The moment when music production is demystified

As a teen in the mid-nineties, I spent several years imagining myself to be a recording musician. The centerpiece of my activities was a massive Turtle Beach sampler/synthesizer full-size add-on card in my PC with a whopping 32 megs of expansion memory. I met a group of folks online in a seedy IRC chat room with similar ambitions and who traded pirated sound bank CDs in the mail since everyone’s dial-up internet was much too slow at the time. One of the discs I was able to collect and experiment with was a popular collection of drum loops called Liquid Grooves.

About this same time is when I first began listening to Celtic music. Maire Brennan had just released a new solo album, which I quickly ordered on (long before it was bought out by Amazon). Listening through it, something sounded familiar. Yes indeed – several of the tracks were built on samples from Liquid Grooves. It was one of those key memorable demystifying experiences when you see how the sausage is made behind the scenes of some piece of art. “Hmmm, maybe producing music is not quite as mysterious as I thought.” I said to myself. Forget all this talk about genius and inspiration. If you can break it down into small enough pieces, it doesn’t seem so daunting or impossible. It’s just hard work to do well. If it made sense for an internationally respected singer to use a stock drum loop instead of write and craft an original percussion part and hire a drummer (or drummers) to play it, well who was I to argue? It sounded good.