by T. Patrick Carrabré ¦ November 21 2017
This will be a short post to tide us over until the next invitees are ready with their contributions. It has been a super busy fall, with my latest album coming out and completion of a new piece that Polycoro will perform at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival in January. So I’ve been a bit less attentive to this blog than I would have liked. Sorry! So many things to do…. so little time. I’ve also been teaching a couple of courses, including the History of Popular Music. That’s usually an opportunity for me to listen to some old favourites and re-contextualize the shifts in our industry—because this is not the first time the music world has believed that “the sky is falling” because of shifts in technology.
My new choral piece, Just Society, features samples from speeches by Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Not only did his words bring me back to the optimism of my youth, but they linked up with my remembrance of how some musicians feared the implications of early sampling technology. It was going to be the end of work for live musicians. Well that never happened, in fact many musicians now make their best money performing live and you no longer have to be a pianist or guitar player to do a solo show. Sampling has certainly evolved into a significant feature of music in our time.
Re-listening to some early EDM (electronic dance music) in class this week, I was struck by how low-fi it sounds. You can feel the groove, which is obviously the real point, but the synths lack depth and the drum machines sound so thin. Here’s a track by Frankie Knuckles, an early guru of Chicago House:
The sampling technology was so clunky in the 80s, that I gave up on it entirely. That was until I heard Brett Dean’s Carlo, for strings, sampler and tape (1997). Brett starts with a straight up recording of Carlo Gesualdo’s Moro Lasso, a classic choral work in the 16th Century Mannerist style and a piece that generations of musicians have studied—mostly without knowing that Gesualdo was an infamous murderer. (He killed his wife and her lover, but because he was also Prince of Venosa, was never held to account for his actions.) This choral sample is then manipulated and blended with some fantastic, intense string writing.
A few years after I returned to using electronics in my own works, I pulled out that same Gesualdo piece to reference in the second song of my cycle Crazy. Apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but this is Murder, from my recently released album.
I’ll conclude by linking back up to EDM, which also happens to be the topic of my daughter Gillian’s doctoral research. She is obviously the most knowledgeable person I know concerning that set of genres, so I asked if she knew of anyone who would like to take a stab at remixing one of the songs from Crazy. I know that this was a challenge, so kudos to Braydon & Trevor. Here is the Audiation remix of Pain. Now you can wait for the drop (around the one minute mark!).