    ... where everybody sounds more or less the same.



    ------------
    Alex Cremers

  6. #6

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    What was your first "real" electronic music setup (tape decks and cutting blocks included)?
    Do you think that *you* are closer to or farther away from being able to express yourself creatively?
    Do you feel like you spend more of your time tweaking things like computers and sample libraries, or in actually creating music?
    Do you think that the music instrument industry as a whole is healthy - and do you see it as impacting your future creative options?
    What do you think sample libraries and samplers will be like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?


    Hrmm, well my first real electronic music setup was an amiga, and only that, using a tracker program. I bet I am not the only one there!
    I think I am much closer to being able to express myself creatively now, but, to be fair, that is an extremely difficult question to view dispassionately. I mean, yes, I have so much equipment, options galore, maybe too many even, but I also have a much better realisation of what it is I want to acheive. I may only be a hobbyist, but I definitely have a vision and method for what I want to acheive. That is something that time will help rather than hinder, and in some ways I feel time helping more than the advent of the miracles of technology that we have all seen turn up in the last decade, from the time that Turtle beach matched a card with a kurzweil, through the event cards that were quite an eye opener, into the seemingly endless optiopns of hardware/software combinations out there now.

    I definitely feel like I am spending more time tweaking. It's odd I first started to learn PC to play with music, but now work in the IT industry. It has been, and continues to be, the oddest journey I could imagine from where I started.

    As to the music industry, well, my comments may be volatile and riduculed, but here they are, for what they are worth. I think technology has been both a boon, and a detriment. Now any band with a computer and no talent (hey, I'll be honest and include myself there) can release something, put it on cd, and market it themselves over the web, there is, in my view, simply too much music that is too similiar, while this is not solely the fault of music, the industry, or any of 100 other societal changes, the fact is, it is still the case. I still listen back to the 70's, with King Crimson, Klaus Schulze, and onwards into metallica from the 80's, radiohead and etc from the 90's, and, certainly, there are still many brilliant artists out there. But. Music has become, and is more so becoming a commodity, rather than an expression. I don't want to get into debates about mp3's and etc, because there are obvious pro's and con's to the format. There is simply too much music out there. It seems most people are worried more about the size of their music collection in gigabytes, than in how a particular piece of music sends chills down your spine with its brilliance. I often say this to people, but, think of how many times you hear of music and the arts, rather than music as an art? Anyway enough of this, obviously, for everyone involved they will have their own feelings, and will most likely run very deep, but here is my small voice on such a thing. As to the future, who can predict such things? I was using the Internet 13 years ago, and could never imagine it becoming such a mainstream part of society in that time. I doubt many people really could. So where will things end up? With more choices, for both good and ill, and an almost Darwinistic progression to musical technology, where those who do not embrace it will either be swept aside, or, merely a musical curiousity.

    Steve

    P.S. Forgive my bitterness in this post, but, it is something I thought some years ago, when a couple of underground musical movements were crushed by technology, or more particularly, the lack of creativity of minds who let the technology control them, rather than vice versa. After this amount of time it is good to get these points off my chest.

  7. #7

    Thumbs up Re: 1000 posts, dissing ALW, the "good old days" and the future of sampling

    Congrats on you 1000th post Houston ! Very nice one as well

    Quote Originally Posted by Houston Haynes
    What do you think sample libraries and samplers will be like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?
    In 15 Years :

    The libraries will reach MANY Terrabytes of size.

    Multi-tasking -Extreme- speed processors at a reasonable price will allow fast manipulation,huge polyphony ( 2000+ voices ) and no latency in real-time.

    Impulse technology will allow hundreds of random situations to be emulated and appear in your compositions at some points ; like the dampness a human body adds to a concert hall sound while walking by. Also , the impulses will have multiple recordings changing the sound all the time instead of having a constant reverberation . Maybe a new technology will record the ambience of a place for a few minutes and have that as it's basis instead of making impulses.

    Modelling and pitch/time stretching will reach a point where it will be available for all the samples allowing extremely realistic legato's, coloring and vibrato for all -instruments-. -> Very soon

    Freezing tracks will no longer be.

    With the new Data Cubes medium ( made of a synthetic crystal - the medium will not move or rotate like Cd's , the lazer will "dig" in the data layers instead, ) sample rates of 960000Hz + will be possible but not necessary, so stretching samples and pitching them will be with perfectly lossless quality.

    Instead of recording hundreds of alternative notes for each instrument to eliminate the "machine gun" effect , the original samples will get all their attributes copied and altered by "sound cloning" software . So 1 violin sample could result in a huge multi-layered sound file. For percussion, sound-cloning will be available much sooner.

    Virtual singers will not be different than real ones .

    Eye tracking camera's will replace the mouse. Sensors will detect the exact X/Y spot you are looking at and move the cursor , that way you can insert notes in notation or Piano Rolls -very- fast . I wonder if it will be X/Y or if it will be X/Y/Z though

  8. #8

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing ALW, the "good old days" and the future of sampling

    And audio will be DC coupled directly to our inner ears.

    Greg.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Re: 1000 posts, dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, and remembering the "good old days"

    I spent 3 months depping in the pit in the west end production of Phantom of the opera some years ago and, while dazzled with the professional brilliance of the cast, including Michael Crawford, I really could not understand why anybody liked the music. But sometime after I went around inner-city London and Manchester schools in deprived areas with members of the CATS cast and the kids loved it. Whatever I might think about his music, or most musicals in general, the earlier stuff in particular does have a big effect with a certain audience.

    What was your first "real" electronic music setup (tape decks and cutting blocks included)?

    I came into the electronic side of things from a strictly conservative classical world in which synths and all were pretty spat upon by many. In fact, the school I was trained at (the Purcell) didn't even have any electronic instruments at the time, which is certainly not the case now. However, they did have a nice enough reel to reel and mixer recording set-up and I started making use of that for compositions.

    However, one day we were taken to covent garden to see Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and, looking into the pit, I saw a load of synths and gear and on further research learnt they had been employed by the more adventurous for a long time. The opera itself bored me to tears but the sound fascinated me, so I saved up and bought a Juno 6. The rest followed bit by bit when I had the money, a fostex B16 and soundtracs mixer, an akai S950, a set of Taurus pedals....and the centrepiece for quite some time, an MPC60 midi workstation which I still use and love.

    Do you think that *you* are closer to or farther away from being able to express yourself creatively?

    I don't think I'd still be composing after 20 years if I didn't feel able to express myself creatively.

    Do you feel like you spend more of your time tweaking things like computers and sample libraries, or in actually creating music?

    No more time than I used to spend setting up the reel-to-reel back then. Things change, new problems present themselves. But its an awful lot faster now to just turn on and get on than it was back then though, although I think one has to be guarded against fiddling with the performance too much for fear of losing the quirks and spontaneity of performance. These days if the problems are software based or mechanical then I leave it others more skilled to sort out the problems. I really have no patience for tweaking the BIOS or whatever else!.

    There are just too many good sounds and libraries now for me to spend much time tweaking them, although if I have a very specific sound in mind then I'm often happy enough to spend a few hours getting it. I used to love fiddling with samples and turning a 6 horn set into some weird martian instrument but I don't have so much time these days.

    Do you think that the music instrument industry as a whole is healthy - and do you see it as impacting your future creative options?

    No, in electronic music we're spoilt for choice right now. It could stop in its tracks, never re-start and it would still leave enough instruments to produce music for a lifetime. For some acoustic instruments things are a tad more dire. A fair few good manufacturers of decent pianos have been shutting up shop over here and a range of diabolical machine manufactured instruments taking their place, such as Yamaha-kemble uprights. Its a case of purchasing some rather more beautifully crafted vintage instruments and getting in with a good tuner and restorer. Ok, I'm going totally off track here.

    What do you think sample libraries and samplers will be like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?

    I like to think different ways of actually performing the samples will evolve. Perhaps literally employing strings and a bow mechanism to really aid performance of string parts. It always feels to me that leaving such things to an inelegant combination such as keyboard, breath and ribbon controllers, mod wheel etc is never quite going to make it. I suppose ageing technology like the EWI puts current thinking to shame here.

  10. #10

    Re: 1000 posts, dissing ALW, the "good old days" and the future of sampling

    What was your first "real" electronic music setup (tape decks and cutting blocks included)?

    A Fostex four-track who's stereo outs were routed into a dbx compressor then out to a SONY mini-disc deck for "mastering". I was fifteen and in a two-member band, my co-composing partner (currently) on drums/vocals and myself on guitar. We wrote nothing but concept albums where all the songs rolled into each other and took up an entire side of those Memorex Type II cassettes in the four-track. When it came time to bounce, we had to ride the four-track faders and record the whole 30 min side to mini-disc in one shot.

    Do you think that *you* are closer to or farther away from being able to express yourself creatively?

    OMG - much closer! You couldn't knock the smile off my face the first time I launched Kontakt. I drug a couple of samples of my acoustic guitar over and was able to ply it through my keyboard - it was amazing. Or the first time I launched GPO and hit that mod wheel. (GPO was my first virtual instrument and my first orchestral library ever).

    Do you feel like you spend more of your time tweaking things like computers and sample libraries, or in actually creating music?

    With my personal projects, I spend much more time making music than tweaking, with my LastLibs' projects, it's 100% tweaking, mapping, editing, programming, etc.

    Do you think that the music instrument industry as a whole is healthy - and do you see it as impacting your future creative options?

    No to both. I used to be addicted to the radio, to Fuse, to anything that would show me new music - but - then I realised - there really isn't much worth listening to. I have a couple of contemporary favorites, Nine Inch Nails, Taking Back Sunday, Story of the Year come to mind - but even they aren't exactly "mainstream".

    What do you think sample libraries and samplers will be like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?

    5 years from now is forsee-able: I think eventually each developer, or groups of developers will be rolling their own players. Having to rely on NI, Tascam and Steinberg for features or updates is a pain, and alot of the smaller devs don't even have contacts at all these places yet. There are many features I am missing from the current crop, even with the recent updates for all the version 3's. So I think devs will mostly go to writing their own

    The libraries them selves will take more advantage of convolution. Body resonance is a big one, it really brings a sequenced phrase together to hear the harmonics of the notes playing off each other like never before. After that it's just a guessing game as to which tools will be available and what they will enable us to do.

    I for one would like sample libs to become more about sound than about numbers. Too many are worried about sample rates and velocity layers they'll never use and etc. and not even just "listen" to a demo... (okay, mini-rant over).
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

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