The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, February 28, 2001

To Sample Or Not To Sample

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: A few Sundays ago, the New York Times informed us that using sampling and other digital recording tools was a bad thing. Hired gun (AKA freelance writer) Tony Scherman spent many words building his case against the modern technology many artists use these days to make recordings. "The music business has finally figured out a way to do without musicians, those pesky varmints," wrote Scherman. Nowadays, he continued, "more and more pop is created ... by using samplers, digital editing software and other computerized tools that stitch together prerecorded sounds." I wasn't the only person appalled by the article, headlined "Strike The Band: Pop Music Without Musicians," which ran in the Feb. 11 "Arts & Leisure" section. This past Sunday the letters column of "Arts & Leisure" contained a number of articulate responses. "Tony Scherman levels an old and tired charge at the new sounds in pop music," wrote Darren Solomon of Maplewood, N.J. "It is traditionally made by critics who stake out a certain place on the musical evolution timeline and wonder why the rest of the world is not standing still with them.... Technology, be it in the form of a saxophone, an electric guitar or a computer, is intertwined with the music as part of the zeitgeist. The process in which people create music with tools of their own creation is art and the human soul laid plain." Tara Rodgers of Brooklyn, editor of the Web magazine, wrote: "While Tony Scherman correctly observes that samplers and other digital tools are often used toward formulaic and unimaginative ends in pop music, he fails to take adequate notice of a substantial population of underground electronic musicians whose work illustrates the creative capacity of digital instruments.... Most offensively, Mr. Scherman fuels the false notion that electronic music can be created with a simple push of a button. A sampler and its digital companions in the studio might better be understood as a new family of instruments, like woodwinds or strings, with a particular set of musical possibilities that must be explored, learned and perfected. As for Mr. Scherman's assertion that electronic music may suffer from a lack of soul, I would counter that good electronic music results from a collaboration between a creative person and machines with enormous creative potential." Philip Sherburne of San Francisco noted that "Mr. Scherman confuses the market with the method.... But while the culture industry uses advanced technology to maximize profits, the same methods are being explored and challenged in other, more artistic sectors, from indie rock to underground electronic music." Kurt Gottschalk of Manhattan wrote: "I came home last Sunday from a performance by the French electronics and saxophone player Eric Pailhe to read Tony Scherman's article, wherein the author claims that 'digital music making represents an epochal rift in music making styles, a final break with the once commonsense notion of music as something created in real time, by a skilled practitioner whose contribution presupposes a long, intimate and tactile relationship with an instrument.' Never have I heard a fan say that what he or she values in an artist is the length of time the artist has been playing. To say that music is merely about proficiency is to reduce it to a skill like carpentry. The value of art lies in the creator's expression, not pedigree." Hear, hear.

Datastream: The next Pernice Brothers album will be called The World Won't End. It's due June 5 on Ashmont Records, the new label owned by Joe Pernice and his manager, Joyce Linehan. Recorded at Pernice's home studio, the 11-song album was produced by Pernice and producer/engineer/musician Thom Monahan. Monahan also co-produced Big Tobacco, last year's superb solo album by Pernice. Many of the musicians who performed on previous Pernice albums — 1998's Overcome by Happiness, 2000's Chappaquiddick Skyline and Big Tobacco — are on the new one, according to Linehan. ... Don't expect another album of Red House Painters leader Mark Kozelek singing other artists' songs. The singer/songwriter said that after producing the John Denver tribute album and doing two solo CDs of covers, he's gotten that out of his system. Kozelek said he hopes the Red House Painters will record another album once they finish touring behind their upcoming album, Old Ramon.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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