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Wherefore Art Thou?

I think most people would agree that music is a form of art. And in art it would seem that almost anything qualifies, so by deduction the same must be true of music. Art could be a Turner painting, a Da Vinci masterpiece or somebody touring East Anglia putting a walnut on top of every dog poo they come across! Opinions are divided on what is foisted upon us in the name of modern art and when it comes to pickled cows, partly eaten pizza or a brick with a hole drilled in it, I definitely side with the ‘pretentious tosh’ opinion, but if you ask the artist, they’ll tell you that anything that provokes an emotional response is art. Clearly then delivering a punch on the nose to said artist would not be assault, but in fact a form of art, as a punch on the nose invariably provokes an emotional response.

Paul White at a trade show.Paul WhiteWhen it comes to music we see a similar range of artistic approaches, with fantastically detailed classical music at one end of the spectrum and a recording of somebody shovelling gravel at the other. Most of us inhabit a musical world somewhere between those extremes, where the more thoughtfully constructed experimental music can be very rewarding, both to create and to listen to. It is also remarkable how many inspiring sounds can be discovered by accident, especially when trying out new and unusual plug-ins, as happened to me recently when I was reviewing Zynaptiq’s Adaptiverb.

Adaptiverb has the distinction of being both a fine studio reverb and a powerful sound resynthesis/reshaping tool if you tweak it the right way. I tried it on spoken voice and other instruments with very encouraging results. I was doing a mic test recently and recorded myself doing a couple of minutes of random speech, that happened still to be on screen. One thing led to another as I often get sidetracked (all in the interests of science), and before long I’d time-stretched the vocal beyond recognition, reversed it, fed it through a pitch-corrector set to a single note (E) and then processed it using Adaptiverb. The result was a surprisingly textural background where words became organic-sounding pads and breaths were transformed into electronic cymbal-like punctuation. While some might say that this in itself qualifies as musical art, I prefer to use such doodlings as an inspiration to explore further, and often these almost random musings start to suggest more structured musical additions. This is rather the opposite of ‘normal’ composition — where you get an idea for a more-or-less complete song, then record it — but is it any less valid? Then again, I might just be setting myself up for a musical punch on the nose!