It may be of interest so I might as well repost it here, with paragraphs!!
As of late I have been experiencing this insane urge to listen to endless amounts of classic reggae from the 75 - 79 period, arguably the golden age of dub, which coincidentally is also a time when live drummers were still used on most recording sessions.
It's quite interesting to note that although the popularity of drum machines made Dance Hall (digital), House and Techno possible for very low budgetary expense compared to the way of old, it also virtually overnight destroyed a glorious and very sophisticated art form which had existed for thousands of years: live drumming.
Mind you, it is of course possible to program those drum machines to generate very exciting rhythms full of the sort of intricate ear candy and mysterious variations that makes repeated listening so enjoyable, but not really something that dance music is necessarily known for.
So as part of what is called 'progress', we have to settle for gross approximations of what was once commonplace genius all around us. Food for thought....
Let me go a bit further on this. I think that technology makes a lot of great things possible at a very reasonable cost, but in doing so it also introduces the idea of 'taking the easy road'.
I certainly have met a fair amount of people who can program drum machines or sequencers really well, and who absolutely refuse to quantize everything, rather they are after a certain very specific feel and cannot stand the way it sounds after it is 'machinized'. But those few are usually extremely skilled and experienced professionals who also know how to translate what they play into a programmed pattern, or series of them. Because they already know how to play, they have the groove...!!
The real problem arises when people who are clearly out of their depth with this use the tools to make a shortcut, and get by without having a someone who is a great programmer or with experience on that instrument do this for them. So although technology is a great facilitator, it also eliminates a lot of what was previously so random, beautifully weaving and transforming it into a picture-perfect version of the music, but one which may not hold our interest for as long because all of that randomness is gone.
Witness the amount of this older hand-played music that's still getting massive amounts of airplay today, and compare it to how fast new releases are just gone a few days later and never heard from again.
Therefore one of the challenges here may well be to use this technology, but in ways that build and incorporate all of this incredible knowledge and these ancestral traditions rather than just a good-looking approximation of it that discards all of the parts which made it so special and unique.
That is clearly not the fault of the gear or the software, rather that those who operate it choose to make shortcuts for the sake of expediency, and also possibly because their opinion is that in the end the public itself doesn't appear to notice or care.
This might be one of the many challenges of our digital age: use these new tools with all the wondrous power they have, but not at the expense of ignoring all that knowledge which came before them, which should not be ignored or forgotten because it requires too much effort on the part of either the designer or the operator.
This sort of thinking does not necessarily apply to just music, but many other creative areas where computers and software have become so commonplace such as the graphic arts.
While it made sense for these manufacturers to start with products that offered a good value (but at the expense of the complexity of real life analog creations) let's hope that we can force them to keep incorporating more of what made those previous tools so endearing and could yield such magnificent results in the hands of skilled artists, even if it means that this would raise the cost of their development and lengthen the time between new point releases.
If we do not demand that they make such efforts, it probably won't happen. Or alternately, we can also hack our own, and forge our own styles and individuality rather than always relying on others to make those decisions for us.
That's one of the great lessons that Jamaican dub should have taught us: In an island where people had access to little recording gear that was for the most part rejects from US and UK studios, or at least quite often behind them by several years, they managed to hack most of it and turn it into instruments that were used in ways they were never designed for, but that were so advanced that many people are still trying to figure out what they did forty years later.
It was not the technology alone that made this possible, rather only when it was combined with inventive and very curious minds who took it upon themselves to resourcefully modify it to fit their needs, and turned it into something unique and extremely powerful.
This is a lesson I try and keep in mind when approaching many things, as it should still be the sort of attitude we have when dealing with modern technology and computers today. Don't just sit there and let someone decide for you: hack it, bend the circuits, experiment with it, and turn it into what you need even if it makes no sense to others, rather than just what it was meant for.
(Bit meandering here, but might as well make this 'stream of consciousness' post just stay the way it was written...)
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