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Music Media The Internet Entertainment

Unrefined "Musician" Gains a Global Audience 325

Posted by kdawson
from the amateur-my-eye dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "An unskilled musician performed a catchy pop instrumental for more than one million YouTube users even though he can't play a lick of drums or piano. The 22-year-old Norwegian's tool was stop-motion video, WSJ.com reports. From the article: 'To make "Amateur," Mr. Gjertsen recorded each analog beat and note one by one on video. He transferred the sounds from each video clip into audio files, which he could rearrange with the Fruity Loops sound-editing program — the same software he's used to create his all-digital music in the past. After organizing the sound files into the right order, Mr. Gjertsen reconstructed the pattern with the original video files. In the final product, he insists, nothing about his performance was digitally enhanced. "You have the original sounds from the video," he says.'"
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Unrefined "Musician" Gains a Global Audience

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  • "Unskilled"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:44PM (#17218066)
    Just because he can't play piano or drums, he clearly still knows what sounds good, has a sense of beat, tempo, and melody, and knows how to use editing software.

    I'd wager most modern music is made just like that, and involves a lot of people who would meet this definition of "unskilled" musician.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Cristofori42 (1001206)
      "Unskilled musician" yes. "Unskilled video editor" I think not.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      I'd wager most modern music is made just like that, and involves a lot of people who would meet this definition of "unskilled" musician.

      I disagree. I play a number of instruments and have fiddled with drums and keyboard. You'll note that when he's playing drums, he never has to prepare for the next hit. He's never thinking about what comes next. Same on the piano. He's just hunched over with two fingers outstretched. And that's what makes this 'unskilled' versus skilled. If you watch a skilled pian

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:52PM (#17218558) Homepage Journal

        Yes, I hate N'Sync also and I'm sure that their studio does a lot for them. But it sure the hell isn't micro-sampling like this guy is doing. At some point, it stops being sound editing and it becomes sampling.

        What the h*ck do you think MIDI [wikipedia.org] is? Or tracked music [wikipedia.org]? Or Mellotron [wikipedia.org]? Or Fairlight [wikipedia.org]?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:57PM (#17218604)
        he never uses anything but one symbol--I mean, there's three or four others, try the ride!--and a little bit of hi-hat

        It's cymbal, not symbol. I'm not a musician and even I know that.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        He's just using a different instrument, played in a non-linear way. He's as much a musician as anyone playing a "traditional" instrument. Do you complain about authors writing in a non-linear fashion with a computer rather than linearly with a typewriter?
      • by Dster76 (877693) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @11:03PM (#17218646)

        So while he may 'have a sense' of beat, tempo and melody, sit yourself down at fruity loops and mess around. You'll be pleasantly surprised that after a few hours, you have something that sound cool to you. After a few days, something that might sound cool to others.

        A few months and who knows?

        The man is skilled. Skilled at sampling and editing. He's not, however, a skilled musician.

        I'm sorry, you're mistaken.

        The only things your argument establishes is that he is not a talented drummer or pianist. A musician is someone who makes music, and for the purposes of defining the term, I couldn't give a shit how it's made.

        The Richard D. James Album [allmusic.com] by Aphex Twin contains, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful "music" made in the last decade using techniques very similar, in principle, to the ones this guy is using. I'm thrilled to see that new tools are allowing different people to become musicians in brand new ways.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Keith Handy (456832)
        He does use the hi-hat. And he has an excellent ear for music - sure, it has a choppy sound as a result of being, as you say, micro-sampled, but there are harmonies and chord progressions in there that are prettier than what a lot of "real" musicians come up with in their entire lives. To top it all off he displays a self-effacing sense of humor about the whole thing.

        -an actual musician.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @12:02AM (#17219044) Homepage Journal
        He's not a pianist or a drummer, that's for sure, but he's a hell of a musician. In that he makes music. That doesn't imply any skill at any particular instrument, although in this case, I think it's quite arguable that the computer is his instrument.

        Although new instruments have had a history of being rejected by more conventional instrument players whenever they're introduced, I would have hoped that we'd moved beyond that now. (Did you know what harpsicord players thought of the piano when it was first introduced? It wasn't flattering, I'll bet.) Keyboards, synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and other electronic devices are all valid tools for a musician to use. For that matter, so are 55-gallon drums and PVC pipe, at the other end of the spectrum.

        This guy made music; therefore he is a musician. The fact that you think that 'anybody' could do this is irrelevant; everybody isn't doing this, or it wouldn't be notable and other people wouldn't be listening to it. Acting haughty because he doesn't have conventional instrumental skills is ridiculous.
      • Re:"Unskilled"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drix (4602) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @12:59AM (#17219332) Homepage
        I disagree with what you're saying simply because it's wrong--this guy obviously grasps rhythm, melody and harmony; what you're claiming is ludicrous--but since 30 other people have written in to tell you that, I'd just like to point out that the standard by which any art should be judged is whether it's new, interesting, different, thought-provoking and/or aesthetically pleasing. I found this video to be at least four of those. If playing instruments well enables you to achieve that, that's good, but it's not really an end unto itself, artistically speaking. The world is full of extremely well-trained musicians who do nothing but play other peoples' work all day long and haven't a creative bone in their body. To me that's boring. Why do we need more of that? This guy is doing something fresh and innovative, and he deserves credit for it.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Crabbyass (867531)

          he world is full of extremely well-trained musicians who do nothing but play other peoples' work all day long and haven't a creative bone in their body.

          Just because you don't understand how classical musicians work (and I'm sure this is what you're referring to), please don't make an outright arrogant statement such as this. By your line of pathetic reasoning, Ben Kingsley doesn't have a creative bone in his body because he does nothing but "read other people's scripts all day". Ben Kingsley interprets sc

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anti_Climax (447121)
        he never uses anything but one symbol--
        In his defense, he did hit the china pan when he lost a stick the second time ;)
      • by SpasticWeasel (897004) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @01:15AM (#17219424)
        Being a pedantic dick works a lot better when you can spell cymbal
      • Re:"Unskilled"? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Eideewt (603267) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @01:43AM (#17219572)

        Translation:

        "As a clueless amateur who has managed to lay my hands on a few instruments, I now prepare to deliver my infallible wisdom. First of all, he's not actually playing those instruments. He just recorded video clips and rearranged them. So you see, he didn't actually have to play the notes in order or at any particular time. Real instrumentalists *do* have to play notes in sequence. Ergo, he is a terrible musician.

        Even though I'm a musician in the loftiest, most pure sense of the word, I am not rich and famous. I now mention a current band to show that I am 'with it'. I also hate them for their success. I've never been part of a real recording session, but I know just how it works, and quite frankly, this guy does not meet my own personal standards of musicianship.

        So while this guy may be skilled at making music, he is not a skilled musician. This is so obvious that I can't be bothered to explain my logic."

        Starting from the top:

        Thank you for you explanation of the nuances of playing an instrument. Because we all missed the part where he didn't actually play them. The way he just plunked a few notes then assembled them into a piece was kind of like the point, you know? At the beginning he showed us that.

        Now your knowledge of modern music is somewhat lacking, both in the areas everyone should know (current groups) and in the areas you propose to explain (recording). Certainly the amount of editing any particular group needs varies, but speaking as someone with actual knowledge of the field, modern music is very heavily edited, and has been for a number of years. When he says that modern music is made "just like that" he's right on the money. A sample is generally longer than his, but there is a phenomenal amount of cut'n'paste work in every single song you hear on the radio (unless you're listening to oldies or acoustic music).

        Nice attempt to make yourself look moderate here. "The man is skilled. Skilled at sampling and editing." These sound like words that would leave George Bush's mouth, by the way. You've managed to develop a strange definition of "musician" which doesn't seem to line up with whether a person makes music. I suggest syncing with reality at your earliest convenience!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zoeblade (600058)

        The man is skilled. Skilled at sampling and editing. He's not, however, a skilled musician.

        This is kind of arguing the semantics of whether the word "musician" includes composers who create music but can't actually play that music. There's also the point that due to the invention of devices that can record sounds and play them back, and with it the genre of music concrete, you can be able to play instruments such as audiotape and digital samplers without having to play them in real time. I think we can

    • This guy is very skilled at sampling. The computer is his instrument. As a musician, I can tell you that he is unskilled at drums and piano. He doesn't even qualify as an amateur with those instruments.
  • Hair (Score:5, Funny)

    by jamesl (106902) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:50PM (#17218114)
    Its the hair, man.
  • by RailGunSally (946944) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:54PM (#17218130)
    He should take it on the road!
  • IDM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mushadv (909107) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:56PM (#17218142)
    That's essentially the concept of IDM [wikipedia.org]; taking sounds from different sources that shouldn't work in any coherent sense and making them come together musically. This doesn't even go that far, sampling's been around for years. Also, "musician" refers not only to those who can play musical instruments, but also to those who compose musical works. He fits the criteria, as far as I can tell.
    • by jpardey (569633)
      For a genre called "Intelligent Dance Music," that makes a lot of sense.
      • by vorpal22 (114901)
        The idea behind IDM is not that it is somehow more intelligent than other forms of music, but more that it is music designed to make the intellect dance (i.e. it messes with your head because of its atypical use of sounds, instruments, shifting time signatures, etc). I personally used to love the stuff before I burnt out on it. Very interesting, very bizarre, and almost physically impossible to dance to. Going to IDM shows was quite the experience, because it essentially consisted of a room of 300+ people j
  • Career path (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:56PM (#17218146) Journal
    His skill at turning someone with zero musical performance skill into something entertaining and presentable shows he could get a job as a pop music producer. Hell, he can't do any worse than the pimps who churn out the pop tarts we see on stage today!
    • Re:Career path (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#17218220)
      His skill at turning someone with zero musical performance skill into something entertaining and presentable shows he could get a job as a pop music producer. Hell, he can't do any worse than the pimps who churn out the pop tarts we see on stage today!

      I think that's his point. That the 'musician' in much of today's recorded music is actually the producer/editor and not the person you hear singing/playing the notes that make up the music. The music is the editing, the editing is the music.

      • by Perseid (660451)
        Editing has always been a major part of most recorded music. It's just that with "today's" recorded music editing has become more sophisticated. The problem with music right now lies not with the editing, but with the source material.
      • by Ricdude (4163)
        Oh, come on. Even "The End" by The Doors was two takes spliced together in the middle. Was that cheating?
  • Retro! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:01PM (#17218190) Homepage
    This reminds me of the tracker modules that saw a lot of use on the Amiga.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mushadv (909107)
      The modern incarnation of the tracker concept would be Renoise [renoise.com]. It has VST support and other things that electronic musicians would expect from a studio application, with the efficient interface only a tracker provides. It's also only $60, which is trivial compared to FL Studio, which is something like $300 for the fully functional version. [/ad]
      • The modern incarnation of the tracker concept would be Renoise. It has VST support and other things that electronic musicians would expect from a studio application, with the efficient interface only a tracker provides. It's also only $60, which is trivial compared to FL Studio, which is something like $300 for the fully functional version. [/ad]

        The open-source incarnation of the tracker concept would be Modplug Tracker combined with Audacity. It has VST support and other things that electronic musicians would expect from a studio application, with the efficient interface only a tracker provides. It's also only $0 and under a free software license, which is trivial compared to Renoise, which is something like $60 for the fully functional version. [/ad]

  • by thebigo195 (949864) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:02PM (#17218196)
    Another example of a great piece of music (or something like it) that only works when accompanied by video. We'll be seeing more and more developments in this direction thanks to Youtube! See Chuck Klostermann's recent article in Esquire for a full dissection.
  • umm (Score:5, Funny)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <`ude.ogacihcu.inmula' `ta' `egnardts'> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#17218222) Journal
    So basically he made a MIDI track using live instrument samples?

    Now this is cutting edge stuff here - simply by dictating what pitch, how long, and when notes should be played, he was able to "perform" an entire song!!

    Can you imagine the potential of this? Why, you could be an entire orchestra by yourself! In fact, you could even perform this kind of trick LIVE - simply substitute musicians skilled in their instruments for the samples, and in order to "control" them, you could provide them with the musical instructions somehow on paper. Of course you'd have to implement some kind of global timer to keep them all together, but it seems very doable!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Can you imagine the potential of this? Why, you could be an entire orchestra by yourself! In fact, you could even perform this kind of trick LIVE - simply substitute musicians skilled in their instruments for the samples, and in order to "control" them, you could provide them with the musical instructions somehow on paper. Of course you'd have to implement some kind of global timer to keep them all together, but it seems very doable!

      I am sure it is doble and there are probably a few dozen /.s planning to pr
      • Re:umm (Score:4, Informative)

        by illuminatedwax (537131) <`ude.ogacihcu.inmula' `ta' `egnardts'> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:34PM (#17218428) Journal
        I'm just making fun of the ridiculous gimmick, as if splicing sampled notes together to create music is anything new.

        The real success of the video is, like you said, the work that went into it, the actual composition. There are thousands of people making MODs and MIDI files; this guy just added the video. So: premise stupid, execution excellent. Kind of the opposite of modern art.
      • whoooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo oooooooooooooosh!

        is the sound the joke made as it soared over your head and out of the auditorium.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Wow you're cynical. Smile.
  • Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anaesthetica (596507) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:07PM (#17218234) Homepage Journal

    If someone submitted the link to this video a month ago when it first appeared on blogs and Digg etc it wouldn't have been accepted as a story on Slashdot. Funny how the Wall Street Journal's description of the video, spare interview, and short backstory showcasing their world-class investigative journalism (the same that doggedly followed the Enron debacle) makes this YouTube clip a legitimate story to post on Slashdot's front page.

    I'm not complaining about it being here, or complaining that the Wall Street Journal submits its own stuff. Just funny how a random link becomes legitimate, that's all.

  • Mod files were the old amiga standard for doing this, except they didn't have much space for samples so all tonal instruments were just one sample played at different rates. It was amazing what could be done with just four notes at once. A song was typically 100 KB.

    Nice to see what the little man in the synthesizer actually looks like, though.
  • Bring on the remixes ... a little star wars kid action and we got a serious music video!
  • MySpace (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gt_mattex (1016103) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:20PM (#17218314)

    This kid really is awesome. His editing skills are unreal.

    Check out his MySpace [myspace.com] page. He has other material apparently.

    • I'm with you on awesome. You never know, a talent like we see in Florian Schneider might come around more than once, in a lifetime.

      Kraftwerk has been such a fantastic influence on techno music, and popular music in general. To me, the influence is obvious - but he is certainly doing his own thing!

  • genius (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yanyan (302849)
    While actual mechanical skill with an instrument belongs to one level, composing and arranging belong to a wholly different level. I'd even go as far to venture that both rely on completely different sets of brain matter. Speaking from personal experience, i may be able to shred guitar with the best of them (okay, i might be exaggerating a bit), but i really hit a wall when i try to arrange something, especially if it has many layers of instrumentation, melody, harmony, etc. That guy is a master arranger in
  • ...but does he want a PSP for Christmas?
  • by strider44 (650833) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @10:35PM (#17218442)
    He has plenty of good videos - another of his, Hyperactive [youtube.com] uses the same technique to a similar effect.
  • repetitions with slight variations. We are all experts at that.
  • And the one hit wonder is born...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    jealous much ? everybody going "all he did was blah blah blah"

    iam sure you can compile a Kernel or put a new skin on KDE but can you do what he did ? and if its so easy lets see your version iam sure you have loads of music and creative videos you edited right ?

    is that crickets i hear or the sound of tumbleweed ?

    to some people hardcore ASM code is an art to others its mindnumbing shite, Art takes many forms how many can you master ?

    • by zalas (682627)
      What I find interesting is not the fact that he took audio/video pieces and spliced together a song. What I find interesting is the way he presents the process of making a song and the fact that what was commonly done for music (snippet sampling) is applied in unison to video. That being said, the technical details aren't really that interesting.

      PS: And yes, I do compose/produce music, reverse engineer and splice music videos together in my spare time.
    • This is one /.'er who can compile a kernel, put a skin on KDE *and* do...well...something similar to what the dude in the video did, anyway :) I can't edit video, but that's because I've never tried. On the other hand, to see what the creative side of this geek can do, (shameless plug goes here) check out http://www.soundclick.com/elementop/ [soundclick.com].

      So now that I've argued against the parent post :) I have to admit that I do, in fact, agree with the poster. Whether or not the guy can actually play one of his
  • he just reinvented the mod/s3m/xm file... just with video instead of samples
  • So basically You-Tube has provide an old MOD tracker as a new hit? Didn't this go out of style in about 1996? Or have I forgotten the old 1mb MOD files that had incredible sound clarity compared to MIDI yet were shunned for their repeating bass line... ?
  • by cliveholloway (132299) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @11:25PM (#17218814) Homepage Journal

    It's obvious from some of the comments that posters haven't seen his work. He's one of the most creative artists I've seen on YouTube. From the pointless and bizarre Den Lille Valpen [youtube.com], to the simple humor of US [youtube.com], to the amazing production values on Jeg går en Tur [youtube.com]. And the guy is only 22.

    Personally, I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

    cLive ;-)

    ps - oh, and the "Your mother is a" Slutt joke is quite funny too...

  • Speaking as someone that has produced records (a few little dance hits in the UK) what he's doing is what's going on in just about every studio in the world. Namely, using samples to make a beat. It's nothing special, what's interesting is tying that with the video. Having said that, software to do that has been available for nearly 10 years (called Steinberg X-Pose) and it's quite good fun to use - just set video and sound samples to keys on a keyboard and bash away.

    http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/multimedia/xpose [dooyoo.co.uk]
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @12:35AM (#17219216) Journal
    When I was watching the linked video I had a random idea... what if people put together a (Creative Commons?) library of short video clips like that for some of the instruments used in MIDI files? For example, you could have short video samples of people playing notes for the piano, trumpet, vocals, etc. Then, given a MIDI file you could automatically generate a video like the one Mr. Gjertsen did, perhaps having a separate split-screen for each MIDI channel.

    If nothing else, it'd be a cool thing to have on display at parties.
  • I've seen a dozen different videos of this nature on YouTube and even before the site's existence. There have been many of kids beat boxing, among other things.
  • There are a lot of unrefined musicians with a global audience. Take Brittney Spears for example... oh hell, take her forever.
  • switch about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @01:33AM (#17219514) Homepage
    How many of you clowns pooh-poohing this guy's composition because it's "just editing" would bee messing your drawers in awe if the music in question was (say) the original 1963 theme to Doctor Who? [wikipedia.org] You know, the one Delia Derbyshire composed and "recorded" by physically cutting and splicing (in some cases) individual notes recorded on magnetic tape?
  • He should get himself a Synclavier [wikipedia.org] and save himself a lot of time with much the same results. Maybe he has one and used it, we don't actually know.

    As for the "musician" question, I hold that "analog" instruments are just one skill set you can use to make music, and that technology opens up many new ones. These all intersect at the place called "music" but can be vastly different in execution. In the end, it's all about getting what you heard in your head into everyone else's heads. How you do it ultimately
  • ...music? It would be so awesome to be able to take a stock set of 'video instruments' and play them with a midi file.

    I think Animusic does something similar.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:34AM (#17220090) Journal
    That sure is a lot of words to say so few things.

    Revised news summary:
    A Norwegian has gained some fame after creating music based on samples with Fruity Loops and distributing it on YouTube.

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