-Canadian singer-songwriter, Chantal Kreviazuk
[Pictured-Sum sung brew: 70's sing-sunger James Taylor. Am I the only one of my generation who can't relate to this blando crooner? Did he spawn hoards of hideous singers all trapped within their sensitive souls? ]
For some reason, I get a copy of Songwriter magazine. Have I "made it" in the radio world to warrant this honor? It's not a bad read, but few of the artists there really interest me. It was that quote that stuck. It bugged me.
What I think the gal is really saying is, "What I do is real songwriting. Assembling prerecorded loops is a craft, not an art and certainly not real songwriting."
Myths: Musicians who use electronics are trying to hide the fact that they are poor players. Do some? Of course, Duran Duran anyone? Isn't that what 80's synth pop was all about? Everybody knows that an electric guitar is one hundred times easier to fret than an acoustic one, but artistry is artistry. Classico guitar-ego-geek-o-maniac Eliot Fisk can grunt and sweat his way through a thousand difficult Scarlatti sonatas, but give me Jimi Hendrix every time. Same with a thousand sweaty EMO fuzzbox grinders-give me Ralph Towner every time.
Acoustic music is more real and authentic. Please, ever picked up an el cheapo guitar? Painful to play, painful to listen to.
- I play an electro-acoustic guitar. If I don't plug in, no one will hear me (sometimes that's a good thing), but is it less authentic that I am amplified? (I don't feel less authentic. I want to be heard, dammit!) Eric McCarl's new age piano is enough to snuff out any debate. It's acoustic all righty and and "real"-ly dull. I even emailed him one time and asked why he didn't try to use electronics or some exotic colors that could be culled from inside the piano. In short, this was way outside of his paradigm-something he perhaps would consider if he was as weird as me. The world is a far more conservative place than you can ever imagine. We like boxes, cages and everything in neat little organized places. Dull, dull, dull.
The concept of purity. Ever listen to a pure sine wave? After a few minutes, it feels like a drill on your eardrum. This is purity, by strict definition. Every interesting sound is not pure at all, but rather a combination of overtones, both consonant and dissonant as well as noise. Purity discussions should be about Aquafina versus Deer Park bottled water. There is no purity in music. There's only good music. That's where the discussion should end.
A friend of mine worked as a sound/recording engineer for one of these bluegrass/folk festivals in West Virginia. They didn't allowed any instrument to be plugged in, but only allowed using a microphone to amplify the acoustic instruments. They wanted to preserve the purity of the sound. He spoke about how precious the attitude was not only among the staff, but the audience who drank their chilled wine and basked in the authenticity of the aoustic...er...electronically enhanced and amplified music. I suppose these purists missed the irony.
At the root of all good music is a song, be it instrumental or vocal, so to me the core ideas are the same, it's just that the window dressing is different. The last album by a group called Shrift is a great example. While I appreciate the broad spectrum of color, all sorts, and am enamored by the female vocalist, the album failed because at the root of it all, there were no songs, no forms to hang these great sounds.
Techno/House can be mind-numbingly repetitive and soulless, but it also can be an amazing listening experience where sounds are manipulated in exact time with or against the music. A friend doesn't enjoy the mechanical beats or electronic drums, and while I can't say that all electronic sounds thrill me, I happen to like the strict metronomic time and the variety in color.
The acoustic versus electronic thing: look at my rig. Nothing between the amp and guitar except a high quality cable. A tuner, my only "effect", runs out of the back so that doesn't color the sound. Would I add effects? Yep, if I could afford them or find something that appeals to me. ( I may be one of the few so-called classical guitarists who delights in plugging in a distortion pedal -at home, of course- and listen to the damn thing howl like a wounded devil. Feedback is always a problem live, but the sustain is infinite. Maybe not so good for the equipment, but Neil Young ain't got nothing on me.) Effects seem to be more suited for steel string acoustics-the effect is better suited for the sound. Think of chorus, distortion, compression.