Question 253 of 365: Are we loops or layers?

I used to record music in my dorm room. I would hook up a microphone to my laptop and start to play my guitar. I tried to do this when my roommate wasn’t there, but when he was I took it into the laundry room on the floor. Odly enough, no one seemed to want to come into the laundry room while I was singing and playing guitar. I would belt out these words that I had written a few minutes earlier. Everything was captured by a multi tracking piece of software, and the whole process would take about 2 hours. From beginning to end, once I had the melody and the music, I just went.

This was all before I discovered loops.

Before I discovered loops, I would record the three minute song, complete with accompaniment on a separate track. Even the chords that repeated and the solo lines that would be easy to sync up without the rhythm. I thought there was something special about screwing up in the last few moments of a song and having to redo a large portion. It was a romantic gesture in my music. They were one take wonders, or more accurately, they were 50 take wonders that had to be done individually.

After I discovered loops, though, I would record a single moment and them modulate it and stretch it and transpose it all over the song. I could make sounds that didn’t exist before just by playing with how the loops went together. This took less time but had more variation. I was still recording the music, but I could also bring in the loops that others had crafted. I could obsess on getting things to fit together without having to break out my guitar each time I found a flaw. In short, it was filled with possibility for making me a better musician, all without me have to actually become a better player.

And I wonder if the loop killed my creativity.

Not long after I discovered the loop, I stopped recording the songs I was writing. Not long after that, I stopped writing music altogether. Of course it could be that I got married or had kids and didn’t have the time to do it. But, I think that the loop is at least partially to blame.

Loops are easy. They are the sound byte that becomes the entire message. They are the single notes that reverberate throughout the piece that seem other worldly and inhuman. A machine is responsible for them, not me. The loop is where we lose control of e direction. We let a flaw dictate our path rather than going back and reworking our original material. The loop is literally the same thing over and over, without improvisation or human variation. It is perfect but not reflective.

I lost track of the voice I had created. I lost track of my long form. Everything became abbreviated. It all became a retweet. I wasn’t telling stories anymore, I was just listening to one liners. They sounded nice, but I couldn’t string them all together the way that I had. I couldn’t hear what I needed to anymore, couldn’t pull out the harmony that wasn’t obvious and suggested.

I longed for the layers, for listening to 5 minutes just to insert a single idea. I used to see each play things into existence instead of inserting or copying and pasting. There is something infinitely more satisfying about playing, about being the one to add layers to your current composition. There is a responsibility too. I can be proud of what I have created, even if it is terrible. I know that the flaws are mine and that I left them in on purpose.

Playing makes me happy, but pasting makes me productive. Sometimes, I’m okay just to be happy.

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