LICKSTERS OF THE WORLD!
In this fateful night I shall attempt to recreate the astounding scientific success of the legendary Dr. Victor Frankenstein.
Leave your ethical qualms behind and follow me into my laboratory, so you may bear witness to nothing less than the creation of musical life!
In order to understand what we are going to attempt here, let’s start with a brief refresher on Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
The groundbreaking insight of Dr. Frankenstein’s research was that a new living and breathing organism can be created by salvaging and reassembling the body parts of deceased individuals.
This is illustrated in the following schematic:
image[frankenstein_monster, schematic about how to create Frankenstein’s monster]
The new organism to the right combines the physical features of several individuals in an unique and previously unseen arrangement.
Our experiment aims to show that the same approach is possible to
create a novel and unique piece of music by reshuffling and assembling
the body parts of previous pieces of music.
In order to demonstrate this, we will be using the shape of a 12-bar blues.
Millions of 12 bar blueses have been played in history, some of which were undoubtedly made from exquisite and beautiful parts.
It would be a shame to let all these parts rot in the ground. Instead, we shall attempt to revive them!
Similar to Dr. Frankenstein's experiment, we shall take bits and pieces of music from a number of blues solos to create a unique and novel piece of music, as illustrated here:
image[frankenstein_solo, schematic about how to create a solo analogous to Frankenstein’s monster]
The body parts
The first step in our quest to create a living solo is to gather our raw materials.
Fortunately, we do not have to sneak into the graveyard in a stormy night to dig up worm-eaten bodies.
The LickStack is a neatly organized morgue in which the complete
collection of body parts is kept in meticulous order.
Unlike most graveyards it also features a search tool that lets us find exactly the body parts we need for our solo.
As our demonstration piece is meant to be in the shape of a blues, we can search for the keyword tag “blues”, and the LickStack will find for us any body parts that had been salvaged from the bodies of previous blueses.
Here are some examples of the body parts that come up after searching the LickStack collection for “blues”:
Among others, these are the body parts that we shall attempt to fashion into a new 12-bar blues solo.
Fortunately, each body part present here on the LickStack comes with a chord chart, which can be used as an additional search criterion.
This allows an experienced surgeon to quickly find fitting body parts that, when put
together, will result in a complete body of a novel solo.
So much for the methods. I shall now proceed to the demonstration. Last chance to back out!
A musical monster
Stand back, everyone. It is time for me to flip the giant switch!
image[lightning, a scary bolt of lightning]
It is alive!!!
Behold my walking creation:
What do you think?
Your hearts are still beating. I take that as a good sign.
To many of you this may sound like an ordinary blues solo. But is it, though?
Listen to the creature again.
Can you recognize the body parts I had listed above?
I worked them into the new solo in sequence, while filling the gaps and connecting the pieces through cosmetic surgery.
The result sounds like a real blues to me, artificial though it may be, and I believe it is one of my better attempts to stitch random licks together into something that resembles a solo.
I wonder, however, how will this creation of mine fare out in the wild?
My prediction is that it is doomed to fail, and I base this dreary assessment on previous experience. In fact, I had attempted to create a similar creature a while ago, although back in the day I used the slightly more appetizing metaphor of a mosaic.
I will not show my first creation here because I think it is best left dead (lest it turn against its creator). But suffice to say it is somewhat similar to tonight’s blues.
Here are some of the reactions I gathered, when showcasing my previous (now perished) creation:
The solo sounds like playing all the right things, but in a disjointed
way that tells no story. Basically it sounds like a bunch of licks
Someone else commented:
It sounds good, but sounds arranged and rehearsed.
And here is my favorite and the most telling comment I received:
The message could not be clearer.
A solo crudely stitched together from recycled parts may vaguely resemble a piece of music, and it may even be an interesting curiosity. It may “act and behave” like a real solo, but an observant listener won’t help but notice that something feels horribly wrong about it.
Just like Frankenstein’s monster, there is a high chance that it will be perceived as veritable monstrosity, a miserable creature so hideous as to be shunned by society for the entirety of its wretched life.
Let's think about why this might be.
The improper way to use licks
We can imagine why stitching together raw licks may not lead to a creation of exceptional beauty, even if you have the absolute best licks to choose from.
Let's think about Frankenstein's experiment again.
Suppose Dr. Frankenstein had access to the complete, ahem…, parts catalogue of PEOPLE’s 100 most attractive celebrities. Would he be able to recreate an even remotely elegant bodily physique by reassembling random body parts that originate from very different people?
The answer is obvious.
However carefully he selected the body parts, It would be exceedingly difficult to hide the scars and stitches where the pieces are joined. And even if he had unmatched surgical expertise and left no visible scars behind, the difference in shade and texture of the joined parts would still be glaringly obvious.
Frankenstein’s experiment, while interesting and educational, is
fundamentally flawed as a way to build a solo from licks.
It is NOT a good idea to simply stitch together licks from various different sources in their unaltered original form.
For one, this has nothing to do with improvisation as everything is rehearsed, and for two, even the best licks hardly ever fit together perfectly.
Each lick is built from an underlying melodic or rhythmic theme. If you take licks from wildly different sources, chances are that their underlying structure and feel are entirely different and don’t go well together.
I shall deliver a demonstration in due time of a more promising approach of building a solo, but for now let's end with today's conclusion:
Woe betide him who blindly uses licks in their raw form as canned
goods, for he will unleash upon the world a musical monster.