I was just listening to the latest Electronic Musician podcast which contained an interview with Joe Chiccarelli – Producer / Engineer who’s worked with The Shins, U2, My Morning Jacket, Tori Amos, Beck…
Mike Levine asked what his opinion was of the impact of recording technologies available out there now for everyone have on recordings these days. He had some interesting comments that got me thinking one in particular was him lamenting that although there is a larger volume of artists out there getting attention, he felt that the quality of music coming out these days has gone down – both from the songwriting/structure and the overall sound standpoints.
In the end, I think I have to be on both sides of the fence.
One the one hand, I absolutely love the tools that are out there now. There’s a ton of flexibility, and ease to which you can work on music projects and produce things in a bedroom at relatively low cost.
There are a lot of great artists getting heard with the low barriers now. There are also a lot of folks who are not necessarily musicians being able to create music now.
A lot of barriers are getting broken down and there is a TON of diversity out there – which I find great!
On the flip-side, the low barriers also does produce its share of … kr@p too. Joe lamented that now-a-days there is a lot of mixes coming out that try to emulate what FM Radio sounds like – getting back to the loudness wars debate – where everything seems to have no dynamic range whatsoever. Charles Dye and company have been outspoken proponents of bringing dynamics back to music.
I also thought – well, what about the actual music itself? What’s going on there to facilitate the “suckage factor” these days.
With all these tools out available to pros, semi-pros and amateurs alike, a lot of variations on representing music – whether it be performance information in the form of MIDI or recorded information in the form of digital audio waveforms – conforms to a grid-like paradigm.
You start a new project in Logic, Sonar, Garageband, CuBase etc. and you’re presented with grids – time, measures, beats etc. along the top and your tracks along the left-hand side. Usually, you’re not proficient in all the instruments you’d like to add to your creation, so you have synthesizers and samplers, but if you’re not a keyboardist either, then you have LOOPS!
Loops have become a staple in a LOT of music you hear these days and they’re usually found increments of one, two, four, eight… bars. You drop these into your creation and bada-bing, you’re ready to move on to the next part.
All this grid / pattern stuff, at least to me, seems to promote a “laziness” on the part of the artist sitting behind the screen. There’s a system … a formula if you will … that home recordists, semi-pro and even pros succumb to in constructing their creations.
Listen to a top-40 station and try and find something that contains something that deviates from a formulaic 4 or 8 bar phrase. It’s pretty hard.
I guess, what I took away from this personal brain fart was that I need to try and step away from the tools and create music with ears – come up with things that don’t easily fit into the formulas – shake it up a bit. Folks worked like this 10-20 years ago and there was some GREAT stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, next to Catherine and the kids, music technology rocks. I just think the next project I create, maybe I’ll start away from the things that require power and have those shiny, flashing lights…