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Sequence THAT!

We live in a precisely-ordered digital world these days. But what did music sound like when it used to be played by musicians? Perhaps something like this...

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To me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is cycling up a long, steep hill while listening to talk radio on my huge Sony MDR-CD1700 headphones. I have to advise of course not to do this on public roads. Fortunately for me there are plenty of cycle paths near where I live.

So there I was, pedaling like mad, listening to a talk on the life and music of Percy Grainger, which I had downloaded to my iPod. The file I was listening to however kept playing after the program had finished. Lucky for me, because this is what I got to hear...

It starts crazy, it gets crazier, and then the craziness really starts to get going. Of course I recognized Duke Ellington's Caravan, but I had certainly never heard it played like this. I was worrying, as I cycled, that the file would end before I found out who the performers were, but I was lucky, and it continued long enough into BBC Radio 3's Late Junction, presented by Fiona Talkington. It isn't a program I would normally listen to, but this time I was very pleased that I did.

If you didn't play the video all the way to the end credits, it's the Graham Reynolds Golden Arm Trio. I have to say it sounds like more people than a trio. If overdubs were involved, they are very well integrated into the overall, very live, sound.

What struck me most of all about this performance is how unsequenceable it is. There is hardly a note that would work played by a sequenced virtual instrument. The subtleties of the rhythms, the articulations, the flexibility of intonation. This can only be achieved to this level by skilled musicians.

And what about that A Day In The Life moment at 3:14?

But although such feats of natural musicianship might not be emulated fully by sequenced virtual instruments, there's no reason not to strive a little harder to put life, soul and energy into your music. And maybe once in a while listen to music like this to see what digital music technology can't achieve.

And of course, there are many Audio Masterclass readers who work extensively with 'real' musical instruments. I'm sure this track will, almost literally, strike a chord.

By David Mellor Saturday March 30, 2013
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