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DRUNKEN TRUMPET
May 1, 2012 12:37 AM   Subscribe

This is Kid Koala refuting any possible argument that a turntable is not an instrument. (SLthreeyearoldYT)
posted by 256 (123 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fuck yeah, Kid Koala!
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:48 AM on May 1, 2012


A TURNTABLE IS NOT AN INSTRUMENT!

I don't actually believe that, but I just wanted to beat anyone else to it, especially anyone who would actually say such an ignorant thing and mean it, so that maybe they'd see the comment above and think about it and realize they should open their mind and broaden their vistas.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its an instrument - but its a pretty crap one. you should heart the stuff people do with these things called Trumpets. now those bad boys can really sing.
posted by mary8nne at 1:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ceci n'est pas une table tournante
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Monsieur a raison, c'est une platine.
posted by Wolof at 1:31 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


you should heart the stuff people do with these things called Trumpets.

Do you have some reason to assume that the OP (if that's who you're talking to) doesn't *heart* trumpets? Or saxophones, or cellos, or sitars, or hurdy gurdys, or shamisens or any of the thousands of other instruments in existence? It's not as if one instrument invalidates another.

And I know some trumpet players (some real good trumpet players) who love to hear a skilled turntablist do his thing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:35 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surely anything is potentially an instrument, if you can crank any sort of sound out of it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:40 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Then everything is an instrument.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:06 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about "A turntable can be an instrument in the right hands, which doesn't automatically confer Hendrix-like status on the vast majority of puffed-up wankers whose greatest skill is mixing the regular beat of one song into the regular beat of another, using music made by somebody else in the first place."
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:07 AM on May 1, 2012 [20 favorites]


Wouldn't disagree with that, Ubu, baby!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:18 AM on May 1, 2012


Then everything is an instrument.

Hmm... wet roll of toilet paper? Feather pillow? Sponge? Maybe not *everything*.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:20 AM on May 1, 2012


Well, as one of those aforementioned "puffed-up wankers" who can mix records well on the decks, I thank you. While I agree that it doesn't make the decks into an instrument, it is still tricky to do well. Also I don't think I am hendrix (I listened to Axis bold as Love to check).

Just wish I could scratch and beat-juggle, particularly like this: Kids Fresh ITF beat juggling - this is, as the kids here say, phat!
posted by marienbad at 2:30 AM on May 1, 2012


wet roll of toilet paper? Feather pillow? Sponge?

$splat$splat$ %THUMP% *squish*squeeeeeze* %THUMP%

Sounds good to me.
posted by grog at 2:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


If Sigur Ros can make a marimba from found stones, then a turntable is definitely an instrument.
posted by nickrussell at 3:30 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


WHOOooo000ohoooooo000000ooooooooo
posted by Sailormom at 3:30 AM on May 1, 2012


Most Impressive
posted by ShutterBun at 3:38 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A turntable can be an instrument in the right hands, which doesn't automatically confer Hendrix-like status on the vast majority of puffed-up wankers whose greatest skill is mixing the regular beat of one song into the regular beat of another, using music made by somebody else in the first place."

Beat matching has always been the least interesting part of djing. Djs are more curators than they are musicians, though the best are both. And most of the famous ones make their own music and mix it with other people's.
posted by empath at 4:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is Horace Rumpole refuting any possible argument that this post is not a double.

(OK, it's a different performance, but still.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:09 AM on May 1, 2012


As a trumpet player, I can attest that this is fucking awesome.

(Also, I think only white people over 40 were the only ones still doubting that the turntable was an instrument.)
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:12 AM on May 1, 2012


Earl Okin does a nice not-a-trumpet trumpet (2:40 if you really haven't got time for the whole performance).
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


If a drum is an instrument then obviously turntables are instruments.
posted by DU at 4:24 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was pretty cool - jazz, very creative.
posted by caddis at 4:33 AM on May 1, 2012


Its an instrument - but its a pretty crap one. you should heart the stuff people do with these things called Trumpets. now those bad boys can really sing.

And if you can't play trumpet? Doing what he did is a creative, non-crap way to emulate one.
posted by Rykey at 4:34 AM on May 1, 2012


Seen this multiple times. Love it every time. How can you not love virtuosity in service of good music?
posted by ardgedee at 4:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a drum is an instrument then obviously turntables are instruments.

Well, a drum is definitely an instrument. No two ways about it, nosirree! So there's that. And while I think a turntable is also an instrument (as I indicated upthread), I still have to say I don't understand this particular deductive reasoning. I'd be curious to know why one would come up with that. Not being combative or anything, you understand, it's just that I am baffled by your comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 AM on May 1, 2012


Wait wait wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves here.
Isn't someone supposed to come on and say that this isn't music before we start hearing people say that this isn't an instrument?
posted by GoingToShopping at 4:52 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a drum is an instrument then obviously turntables are instruments.

My goodness, how provocative!

I'm embarrassed for you.
posted by Wolof at 4:57 AM on May 1, 2012


I still have to say I don't understand this particular deductive reasoning.

It seems pretty clear. At the very least, you can do rhythmic/percussive stuff with a turntable, same as with a drum.

Don't understand the objections to that statement.
posted by DU at 5:03 AM on May 1, 2012


OK, read you wrong. Apologies.
posted by Wolof at 5:05 AM on May 1, 2012


I don't really understand why the post was framed this way. Was there a legitimate argument against the turntable being an instrument before this particular performance? The resulting thread is a one-sided argument against a nonexistent foe instead of an appreciation of the piece itself.
posted by rocket88 at 5:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not sure about the turntable specifically, but I suspect it's an extension of the "hip hop isn't a culture, rap isn't music" argument.
posted by Rykey at 5:19 AM on May 1, 2012


Yeah, I read you wrong, too, DU. Thanks for your comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:25 AM on May 1, 2012


The resulting thread is a one-sided argument against a nonexistent foe

No! No! The foe is REAL! And stalking us RIGHT NOW, even as we speak! Remain vigilant, comrade, for the turntable-denying curs will strike when we least expect it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"$splat$splat$ %THUMP% *squish*squeeeeeze* %THUMP%"

"Buddy you're a young man,hard man
Shoutin' in the street gonna take on the world some day
You got blood on yo' face
Y' big disgrace
Wavin' your banner all over the place

We will
we will rock you"


Oh crap now that's going to be on my mind all friggin' day!
posted by Mike D at 5:45 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the turntable guys sure are defensive.....what's the deal with that?
posted by thelonius at 5:45 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the turntable guys sure are defensive.....what's the deal with that?

It's because they can't play real instruments...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm.. This thread isn't going so well. Needs a *riggy*riggy* rrremix.
posted by Kevtaro at 5:52 AM on May 1, 2012


This is great - thanks!

(Count me in the "yes, it's an instrument, yes this is music!" camp.)
posted by rtha at 5:53 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw him at SxSW on a lark a few years back. Turned out to be the best show I saw all week.

This remix of Moon River came mid-set and was a total showstopper. Gorgeous gorgeous.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:02 AM on May 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


On the plus side, the framing did stop a lot of the "eh, nothing special" responses that come up when people generally post "I found a neat music video on YouTube" like this.
posted by smackfu at 6:02 AM on May 1, 2012


Today I learned: Kid Koala actually wears a damn koala suit while performing. Looks like it must be sweaty as hell in there, but he seems not to mind....
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2012


Also, he's not really a kid any more.
posted by empath at 6:29 AM on May 1, 2012


And while we're on the subject, I'm pretty sure that trumpet's just been drinking Shirley Temples all night.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:36 AM on May 1, 2012


Well, as one of those aforementioned "puffed-up wankers" who can mix records well on the decks, I thank you. While I agree that it doesn't make the decks into an instrument, it is still tricky to do well.

As someone who has DJed, and has also played normal instruments, the DJing is far far far easier imho. So much more room for expression and nuance with a trumpet.
posted by Theta States at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2012


Today I learned: Kid Koala actually wears a damn koala suit while performing. Looks like it must be sweaty as hell in there, but he seems not to mind....
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:26 AM on May 1 [+] [!]

Also, he's not really a kid any more.
posted by empath at 9:29 AM on May 1 [+] [!]

We're allowed to define what it means to be an adult koala in this 21st century world! Bouncy castles and koala suits!
posted by Theta States at 6:45 AM on May 1, 2012


Surely anything is potentially an instrument, if you can crank any sort of sound out of it.

Isn't one of the trademarks of Stomp and the Blue Man Group the construction of musical devices out of unexpected objects and materials? In fact it's safe to say it if it were not for people cobbling together musical instruments from whatever junk they found lying around the house/hut/yurt/cave, we probably wouldn't have music as we know it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2012


As someone who has DJed, and has also played normal instruments, the DJing is far far far easier imho.

It depends on how much you put into it. It's just a different thing. I once did a dj gig with a someone who was in a band and thought they could just go up there and play records, and they absolutely bombed and asked me to take over. It's not so much what you're doing physically on stage as all the preparation and thought that goes into getting your records together.

Also, there are probably just as many 'guitar players' out there who just know how to play 4 chords as there are djs that just know how to beatmatch.
posted by empath at 6:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


So much more room for expression and nuance with a trumpet.

I don't think there's too many people who'd argue with that. But it's worth keeping in mind that all instruments have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's not really fair nor relevant to assume that a turntablist who happens to be using a trumpet record as his sound source is attempting to be (or needs to be) as "expressive" or "nuanced" as a trumpet player might. We're talking about a whole different set of aesthetics, expectations, purposes and intents here.

Let's look at it this way: Keith Richards' guitar playing is not as "nuanced" as Bill Frisell's. But we don't expect it to be, do we? And there's nothing wrong with that. It's only natural: different styles and techniques are employed to different ends.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:59 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the turntable guys sure are defensive.....what's the deal with that?

Hey! Some of my best friends are DJs!
posted by mreleganza at 7:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


More turntablism:

Qbert
Mixmaster
Craze
A Trak
Rob Swift
Shortkut
posted by swift at 7:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd say it depends how you use it. If I blow into a trumpet and make organized sounds come out the other end, it's an instrument. If I hit it with a hammer and record the resulting ding sound, then it is now a lamp.
posted by aliasless at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Drunk Trumpet is outstanding, but his Moon River makes me want to cry tears of joy.
posted by naju at 7:22 AM on May 1, 2012


I'd say it depends how you use it. If I blow into a trumpet and make organized sounds come out the other end, it's an instrument. If I hit it with a hammer and record the resulting ding sound, then it is now a lamp.

Huh? What's wrong with a ding sound? What makes it less musical? I say buy a trumpet - get a free triangle.
posted by pmcp at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everything that produces sound is an instrument, and all sound is music in a proper context, and why are we still debating any of this in 2012.

C. Spencer Yeh - "Shrinkwrap From a Solo Saxophone CD"
posted by naju at 7:30 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


wet roll of toilet paper? Feather pillow? Sponge?

I'm willing to bet that all of those instruments have featured on songs by Matmos, Mathew Herbert, et al. Heck, I've seen Herbert craft a beautiful slice of house music using a torn-up copy of the Daily Mail.
posted by jack_mo at 7:33 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's DJ Enferno playing live instruments and using a turntable at the same time.
posted by empath at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2012


"'ve seen Herbert craft a beautiful slice of house music using a torn-up copy of the Daily Mail."

Best Use of the Daily Heil Ever.
posted by marienbad at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2012


If a 13th century knight saw this performance he would immediately either kill Kid Koala or fall to his knees and pledge fealty.

I will choose a more moderate path.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:46 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't think we'd be able to find anything to argue about here.
If what Kid Koala does seems easy or trivial to you then I implore you to go make music, please. Please.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:47 AM on May 1, 2012


Somebody asked Stockhausen what does it mean to be musical. He said if you hand someone an instrument, one they may have never seen or used before, and they can start making music with it, then they are musical. 'nuff said.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:56 AM on May 1, 2012


A turntable IMHO is not more an instrument than a Conductor's Baton is.

Does it take skill to manipulate an turntable / baton to create sounds that is pleasing to the ear?
Yes.
Does it take an hours of practise to hone that skill?
Yes.
Does it require an (arguably) amount of innate skill to do those two things well or to a level of excellence?
Yes.
Is a Baton or a turntable an instrument in the same sense that say a Human voice or a fashioned tube known as a Trumpet is.
NO.
posted by Faintdreams at 8:02 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is your argument convincing? NO.
posted by AceRock at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Remember that these turntables and mixers are in many cases designed to be instruments. They are highly-specialized pieces of audio equipment, manufactured with quick faders, rugged construction, and controls positioned in the most ergonomic fashion for performance and musical expression. Not home stereo equipment, in other words.
posted by swift at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd like to hear the kinds of sounds you get out of a baton, Faintdreams.
posted by swift at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh I love me some C. Spencer Yeh!
posted by Theta States at 8:19 AM on May 1, 2012


If the turntable is an instrument, does that somehow diminish things that have traditionally been considered instruments (piano, trumpet, drum), or the skill of those who play them?

(I'm trying to understand why it's important to people arguing that it isn't an instrument that it not be considered an instrument.)
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on May 1, 2012


Is your argument convincing? NO.

I think if he had used bullet points, I might have been swayed.
posted by empath at 8:21 AM on May 1, 2012


I don't think it's easy or trivial, I just think it sounds like ass
posted by thelonius at 8:22 AM on May 1, 2012


(I'm trying to understand why it's important to people arguing that it isn't an instrument that it not be considered an instrument.)

If you're using an object to intentionally make music which it would not have been able to make without direct human intervention, it's an instrument.

It's possible to use a turntable in ways in which it's not being used as an instrument. I wouldn't say when I was DJing that I was using a turntable as an instrument, I was beatmatching, but really, I was mostly playing the records as they were recorded. Every once in a while I would scratch or add some effects, but really, I was just playing music. I would say that most djs are not using a turntable as an instrument. Which isn't to say that DJing isn't artistic or creative, it's just not musicianship.

Turntablists like Kid Koala, however, are absolutely using it as instrument, and are musicians.
posted by empath at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's possible to use a turntable in ways in which it's not being used as an instrument. I wouldn't say when I was DJing that I was using a turntable as an instrument, I was beatmatching, but really, I was mostly playing the records as they were recorded. Every once in a while I would scratch or add some effects, but really, I was just playing music. I would say that most djs are not using a turntable as an instrument. Which isn't to say that DJing isn't artistic or creative, it's just not musicianship.

Just because you're only playing chopsticks doesn't make the piano any less of an instrument.
posted by pmcp at 8:33 AM on May 1, 2012


If you're playing chopsticks, you're using it as an instrument.

If you press play on a player piano, you aren't.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


sure, its music, sure its even nifty. But is it good music? I can go along with the idea that a lot of people will class it as good music, and that is enough, but the same can be said for yoko ono. Many more will say it is so of Beethoven, Brahms or Beatles, just to do some B's.
Still, its nifty.
posted by bystander at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2012


PS - obviously i'm old
posted by bystander at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just came here to say that koalas aren't real bears.
posted by scelerat at 8:48 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Was there a legitimate argument against the turntable being an instrument before this particular performance? The resulting thread is a one-sided argument against a nonexistent foe instead of an appreciation of the piece itself.

a legitimate one? depends on who you ask. I don't, myself, think the arguments against it were/are legitimate, but they exist. It's the same with anything "new" (though turntablism is older than I am, for christ's sake), the old guard defends against its inclusion, categorically, with what they do. So yeah, there is an old and long-standing argument against the idea of turntablism as a performance on a legitimate instrument. Further, there is and has always been a standing argument against the legitimacy of all the pillars of hip hop. Graffiti isn't art, Rap isn't music, breakdancing isn't real dance, etc... It's lesser now, but it still exists.

However, I don't think the point of the post was to be like "FUCK YOU, OLD SCHOOL FUDDY DUDDY MUSICIANS!" the idea was to point out that what kid koala is most known for, and is perhaps the best in the world at, is his incredible pitching. (poor link, my apologies, but it gets the point across.) DJs, for a very long time, have done things like make one off plates of instruments that they pitch control to mimic improvised notes during a set, and it's VERY hard to do well. Koala excels at it. Here is my favorite song of his that relies heavily on pitching. The video is kinda sweet, too.

So I think the idea of the post is to say "koala has spent a long time destroying the various arguments made against turntablism by using his instrument to do what many people assume isn't done on a turntable: make live music himself that is not simply an adulteration or combination of existing beats/melodies but is instead playing notes according to his own invented melodies and improvising his play on the fly much the way jazz musicians do."

You know what? I was gonna leave it at that, but I'm going to go ahead and share some of the amazing material he's contributed to because there are a TON of fantastic groups he's been in that people may or may not realize he worked with:

Lovage: Everyone Has A Summer
Deltron3030: Mastermind
Peeping Tom: Celebrity Death Match
Gorillaz Routine (Unreleased)
Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood

If it's not obvious, he spends a lot of time working with dan the automator, mike patton and del tha funkee homosapien, which, if a man is judged by the company he keeps HOLY. SHIT.
posted by shmegegge at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're playing chopsticks, you're using it as an instrument.

If you press play on a player piano, you aren't.


You're playing an instrument. The act of pressing play on the player piano to produce the sound makes it an instrument.

At what point does a sampler become an instrument? If you hit "play" on your sampler is it an instrument? What if you hit "play" and then slightly tweak a knob?
posted by naju at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2012


Or what if you just hit "play" and the player piano is running through a microphone and some live processing is going on? Etc.
posted by naju at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2012


Then everything is an instrument.

According to my 2.5 year old, this is the absolute truth.

Walls.
Furniture.
A napkin.
An orange.
Dad's stomach.

The cat.

posted by madajb at 9:05 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you press play on a player piano, you aren't.

My point was that you can use a trombone as a doorstop if you want but it doesn't stop it being an instrument. I would argue that the DJing of the type you are referring to - beatmatching but not really composing and merging things is just one type of playing that doesn't necessarily bring out the potential of the instrument (it doesn't mean that the output it's any worse though.)

Why is the perception of music as one discrete thing that exists on one record and lasts five minutes and not on several that lasts an hour or more. Is a mix a piece of music? Is there a problem with defining it like that.
posted by pmcp at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2012


The Bow Gamelan play metal oil drums and peices of pipe etc to create percussion and rhythm. You might as well argue that this isn't music.
posted by marienbad at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2012


Also, what if you have 2 player pianos and you have the ability to choose the music, the timing, the pitch and the volume of each one?
posted by pmcp at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or what if you just hit "play" and the player piano is running through a microphone and some live processing is going on? Etc.

Obviously, there's no hard and fast rule and there are probably lots of uses that can fall on one side or the other of the line, but the less actual activity you're engaged in, the less likely I'd be to say you're playing whatever it is as an instrument.

Though now that you've put it that way, I think I might have ruled out soft-synths and sequencers as musical instruments, so now I have to rethink my definition to somehow include composition.

But in any case, if you're just loading a player piano up with a song and hitting play, i think most people would not call that 'playing an instrument' and would not consider you a 'piano player'. Likewise, putting a record on a turntable and hitting play doesn't make you a 'turntablist'.
posted by empath at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2012


Also, what if you have 2 player pianos and you have the ability to choose the music, the timing, the pitch and the volume of each one?

Yes, yes, that would not just be hitting 'play' on a player piano, and would be closer to what a turntablist does.
posted by empath at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2012


No knock on Kid Koala, but I didn't think this wasn't the strongest argument of that point. It's unlikely that he will be subbing in for a real trumpet player anytime soon with his 'instrument.' I didn't find it particularly musical either.
posted by borges at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2012


I don't think I would consider hitting the button on a player piano "playing" an instrument, although the player piano itself is an instrument (I guess? Maybe?). I can hit play on my laptop and music will come out, but I don't think it makes my laptop an instrument or me a musician for doing so. Lots of things to think about here.
posted by rtha at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2012


Ha, Paul Burwell of Bow Gamelan used to refer to electronic music as listening to flapping cardboard though...
posted by pmcp at 9:14 AM on May 1, 2012


Yes, yes, that would not just be hitting 'play' on a player piano, and would be closer to what a turntablist does.

I'm not suggesting doing anything different - just the potential that the instrument has.
posted by pmcp at 9:23 AM on May 1, 2012


It's a plate of beans, innit? An artist (person) uses an instrument (anything, including player pianos made out of toilet paper rolls) to produce music (sound).

We'll be here for the forseeable future if we want to argue over what "music" is.

much less what qualifies as good music
posted by ElGuapo at 9:31 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, but we don't generally feel we are musicians when we hit play on our iPod, so there is a line in there somewhere.
posted by smackfu at 9:34 AM on May 1, 2012


honestly, I guess there's a line in there, but these things don't actually get officially defined. No one, no committee, makes these decisions. People listen to what they want to listen to, and call it an instrument if it seems natural to them. It's an organic process, and one that trends toward inclusion, rather than exclusion. In 20 years, this won't be a debate. turntables, laptops and other devices originally intended for consumption rather than creation will simply be known as instruments because the kids growing up listening to that music without pre-conceived notions will simply have assumed they are because they grew up listening to music made with them. Arguing about it is frankly moot.
posted by shmegegge at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I think it's fairly interesting... like where does lip-syncing fall in the continuum? Is that really any different than a DJ pressing play?
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2012


If you go up on stage and hit "play", it can absolutely be a musical performance. I have attended concerts where this is the case. This happened 2 months ago at a Keith Fullerton Whitman performance (and he has a music degree from Berklee, not that it matters.) He told us upfront that he is just hitting play on his modular electronic setup, and the lights will dim and we should close our eyes and just listen ("there is no visual component.") It was a quad sound setup, and the various channels of sound coming out of the equipment were set up to bounce and fade around from the four different speakers in the corners of the room in complex ways. It was actually a very powerful musical experience, and I'm glad I attended.
posted by naju at 10:08 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Far be it for me to say that seeing a good DJ isn't a powerful musical experience. I'd rather see a good DJ than pretty much anything else, and I was certainly trying to create a powerful musical experience when I was DJing. But I think one can do that without being an actual musician or playing an instrument. It's still a creative endeavor, it's just not really musicianship for most DJs who aren't turntablists. Even DJs that produce their own tracks will tell you that they aren't musicians and don't know how to play an instrument. I'm writing songs right now, myself, writing basslines, melodies, programming drums and everything, not using loops at all. I still wouldn't say I'm a musician or know how to play an instrument.

I think 'playing an instrument' implies some active, physical and mental engagement with the material that's being 'performed'. If you're just standing there while pre-recorded or pre-programmed material plays, there's nothing that really separates you from the audience.
posted by empath at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we'd need to break things down into two categories of instrument:

1. Things that are created primarily to be played in order to create music. These are the things that we would traditionally define as instruments (pianos, trumpets, etc). These things are always instruments (assuming they haven't been turned into lamps) no matter who is playing them.

2. Things that were made to do something else but get used as an instrument. I think the turntable falls into this category. It's made to playback recorded music, that is the primary function (on the basic level, at least) and it takes someone will sufficient skill to turn it into an instrument. Same deal with using a laptop to remix something else and turn it into a new piece of music. Just as a lamp made from a trumpet is using an instrument as a light fixture, Kid Koala uses a fancy piece of playback equipment as an instrument. It's an instrument when he plays it but only when plays it. It isn't intrinsically an instrument.

I know he uses a really fancy turntable that is made to facilitate his performance and it could be argued that the primary function of that device (and other turntables like it) is to use it as an instrument. Most people don't have the skill to turn it into an instrument but they would be able to make it play records so it isn't quite the same as an instrument that is just hard to play.

There is still probably a lot of grey area and overlap but I think it helps to think of things in those two broad categories.

In either case, if you're making music, you're a musician. You don't have to be able to do it live either Empath. You're not performing the piece when you play it back but just because you can't put it together on the fly doesn't mean you aren't a musician.

Isn't there supposed to be some Jimi Hendrix song where it was recorded with him playing it backwards so they could flip the recording around to get to it sound the way he wanted? That is the example that springs to my mind. That song couldn't really be played the same way live (maybe it could with more modern tech but at the time it couldn't) and I don't think anyone would argue that Hendrix wasn't a musician or that a guitar isn't an instrument.

I think the real question is, what does it matter? I mean, it's an interesting discussion and neat to think about as a mental exercise but does it really matter? Is there a musician's union that turntableists want to join but can't because they aren't defined as musician's? Is it about being accepted by more traditional musicians?
posted by VTX at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2012


Old white guy here.

Watched both videos. Fun stuff, but still not convinced a turntable is an instrument. It takes skill to make the songs sound funny or different, but it's not quite the same as being a musician, to me.
posted by freakazoid at 10:46 AM on May 1, 2012


obiwanwasabi: Then everything is an instrument.

flapjax at midnite: Hmm... wet roll of toilet paper? Feather pillow? Sponge? Maybe not *everything*.

grog: $splat$splat$ %THUMP% *squish*squeeeeeze* %THUMP%

Sounds good to me.


On the topic of making music vs making noise, a friend of mine hosted a late-night radio show where he only played noise(y) music. And because it was a late night show, he'd get drunken callers, berating him for the lack of music in the sounds coming out of their radios. One guy even said he could make the same stuff by banging on his washing machine. My friend sad "OK, go for it. I'll even put you on the radio." So the drunk caller wandered off to his laundry room and started banging away on the washing machine. My friend, true to his word, played the ruckus for a while. I think he even faded it into another noisy song, and went on with his show.

Another friend of mine is fond of dissonant ambient music, and there were a couple times that he mistook sounds from elsewhere as part of the music. Once it was an off-balanced washing machine, adding a certain rhythm to the arrhythmic sounds he was playing. Another time, it was a garbage truck, adding another level of industrial noise to his soundtrack.

Everything is music, if it sounds good to you.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:48 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


If someone could use a turntable to make sounds, without someone else's pre-recorded music, that would be something else, I think.
posted by freakazoid at 10:49 AM on May 1, 2012


This is a stupid argument that was settled thirty years ago.

It's an instrument. Anyone who claims otherwise does so purely out of spite.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, poorly framed post. The straw man slipped in when I wasn't looking. Mostly, I was just thinking that a lot of people who aren't into this kind of music may never have seen a pair of turntables used in quite this way. He uses the barest milliseconds of the the song as his pallete of keys and interacts with them in a way that brings every bit as much nuance, variation, and character as a pianist can coax from hammer and string. There is no question that Kid Koala is performing. Without Kid Koala, this song wouldn't exist.

It's not that I really thought anyone would be trying to make a cogent argument that turntablists aren't musicians, but rather that most people might think of something more this when they hear the term "DJ."
posted by 256 at 10:55 AM on May 1, 2012


Why does it matter where you get the notes from or if they're prerecorded?

I can use all kinds of effects and delays to do a lot of the same things with a guitar. I suppose a person could do some interesting stuff with a wah-wah, octave, and volume pedals to make some music. At that point, the note from the guitar is basically the same thing as pre-recorded.
posted by VTX at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


freakazoid: It takes skill to make the songs sound funny or different, but it's not quite the same as being a musician, to me.

Moon River is made to sound different or funny. Drunk Trumpet is made of samples, live on the turntable. No form of that song existed before Kid Koala made it, and he can re-make it in different ways each time he plays it. The background track is pre-recorded, but the trumpet contorted into the current form by Koala.


freakazoid: If someone could use a turntable to make sounds, without someone else's pre-recorded music, that would be something else, I think.

Behold, DJ Craze. Some say this was a cheap stunt, as DMC turntablism competitions are serious business of scratching, beat-juggling, and mixing, but he's "making music" without relying on the pre-recorded sounds on the record.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:01 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Horace Rumpole: This is Horace Rumpole refuting any possible argument that this post is not a double.

(OK, it's a different performance, but still.)


The video linked in the OP is a lot more clear, showing what Koala is doing with the records. The one in my old DJ Jester post is less clear, linked only as part of a larger show. This is my attempt to further highlight the fun that is DJ Jester, the Filipino Fist.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2012


On the player-piano question, I'll point everyone to Ballet Mecanique a composition for: "16 player pianos (or pianolas) in four parts, 2 regular pianos, 3 xylophones, at least 7 electric bells, 3 propellers, siren, 4 bass drums, and 1 tam-tam." Due to technical limitations synchronizing player pianos, it wasn't fully performed before the 21st century, at which point, there was considerable debate about what the heck a percussionist was supposed to do with the propeller.

Anyone who's dabbled even a tiny bit in "folk" music knows that a wide variety of musical instruments have a noble ancestry as jury-rigged household junk. People built their own music from sticks, spoons, pots, laundry equipment, coins, and dried vegetables.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:17 AM on May 1, 2012


Remember that these turntables and mixers are in many cases designed to be instruments. They are highly-specialized pieces of audio equipment, manufactured with quick faders, rugged construction, and controls positioned in the most ergonomic fashion for performance and musical expression. Not home stereo equipment, in other words.

I'm pretty sure the 1200 was originally intended as home stereo equipment, because at the time there was no such thing as a DJ turntable.

There have been quite a few attempts made at new decks made for DJs, but everyone has pretty much stuck with 1200s. And then playing vinyl mostly died, and people switched to CDJs and digital solutions for 99% of cases, so it's unlikely they'll ever be superseded.
posted by flaterik at 11:52 AM on May 1, 2012


Metafilter - uh huhuhuhuhuh he said "Instrument."
posted by Chuffy at 11:54 AM on May 1, 2012


I've Dj'd shows with Kid Koala and he's a super nice guy to start off with. But there's really not much argument here. Starting with GrandMixer DST the turntable has been able to be used as an instrument. Believe me Rockit by Herbie Hancock is NOT the same song withouth DST.

In the early 90s Hip Hop djing broke off into a sub category that really concentrated on making the turntable an instrument. So you have guys of this era like Qbert, Mix Master Mike, Apollo, Disk, the X-Men, and the Beat Junkies who all layed the foundation of complex scratching.

This moved into these dj's sitting in with bands sometimes as the featured instrument like Kid Koala and his band, or just an additional instrument like DJ Disk and Primus.

Qbert and his crew even helped Vestax develop a turntable with a cross fader built into it, so it would truly be a one piece instrument.

Although the majority of DJ's do NOT use there turntables as an instrument in a traditional sense of the word, there most definitely guys out there that produce extremely complicated pieces of music on a turntable.
posted by LouieLoco at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well this has been fun.
How about Amon Tobin's Foley Room, what's the metafilter verdict on that?
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:08 PM on May 1, 2012


If it makes a sound, it's an instrument.
posted by Relay at 12:30 PM on May 1, 2012


.Isn't there supposed to be some Jimi Hendrix song where it was recorded with him playing it backwards so they could flip the recording around to get to it sound the way he wanted? That is the example that springs to my mind. That song couldn't really be played the same way live (maybe it could with more modern tech but at the time it couldn't) and I don't think anyone would argue that Hendrix wasn't a musician or that a guitar isn't an instrument

Was the guy that flipped the tape around playing the guitar or playing the tape recorder as an instrument? It's certainly creative, it's arguably composition, but it's really mangling the language to call that playing an instrument, imo.

I'm not making a value judgement, this is just a language thing, really.
posted by empath at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2012


freakazoid: "If someone could use a turntable to make sounds, without someone else's pre-recorded music, that would be something else, I think."

People have been doing that for ages.

Aphex Twin famously plays discs made of sandpaper when he DJs. I've seen other artists play a slice of tree trunk (years of growth as grooves!), a compact disc with scratches on it, discs made of felt, hand-etched metal discs, and lots of folk using the turntable itself as an instrument by hitting it, scraping the stylus, bowing the tonearm, &c..

You can also use systems like Final Scratch, Serato and Ms. Pinky to manipulate any kind of audio file on your computer with a standard turntable - they come with vinyl records that play a timecode, so the software knows where on the record the stylus is. Ms. Pinky even lets you use the turntable as an interface to Max/MSP, so you can do stuff like map the pitch of a note played by a synth to a position on the vinyl, or one-up Kid Koala by scratching live trumpet playing.
posted by jack_mo at 12:42 PM on May 1, 2012


Fun stuff, but still not convinced a turntable is an instrument. It takes skill to make the songs sound funny or different, but it's not quite the same as being a musician, to me

He's not just making the song "sound funny". He's creating a brand new song and playing a brand new melody with the trumpet that wasn't in the original track, by adjusting the speed of the record to change the pitch and re-arranging it.
posted by empath at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2012


I think most of agree that there's a point at which re-arranging and playback becomes a musical performance and a point when it's not. When aren't musicians when we play an mp3 on our iphones, certainly. You're not a musician when you load up a queue on turntable fm or create an itunes playlist for your friends at your house party.

You might not be one if you're loading up ableton and just kind of lazily beatmatching tracks.

But by the time you start using ableton to re-arrange, re-edit, add new drum loops, maybe a play a keyboard etc, you certainly are..

It's hard to draw a hard and fast line, though.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on May 1, 2012


@Empath: I'm just saying that being able to play something live isn't a necessary part of being a musician.
posted by VTX at 12:52 PM on May 1, 2012


I"m not disagreeing that its an instrument. I just disagree that is a very flexible or really emotive one. I listen to that Youtube clip and its a pretty awful song.

If someone was playing the exact same track as a band - it would be a pretty crap 'song'.

So if I ignore that it was 'played' on a turntable - if I"m not wowwed that pitching is possible on that ínstrument' then I just think its a rather by-the-numbers melody that he has produced over some pretty stock backing track nicked from elsewhere.

My issue is that if a band or someone with traditional instrumentation was playing the exact same thing as some of these turntabilist you'd think it was horribly boring and MOR. So why should I like it on a turntable.
posted by mary8nne at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2012


I"m not disagreeing that its an instrument. I just disagree that is a very flexible or really emotive one. I listen to that Youtube clip and its a pretty awful song.

tbh, I kind of feel the same way about most turntablists that I do about heavy metal guitar solos. While technically interesting, it's mostly just wankery with no concern for the dance floor or the audience. I've seen so many turntablists just clear dance floors because they're more interested in showing off than getting people to dance -- and the only people in the audience are a bunch of 22 year old guys nodding in appreciation of the technique. I get that it takes a lot of talent and to do it, I just don't really enjoy it.

There are a lot of exceptions, though. DJ Craze for example. He won a DMC championship and then started touring the rave circuit and ravers have no fucking patience for you standing up there fucking with the beat. If you don't let people dance, people will leave.

Not that making people dance is the be all and end-all of music, it's just what I prefer.
posted by empath at 2:50 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most people we regard as virtuosos are not terribly renown for their composing chops, and many top composers are not necessarily performance virtuosos either. Appropriation and recycling are two more elements that have been essential to music as we know it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2012


"If someone could use a turntable to make sounds, without someone else's pre-recorded music, that would be something else, I think."

Christian Marclay and Otomo Yoshihide are two artists who have been doing this in various ways for years now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 PM on May 1, 2012


And within the realm of hip-hop, there are a lot of scratch/battle/DJ-tool records that consist of, e.g., a whole record of nothing but drum hits or guitar tones (these are often created by DJs themselves).
posted by box at 4:45 PM on May 1, 2012


> Then everything is an instrument.

Hmm... wet roll of toilet paper? Feather pillow? Sponge? Maybe not *everything*.

flapjax at midnite, J. S. Bach's post-ultimate son would beg to differ.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:03 PM on May 1, 2012


Also, anyone in this thread arguing "turntables can not be instruments" is paying penance for their previous lifetime, in which they claimed "photography is not art".
posted by IAmBroom at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2012


Imma just point out, not only that, but 12 bar blues ain't a song. It's a crutch.
posted by humboldt32 at 5:53 PM on May 1, 2012


Imma just point out, not only that, but 12 bar blues ain't a song. It's a crutch.

Well, *Imma* just point out that if Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Junior Walker, Willie Dixon and, hey, Bob Dylan, fer chrissakes, are on crutches, then I'll be happy to sign up for a pair as well.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:21 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think one can argue the turntable cannot be a musical instrument when it's used with actual musical skill, as is done in this clip.

I love living in an age when musical instruments can be invented from other repurposed devices, when music can be created completely in software with ease by people who may have no musical training at all. I suppose that technology has allowed the goal post to move such that musicality is accessible to even highly non musical practitioners, at least in a traditional sense. I think this may cause some legitimate grumbling among some over the value of musical training. However, I have yet to see how it has negatively affected the quality of music being made, and as such, I can't be among that crowd.

However, I have to agree with borges. Whatever Kid Koala's skills may be, I was hoping for a better example of music to display them.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:49 AM on May 2, 2012


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