Categories
Opinion

Loop Research

Justin, Billy Martin and me

Are loops interesting? Are they useful? Why, or why not?

I started asking these questions in graduate school, and browsed through scholarly sources. I didn’t find a definitive answer from others, but I will put forth that “Yes, they can be intersting and yes, the interesting loops are very useful.” Maybe the why doesn’t matter.

I recently visited the studio of one of my favorite drummers, Billy Martin, in search of more information. He’s inspired me for many years, from the first time I saw him play at the Knitting Factory in NYC with Calvin Weston and John Lurie, to the time Medeski, Martin, and Wood rocked the Ottobar in Baltimore. His short instagram loops have certainly informed some of my S.Ex work (putting an iPhone under the drums on selfie mode, particularly). So it was a thrill to stand in the room where he makes this stuff, and be able to ask a few questions.

Billy is easy going, and generous with his thoughts. There were probably 10 or 12 other people there, and he spent time with everyone. I enjoyed the whole day very much.

I’m about to embark on another studio building project, and he answered my questions about his own studio, The Herman House, which is behind his home in NJ.

A barn like building surrounded by bamboo.

After spending time looping sounds in this place, I came away encouraged by how much I’ve figured out on my own this past year. I have the feeling I’m on the right track (for me, that is). And a few thoughts drifted to the front of my mind.

It’s important to get it recorded – get it on tape, in your phone, in the computer, as it’s happening. Don’t wait for perfection, and don’t lose it by spending time getting set up, practicing, etc. The content of a loop can be simultaneously magical and imperfect, and therein lies charm. They are highly usable that way. I’ve found that a lot of cool loop segments have incomprehensible time signatures, and I get lost trying to find the “one” downbeat when I’m trying to play along with them on my drums. Billy said “forget about finding the one. Just find a shape and go with it.” I really like this idea, and playing this way is new to me. Something the either adds tension to the loop, or supports it, so I’m going to work with this for a while.

Ultimately, if it brings joy, then it’s working.

Categories
Music

S.Ex no. 5

Categories
Music

S.Ex no.3

I spent the weekend hacking tape players, and fooling around with electronic components. Here’s a cool xravistan that adds tremolo functionality to a cassette player. The LED shows the pulse.

I randomly recorded myself playing drums, and then listened back. There’s a break in the loop (not sure why) and then I played along with it. It’s difficult, in a way, because unless you sync to the length of the tape, you can end up with a glitchy section in the loop. This one kind of works.

Categories
Music

Theoretical Audio Laboratory

This has been a nice, long walk to get here. Here being the beginning of a project from which I’ve been assembling materials and ideas throughout the pandemic.

I made a joke to myself a while back that goes “if you don’t have someone to play with, play with yourself.” And then I laughed to myself. And so, I’ve created the Theoretical Audio Laboratory in which to conduct my experiments. Sound Experiments (SEx)! And even Song Experiments.

This is turning out to be quite a hoot. Stay tuned. Or, detuned. Please stay!

Categories
Music

The Boss SY-1

I just picked up a Boss SY-1 synth pedal (it was more of a trade – some web programming for reverb.com love). Here’s my first attempt at using it: