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IS this cheating or not cheating???

Discussion in 'Technique' started by johnmar78, Oct 8, 2006.

  1. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    Here's an interesting irony. I put up a recording at Cnet that I made at the keyboard last year of the C major prelude, WTC 2. There is no editing. Many takes. But no editing. Frankly, I do not like it, which is why it is not here at Piano Society. I do not like it for conceptual reasons. It is not the interpretation that I have in my head of this prelude. My fingers are not doing what my head wants. Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy playing that prelude. But the enjoyment that one gets from playing a piece reasonably well at the piano is not the same as the enjoyment one gets from listening afterwards to what one has done. You always find things you can improve. And personally, I am never satisfied.

    That is the beginning of the journey of editing, which can get quite tangled. You can wreck a piece by editing it. In the world of sequencing--which permits infinitesimal changes to the music--it is very easy to wreck a piece. Yet, I find that my sometimes heavily edited versions of the p and f from Book 1 are still enjoyable to me. There are, of course, many passages that I would now change. Some of these changes seem to me a matter of taste; other changes seem, relatively speaking, an objective necessity!

    JG
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    To me, that is what making music at the piano is all about. Most of the time my fingers don't do what my head wants, either. But in the rare times when things did go right, I am filled with a great sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy.

    IMHO, when you take one of your recordings and 'fix it up' you cannot get that same feeling because it is as if you have cheated. Sorry - I don't mean to make anyone mad, but I am totally against editing, except for cutting and pasting in sections when you have recorded them many times and you are taking the best one. Maybe that's a little cheating too, but I do that.
     
  3. demonic_advent

    demonic_advent New Member

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    Personally, I can't stand when somebody edits their works at all.

    I can safetly say that I have yet to ever edit anything in any regards... I've never cut and pasted, modified tempo, dynamics, sound effects, etc.

    I suppose that's pretty much the only thing I'm strict about when it comes to my piano playing. I might not regulate my playing as much as somebody else would, but I do regulate my recordings. I figure, if somebody wants to hear real emotion, you can't expect it from a machine. Even if the machine is guided by human hand. I would say that you need the real, true expression.

    I'm willing to bet I could record a lot more if I just made even "minor" edits. For example, I had to play through that silly little Satie piece that I recorded the other day something like 30 times to get it right. And I'm still not entirely happy with it... but I could have had a recording done within, let's say, 5 takes, if I had done some minor edits, copy and pasting sections together, or something like that. Most of the time, I'll play one section nicely... and then screw up the next. And the next time I play, I screw up the first, but play the second section nicely. It's just a matter of playing it enough times to finally get it right.
     
  4. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    Everyone is different, I suppose. I love playing, even when I get things "wrong." But "wrong" is a funny word. My experience is that "wrong" one day often seems "right" the next. I'm talking about emotionally or interpretively wrong, of course. That is one small part of the reason why music is (for me) endlessly fascinating. But writing, or composing, or painting is no different: we see things differently, hour to hour, day to day, month to month. We change perceptually and emotionally. Perhaps that change implies a refinement of the mind and the senses. Or perhaps it is just seeing things from a different perspective or point of view. I'm not sure.

    I do not entirely understand what you mean when you say: "I am totally against editing, except for cutting and pasting in sections when you have recorded them many times and you are taking the best one. Maybe that's a little cheating too, but I do that."

    Here we have the dilemma, nicely summarized in a previous post, of where to draw the line. Personally, I am not troubled by recordings (such as Pollini's Chopin referred to above) that are heavily or completely edited. It is, I think, an entirely subjective matter. I understand that many people, on discovering that a much-loved recording has been edited even "a little", can no longer listen to it. For others, "a little" is OK; but finding that something has been edited "a lot" brings them past their own personal threshold. There are, of course, total purists--like my parents--who really can't listen to anything outside the concert hall. The mere act of recording, placing microphones in particularly advantageous positions, or the electronic transfer of sound waves to the medium of the loudspeaker, seems to wreck the experience for them.

    There is nothing right or wrong with these perceptions or predilections. Music is art; and all of it is subject to personal taste, unless you are living in a totalitarian society, in which case all bets are off.

    I recall, as a child, listening to a very early recording by Rubinstein and Dimitris Mitropoulos (conducting) of Tchaikovsky's PC 1 and marveling at Rubinstein's technique, and also of the incredible beauty of Rubinstein's interpretation of this piece (which has never been equaled in my view, ancient though the recording may be.) My young mind was filled with images of playing this concerto in front of a huge audience, and impressing all of them with my fantastic fingers. I sometimes think this is what we pine for in performance. Bach's solo keyboard music, however, does not readily lend itself (for me anyway) to that kind of emotion or desire to be heard. And when we listen to Gould's recording of, say, the Inventions, we--or I at least--cannot imagine it played in a hall in front of an audience. There is, in fact, very little ambiance in that recording.

    Modern recordings of solo Bach keyboard music are leaning back to the "ambient" side, which I am fond of. But now the image in my head is of someone playing the music in a nearly empty church cathedral. Perhaps only one person is listening, or overhearing a performance--or perhaps better an interpretation--which interpretation is entirely a personal expression, not really intended for anyone but the performer himself or herself.

    In my mind, there are no limits, really, or no hard and fast "rules," that define what I like and what I don't. In fact, my likes and dislikes change from day to day, and I don't think there are any strictures that would restrict what I can listen to.

    JG
     
  5. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wouldn't this rule out almost all recorded music?

    Everyone's threshold is different. But if indeed any editing wrecks the music for you, I take it that you only enjoy "live" recordings, which are few and far between. But are you sure that you can listen to a recording and TELL whether it has been edited or not?

    I think this is the dilemma for what might be called the "purist" line: for it to be defensible in a practical sense, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can listen to two recordings of the same piece, one edited, the other "not edited at all," and tell the difference.

    Either that, or you are committing yourself to determining the authenticity of every recording before listening to it, for fear of discovering after the fact that it might be edited and thus having the experience ruined for you.

    Whatever the case, everyone's threshold different, and it is also entirely personal and subjective. There is no "right" or "wrong," in these matters, merely personal "likes" and a "dislikes."


    JG
     
  6. demonic_advent

    demonic_advent New Member

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    I just try and hope that most works are unedited.
    And then if I find later on that they are, I begin to lose respect for them. Especially if it's not specifically advertised as edited.

    While I may not like doing things like copy+paste or dynamic control, if other people do that, I'm okay with it because it's so minor. However, massive measure-by-measure editing isn't something that I can feel quite so good about.
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    As many people wonder how I produce so many recordings, I thought I'd explain again my position on editing.

    Many of my recordings (though not all) have one or two cuts in them where something went wrong and I had to restart. I don't feel bad about that as I simply do not have the time to make 30 takes (and also doubt that would help improve the freshness of the interpretation). Of my 17 tracks of yesterday, I think 6 or 7 are completely naturel. The rest had one or two cuts, and I think there was one that had 3. Not bad compared to some recordings of the past, that were either full of mistakes or full of cuts. Probably not bad compared to many professional recordings either. I don't think this compromises the artisticy and authenticity of the recordings in any way. Obviously the goal is to avoid edits altogether. Careful preparation will go a long way towards this and that is a improvement from the past where I sometimes slapped things on record on a whim.

    The more gory details...
    Occasionally, I cut out a hesitation (doesn't happen often as I rarely hesitate) and *very* occasionally I cut the volume level of a closing chord *gasp*. My grand's heavy action makes it almost impossible to go from piano to pianissimo and below, otherwise I would not have to do this. In one or two cases, I have combined multiple takes, and a couple of recordings that I am not particularly proud of (like some of the Dvorak Watzes) have many more than the average number of cuts making them a bit of a patchwork. That is as far as I go.

    Oh yeah, and I apply 'Concert Hall Light' reverb to all my recordings.
     
  8. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    But when push comes to shove, everyone has his or her own personal "artistry and authenticity" threshold.

    There is no objective or independent criteria that sets a point at which editing defeats "artistry and authenticity".

    It is entirely a matter of personal judgment, as is any artistic or aesthetic judgment.

    Any other perspective smacks of elitism and, at its worst, the kind of state control of "what counts as art" that typifies the worst regimes of this and the last century.

    An entirely separate matter is what Piano Society wants to make its mission or purpose. The members of the site have a perfect right to stipulate what kind of material they want to put up, how much editing they are prepared to allow, and whether or not a real instrument recorded by microphones is all that should be permitted. Clever sequencers or anyone else will, as I have said, have no difficulty ignoring such rules, and even those who abide by them in spirit will be tempted to go beyond what is allowed, because there is absolutely no way of policing the rules.

    That is the practical problem.

    The intellectual or aesthetic problem is that some of the material that is ruled out by theoretically strict (or at least stricter) rules about editing may be of very high artistic value. Not, perhaps, to those (like my parents, for example) for whom only the concert hall is the only really authentic musical experience, but to those who, once they have discovered how much a recording may have been edited, lose interest in it.

    But, again, this sort of aesthetic issue boils down to personal preference, at least in my view. I do not think the alternative view, that authenticity and artistry can be objectively measured, is politically or aesthetically defensible--and it has very few if any adherents in the history of aesthetics and philosophy.

    JG
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can't argue with anything you write John, nor do I feel the need to even try. Believe me we are well aware of this problem in PS. It is a continous pain in the bottom especially because, as you say, people will try to push any boundary that we try to set, and try to bend every rule that we try to impose. It's like nailing jelly to the wall.

    Indeed it comes down to personal judgement in the end, and that is not a task I personally relish. I'd rather not have to pass judgement about things that are subjective and can not be checked. But there needs to be some semblance of reality check here, otherwise we may as well open up the site for each and any digital p*ss artist. If we had unlimited resources, like YouTube, and if we abandoned the idea of site administration, that could be an option. It would be the end of PS as we know it, though.

    Not sure all this makes sense... It's more a gut reaction than enything else. This discussion keeps popping up and I am quite tired of it. Especially as it's never going anywhere useful. I'd much prefer to talk about music than about all the technical tricks people can do with it.
     
  10. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have to admit that I haven't, myself, tired of the subject of "editing" or "technical tricks," I suppose, at least not yet. And I find it very useful and interesting to know where the pulse is on this subject. I guess you've written or thought about it a lot. I haven't lately. The last time I remember posting on this subject was years ago. Maybe I've missed something in the mean time?

    "Technical tricks" ARE of course boring; at least they CAN be. But it isn't always easy to separate a technical trick from the music it enables. Hence some tricks, while not interesting or relevant to some, can be tremendously interesting and relevant to others.

    The entire landscape of music is changing dramatically with technology .... for better or for worse. I find it difficult to separate the two.

    Of course, it may well be a subject boring to some: the relationship between music and technology. But it is very, very hard these days to talk about one without talking (or just thinking) about the other!

    JG
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Not really. We've had similar discussions since, when people submitted synthetic recordings, and sometimes these get a bit sour because we claim to have rules and yet can not lay them down satisfactorily. There is no line where art crosses into technology. In the end the people in case get bored with the argument too and go elsewhere... and then we've stood our ground.

    I feel that if the end justifies the means, as you more or less said, the future is bleak for honest amateur piano playing. It will be like photography and film, you can never be quite sure what you are looking at, people or computer rendering. Sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes it does.

    Maybe we should have a separate "Technology" forum for people interested in this topic. Not conventional audio technology (microphones etc) but the real stuff, sampling, rendering, whatever the PC can do these days.

    Anyway, I'll shut up about it now and go play some piano :wink:
     
  12. aryobrand

    aryobrand New Member

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    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    Since you asked :twisted: ...

    Is it cheating? Of course! Any editing, alteration of the sound, tempo, etc is cheating . . . especially yourself. I know this probably sounds like something you were told about cheating in math class, but it's true. If you're a practicing musician you really should master your techniques the good old-fashioned way. Once you start on that road, where does it stop? First you speed it up a little, then edit a few parts together, then why not just program the sounds in, then just scan the music into a note-recognition software program and push play. Boy, wouldn't you look stooooopid after people that liked your music actually sat you in front of a piano and said play something for me, and you never realized just how awful the technique would become after a while, it only started with just a little editing ...

    Enough moralizing. Do what thou wilt.

    Love is the law, love under will.
    Aryobrand
     
  13. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Mega bump :wink:

    I think we all agree doing stuff like this is big-time cheating, and we would not tolerate it here (though it could be impossible to detect).

    However, cutting out a couple of flubs, restarts, or page turns from an otherwise satisfactory recording, or adding reverb or equalizing, are perfectly acceptable IMNSVPHO. I believe many people do this here, and we know it's done in many professional recordings too.
     
  14. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    "Honesty," in the applicable sense, however, means complying with the rules of the Society. For example, if you edit "heavily," as I have done on much of my WTC, then your bio should indicate that. Mine does; but many others don't. And it's very hard, indeed, impossible to PROVE what's going on.

    That doesn't trouble me too much, however. Bad music is BAD no matter how it comes into being. Good music is GOOD, again, no matter how it comes into existence. Much of what appears at the Society is good, honest piano playing, with much to recommend it regardless of technical deficiencies. That sort of music is more important than concert-perfect or recording-perfect music (two entirely different species), because all great interpretation and composition rests on the efforts of thousands of journeyman and women pianists who, regardless of talent (an entirely subjective concept), practise, practise, and practise.

    JG
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah but there's the crux ! Such rules as we have are woefully arbitrary and inconclusive, and I have no hope in hell that we can lay down a good set of rules that people won't argue about. In the end it will always come down to personal judgement of the admins (hopefully, with the support of bona fide forum members).
     
  16. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

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    Agreed!
     

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