The “Recording Artist”
It’s All About Semantics
Semantics DO matter. Most introductions for a live recording proclaim: “(record label) recording artist (name)”. What many don’t understand is that they are performance artists. Outside the improvisation (artistic), you’re hearing a copy of their original recording (maybe artistic, maybe not). I’m not slighting the skills of the performer. They have great skills to do what they do. The question remains: who is a “recording artist”?
It can be argued that the at present, creation of most recorded music is left to the producer. This has not always been the case. The Beatles were true recording artists and had an artistic producer (George Martin) as well. Why? They took chances on sounds never before put on record added to masterful songwriting. There are but few instances of that now, mostly due to economic and political forces.
For the most part, in music today (I’m talking pop music), we have recordings made largely by matching mediocre (or even rotten) homogenized “songs” with “cookie-cutter” producers. Safe, boring ground and because you can market anything to sell, sell it will. Nothing like hearing that “Millennial Whoop” again!
I first heard of Edgard Varese from Frank Zappa (one of my major influences). Turns out, Varese was his biggest influence. This, of course, led me to his music. It is difficult to listen to. Varese said, “to stubbornly conditioned ears, anything new in music has always been called noise”. He only had about three hours worth of music published in his lifetime.
Despite lack of “commercial success”, Varese founded the International Composers’ Guild in 1921 and the Pan-American Association of Composers in 1926. He has been referred to as the “father of electronic music” for his addition of newly invented electronic instruments such as the ondes Martenot and Theremin , even inventing them himself.
I will cover Frank Zappa at a later date because he deserves his own blog post. Varese’s influence is all over Zappa’s music. They were both true artists and were not shy about blazing trails.
The Road Least Traveled
Being a true recording artist is definitely the road least traveled. It’s very lonely. Everyone yearns for acceptance, so it’s totally against the grain to go it alone. But face it, you are on your own. Hours and hours spent thrashing things out that you know will probably not even get listened to because it’s different from everything else. You get to the point that, good or bad, you just want people to hear what you’re doing.
When growing up, I wanted to be part of a band. It didn’t work out for me, so I just wrote and produced the music myself. I became a recording artist, spending 90% of my adult life toiling in blue-collar jobs so I would have the artistic license to do music my own way, warts and all. I learned a lot from my mistakes (Lord knows I made a ton of them). The fact I am an old white male Christian conservative who doesn’t mince words has certainly had an effect as well. Reality can suck. Oh well…
I don’t play live. It’s not me. The studio is my instrument. I use whatever tools are available to get the sounds to complete my current vision; fresh every day. That’s it. No apologies. I’m no better, and certainly no worse than anyone else. I can live with what I’m doing. How many can look in the mirror and say that?
My motto: “Live to record another day! ”
© 2018 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot.com