Mixes: art or product

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Mixes: art or product

Post by Radiophonic »

Hey there,

discussing with and listening to mixers there seem to be very different perspectives on different aspects of the work that is involved. I hear alot of arguments based on what an average consumer prefers or is aware of when listening to a mix etc.

This certainly is not a black and white issue in many cases. I would like to hear were you see yourself regarding this question, and how it translates into your prespective and practice.

Thank you very much.

Best regards
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Albatross »

The original is art, copies of the original made for promotion or sale are product.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Martin Walker »

Hi Radiophonic!

I don't think there is a correct answer to this question, as mixing means different things to different people.

At its simplest (and often in the classical music world) mixing is often regarded as altering the levels from each microphone to get an audio balance that largely mimics that of the live performance. Some classical mixers even avoid using EQ!

At the other end of the spectrum (particularly with electronic-based music), a mix may involve a huge number of artistic decisions involving EQ, FX and even changes of arrangement to suit the end product.

I've received multi-track recordings where my goal is simply to enhance what's already there without any obvious changes to the original, and multi-tracks where I'm at liberty to change or discard any thing that I wish to achieve a totally different end result.

I enjoy both mixing disciplines for different reasons, but wouldn't like to say whether they are art or product ;)

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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Mike Stranks »

Mixes: art or product?

As Martin says, context is all, but in my experience usually varying proportions of both.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Drew Stephenson »

One of the things I like about mixing is that, to me, it is a blend of art and science. There is a musical idea that I'm trying to achieve, and I have a toolbox and techniques that can be applied to get there.
But if you're a professional mixer I suspect it will depend on the job; sometimes you have the remit and the time/money to produce art, sometimes you're just churning out a product.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by James Perrett »

If I'm doing a mixing job sometimes I'll end up with two mixes - one being a mix of everything that the artist sent while the other being a version of the song that concentrates on the parts that work best to my ears. However, most artists seem to prefer to stick with their own interpretation of a piece so most of the time I am just mixing to refine that interpretation.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Radiophonic »

I see. Classical music was developed at a time where mixing was not a factor. There was pretty much just architechture, placement of different sections, arrangement and the conductor of course. As a mixer the job is to make it work on a medium it originally was not designed for.

Electronic music on the other hand is a genre that was created when mixing was well established. This is reflected in the way the mix becomes a frontstage part of the whole.

In the case of classical music the goal is cleary defined by recreating the experience in a room. It could be argued, this is more of a craft than a creative artform.

Nontheless, a concept I had in mind opening this thread was the idea of delivering more than the audience or convention demands and this would apply even to classical music. This also resonates with the idea of having more respect for the audiance than the audiance might be able to appreciate. There is a certain reductionist tendency I sense when I listen to certain mixers, rationlising their decisions by referencing the reaction and behavior of the audience.

The divide between art and product as I was trying to get at is the point of reference. Doing what is best practice (whatever that means in different contexts and on an individual basis), doing what is convention or doing what you can get away with. If one is mixing specifically to create a product for a consumer, best practice is most likely not the most effective way. The fast food chain burger is a brilliant design as a product, but it is not fine dining, nor is it trying to create a unique and quality product (apart from the science behind making a low cost product appeal to a large portion of the population).

On this point I would like to hear were you see yourself, and how it translates into your prespective and practice. What are common deviations between what you feel would be best practice and what ends up happening for whatever reason.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by jimjazzdad »

This is a really good topic for a thread - thank you for posting this! I do mostly location recordings of classical and jazz music; acoustic music played live. Most of my mixing involves translating what I bring back to my studio into a reasonable facsimile of the performance (or the recording session). It involves a lot of judgement, and a modicum of skill on my part, but I see it more as 'craft' than 'art'. I guess it is also a product to some degree, but both the musicians and I are more concerned about the performance, and a faithful reproduction thereof, so product and consumers of product are further down the line. In my world, mixing is all about creating a recording that is faithful to the performance and respectful of the musicians.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Watchmaker »

I'm not clear on the distinction between art and product anyway. Most artists are working with ideas in a form in which they strive to articulate and promulgate something, and this generally results in an artifact, or product, of some sort.

semantic quibbling aside, whether something is art or product depends on what you bring to it, que no? Is it simply a mechanical exercise to obtain payment, a mere economic transaction, or is it something that expresses something profound about the human experience?

If the performers, or sound event being captured, is actually artistic in nature, then the recording, mixing and mastering processes are generally expected to contribute to the translation of that in a meaningful way. Is there a distinction to be made between where the art stops in the long chain of events that a musical performance takes getting from the venue to the distribution channel? If so, where is that line? Is it after mastering or before lunch? Take a Thelonius Monk album, or ABBA, assuming those performances are art, to what extent is the mixing not a part of that event?
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by ManFromGlass »

I’ll submit a brief thought about classical mixing from the composing side of it. This is something I still have much to learn about and I hope I express myself somewhat clearly.
Well done classical music works are “mixed” by the composer. A skilled composer sets the balances by choice of what instruments double other instruments, what range those instruments play in to not overpower other instruments and many other techniques to support the vision.
I agree with above about the art carrying through to the final product. I also think that the art exists even when the end product is really crap. I’m not sure what I will think when A.I takes over creating and mixing music.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by RichardT »

Art and product are not mutually exclusive. Mixing, for me, contains both - the art bit is the creative side of mixing, where I’m aiming to maximise the emotional impact of the music, and the product bit is creating something ‘well mixed’ that will sound professional to the listener.

Not that they are listening to hear whether a mix is professional, more that if it’s professional quality they will be able to listen to the music without getting distracted by the mix.

There’s also a question of attitude, as Watchmaker says.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Arpangel »

You either play to the gallery, or not.
The word "professional" what on earth does that mean in the context of music? Just because someone earns money (the definition of professional in all fields) from producing, mixing, or making music, is no guarantee of anything, but not making money, seems to have just the same effect on a lot of peoples judgements, stereotypically.
"Professional" intrinsically, is how much you sound like someone financially successful, as you may want to achieve the same, I can’t see the point personally, but a lot do.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Mike Stranks »

The vast majority of what I do (did?) is for radio/podcast.

Sometimes the whole project is mine in that I have the ideas, decide on the order, record, edit and mix to get the shape that I want. I guess that's using 'art' to produce a product.

Sometimes I record(ed) a concert for subsequent distribution. Quite often that would be a simple stereo-pair - or variation thereof - very often recorded flat and straight to stereo. But back in the studio I might tweak the EQ in places, add a touch of reverb, get rid of coughs and scrapes etc. Is that art or craft?

More recently I've been working with non-technical people to produce a podcast. They make the recordings and give me a running order. Sometimes I'll be given a brief with an interview to 'tighten it up a bit'. But often the recordings need a fair bit of work to make them easier on the ear... nasty EQ resonances... very reverberant... discrepancies in levels between interviewer and guest... wildly different levels on each of the recordings submitted... etc etc. More often than not it's really just a technical job to get the whole thing sounding even and acceptable to the ear. But recently, one of the producers gave me more of an open brief for one podcast: "It doesn't seem to 'gell' somehow; I don't know if you can make it flow better?" So then I used my experience to determine some cross-fades, some use of music-breaks etc etc. What was art and what was delivering product? :?:

In the end, does it matter?
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Zukan »

I think for this to be a bit more thorough we need to distinguish between mixing and producing.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Arpangel »

Zukan wrote: Sun Jan 09, 2022 9:30 am I think for this to be a bit more thorough we need to distinguish between mixing and producing.

There’s a very fine line between………..

:D:D:D
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by MarkOne »

Great question.

And mostly because the answer is completely subjective.

Ask most art historians to categorise Dali, or Warhol and the consensus would probably be ‘art’

But both shamelessly marketed their work, and their brand as product.

I don’t know if any of you saw Ed Sheehan on Jules Holland New Year’s Eve. He played The Joker and the Queen, and when asked why, he said because Jools’ show was such a ‘muso’ show it gave him the chance to as he put it ‘peacock’ some of the work he was most proud of. Clearly he sees this as his best ‘art’

Contrast that with his Grammy nomination for Bad Habits, which is as disposable an example of pop product you could possibly imagine.

Product or art?
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Dave Rowles »

Intent I think is the key here. I think it's art if you're creating for the love of creation. It's product if you are producing something purely because you think it will sell, or purely because you're being paid to do it.

Now there are certain projects that I do and I'm doing it for myself. I love the music involved, or the people, and I want to make it the best I can because I love doing it.

Then there are projects I do where I find the music bland, boring, or not to my taste at all. Then it's all about getting the best out of it so I can get paid.

The end result is probably the same, though I like the mixes I do for myself better. Mixes I do for someone else will always be skewed by their expectations or demands.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by zenguitar »

Questions like this can lead to interesting conversations but the art or product discussion really is a false premise.

Music is not, and has never been, one thing. There are many musics with many functions in our societies and our lives. It can be art, entertainment, politics, something that binds us together, something that marks that we are different and separate from others, something to dance to, to judge others by, to sing along with, to discover, to signal to others, to focus on, to distract us, and a multitude of other things as well.

And what is true of music is also true of everything that goes into the making and recording of music.

The secret is to keep in mind that other people may have very different ideas about the music we make. And that they're almost certainly right too.

:wave:

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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Ariosto »

The art comes from the musicians and the craft is the final version with any technical improvements where necessary. But a technician cannot make an unmusical performance musical. This is just from a classical music viewpoint.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Arpangel »

Ariosto wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:02 am The art comes from the musicians and the craft is the final version with any technical improvements where necessary. But a technician cannot make an unmusical performance musical. This is just from a classical music viewpoint.

I would take issue with just one point you make, it’s not, just from a classical music viewpoint.
It applies to all types of music that human beings make, for any music to exist at all, it has to have a "musical" element, and structure to it.
The sounds of nature are very beautiful, but they aren’t "musical" music comes from human beings, that’s what makes us unique, music is an expression of what it’s like to be a human being, it cannot be forged, entirely by machines, technicians, that have no inherent musical sensibility.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Radiophonic »

Arpangel wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:21 am
Ariosto wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:02 am The art comes from the musicians and the craft is the final version with any technical improvements where necessary. But a technician cannot make an unmusical performance musical. This is just from a classical music viewpoint.

I would take issue with just one point you make, it’s not, just from a classical music viewpoint.
It applies to all types of music that human beings make, for any music to exist at all, it has to have a "musical" element, and structure to it.
The sounds of nature are very beautiful, but they aren’t "musical" music comes from human beings, that’s what makes us unique, music is an expression of what it’s like to be a human being, it cannot be forged, entirely by machines, technicians, that have no inherent musical sensibility.

I would love to hear your thoughts, on how much focus should be set, on making sure the performance is right in comparison to other factors (in scenarios where this is possible).
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Arpangel »

Radiophonic wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 9:43 am
Arpangel wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:21 am
Ariosto wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:02 am The art comes from the musicians and the craft is the final version with any technical improvements where necessary. But a technician cannot make an unmusical performance musical. This is just from a classical music viewpoint.

I would take issue with just one point you make, it’s not, just from a classical music viewpoint.
It applies to all types of music that human beings make, for any music to exist at all, it has to have a "musical" element, and structure to it.
The sounds of nature are very beautiful, but they aren’t "musical" music comes from human beings, that’s what makes us unique, music is an expression of what it’s like to be a human being, it cannot be forged, entirely by machines, technicians, that have no inherent musical sensibility.

I would love to hear your thoughts, on how much focus should be set, on making sure the performance is right in comparison to other factors (in scenarios where this is possible).

It could be a live "performance" or a totally "studio" constructed work, like something from the Radiophonic Workshop, just as an example, the method of composition isn’t a concern, it’s the outcome, for me it has to have this musical essence, quality, structure, I’m not saying engineers can’t make something or contribute to something, my own music is very studio reliant, sometimes, it’s just that those involved have to have a musical attitude, that may seem obvious, but often, musical elements get lost and the focus gets shifted onto the gear, as thee most important thing in the production, even though it's basically, a tool, the work comes from the artist, not the tools, how many times have we heard that one?
I’m finding these days, I’m talking about making music more than I’m actually making it, here, and with my musical partner, it’s not good.
I quote one of my most admired musicians, Bill Frisell "we are all in the same boat, just trying to make sense of it all"
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by shufflebeat »

Arpangel wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:21 am The sounds of nature are very beautiful, but they aren’t "musical" music comes from human beings, that’s what makes us unique, music is an expression of what it’s like to be a human being, it cannot be forged, entirely by machines, technicians, that have no inherent musical sensibility.

There was a discussion some time ago about the nature of nature, so to speak. My suggestion was that, in the same was as we observe "the natural world" and the various characters within it as representative of "nature" we also have to understand ourselves and everything we do (externally, not the delusional fairy-palaces we build in our minds) as our character and within the envelope of nature.

In general that means that everything we do is "the sounds of nature" and, more specifically, I've never heard a piece of music, composition or performance, that couldn't easily be understood within the parameters we ascribe to other animals. We've just developed the capacity for deferred gratification and theory of mind so we can imagine that others will pay for our efforts.

This applies just as much to builder friends of mine who take a pride in their work so that they have respect among their peers and clients, which is expressed in money and nice cars.

Happy to have that challenged with examples.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by awjoe »

zenguitar wrote: Sun Jan 09, 2022 2:50 pm Questions like this can lead to interesting conversations but the art or product discussion really is a false premise.

Music is not, and has never been, one thing. There are many musics with many functions in our societies and our lives.

Andy :beamup:

Pretty much. But maybe there's a valid distinction between mixing for your own taste (art) and mixing for someone else's taste (product, especially if money's involved). When I mix my stuff, there are only two questions in my mind: What makes this sound better? What would make this sound better to the listener? That's art. But if I change those decisions because money is changing hands (eg 'I'll put more reverb on this flute solo because it'll sell more listens') then it's more product. It's the shift from 'sounds better' IMHO to 'sells better' that's critical. And which is better? Well, like you say, there's no one answer to that.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by Arpangel »

shufflebeat wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 5:26 pm
Arpangel wrote: Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:21 am The sounds of nature are very beautiful, but they aren’t "musical" music comes from human beings, that’s what makes us unique, music is an expression of what it’s like to be a human being, it cannot be forged, entirely by machines, technicians, that have no inherent musical sensibility.

There was a discussion some time ago about the nature of nature, so to speak. My suggestion was that, in the same was as we observe "the natural world" and the various characters within it as representative of "nature" we also have to understand ourselves and everything we do (externally, not the delusional fairy-palaces we build in our minds) as our character and within the envelope of nature.

In general that means that everything we do is "the sounds of nature" and, more specifically, I've never heard a piece of music, composition or performance, that couldn't easily be understood within the parameters we ascribe to other animals. We've just developed the capacity for deferred gratification and theory of mind so we can imagine that others will pay for our efforts.

This applies just as much to builder friends of mine who take a pride in their work so that they have respect among their peers and clients, which is expressed in money and nice cars.

Happy to have that challenged with examples.

Yes, you could say everything that we make is part of nature, even advanced technology, simply because it comes from human beings, who are a "natural species" but we are then just talking about the products, not the reasons for doing them, which is a completely different area.
Easily understood parameters? In animals yes, utilitarian, not in human beings, other decisions come into play. We don’t have to make music, or make art of any kind.
I had a major change of life recently, regarding my music, some know me here, I was very much into chaos, serendipity, chance, my god was John Cage, because I wanted no power over what happened, I like the feeling that interesting things may happen that didn’t come from me, maybe, even though I may have started a process, it went on to have a life if it’s own.
I wanted to imitate nature, the randomness.
Now I realise this was a big mistake, let nature do what it’s good at, and we human beings, can do what we’re good at.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by shufflebeat »

There are, of course, characteristics which differentiate the fish from the chickens and the apes from the trees. The biological aspect of humanity which defines us is generally agreed to be the cortex of the brain, which allows us to build more advanced fairy-castles than the gorillas (we think).

Musicians are generally most driven during and post adolescence. Previous to that they have no personal context for the project apart from that imposed/inspired by others. As we get older we often express a whole new set of priorities, philosophical and technical (studies of what works) and I suggest that trajectory is a reflection of the same biological drivers that make it possible/necessary for birds to meticulously prepare dance circles in the forest and perform complex dance routines in order to attract the attention of a partner. The routine for us is the same even though the content is distinct.

We just do it better, as we see it, although the fish don't seem to appreciate that.

Personally, I think this makes our primitive gruntings and squeakings more important rather than less.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by RichardT »

I’ve had a theory for many years, but I don’t think there’s any strong evidence for it.

I think music and dance evolved so far in humans because they were part of the mating rituals of our distant ancestors.

There is a correlation between intelligence and musical ability, even if musical training is taken into account (so it’s not simply that studying music increases intelligence - although that is certainly true). So musical ability acts as a true proxy indicator of mental ‘fitness’.

Perhaps it also correlates in some way with emotional ‘fitness’. When composing music, fMRI scans show that our emotional centres are highly involved.

Likewise dance is a good indicator of physical ‘fitness’.

So it’s possible they evolved to such a pitch in humans due to ‘sexual selection’. Clearly no other primates sing and dance anything like as well as we do.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by shufflebeat »

RichardT wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 11:48 am
I think music and dance evolved so far in humans because they were part of the mating rituals of our distant ancestors.

That's pretty much my point except for the "because" part. We are driven by the same things as our ancestors. In ancient/medieval/modern times this takes vary different forms, unless you're a gorilla in this case all human behaviour probably looks a bit weird but not very threatening.

There is a correlation between intelligence and musical ability, even if musical training is taken into account (so it’s not simply that studying music increases intelligence - although that is certainly true). So musical ability acts as a true proxy indicator of mental ‘fitness’.

I've looked at a lot of studies in intelligence and the only consistent thing about them is that the definition of intelligence is either so niche as to be Irrelevant to this discussion or a reflection of the values of the researcher. If you can crack that one there is a lot of good research to be done.

Perhaps it also correlates in some way with emotional ‘fitness’. When composing music, fMRI scans show that our emotional centres are highly involved.

Musicians... emotional fitness? Think about it.

Likewise dance is a good indicator of physical ‘fitness’.

So it’s possible they evolved to such a pitch in humans due to ‘sexual selection’. Clearly no other primates sing and dance anything like as well as we do.

Again, we are judging "well" by our own standards. No amount of 80's synthpop is going to get you a night's canoodling in the butterfly enclosure.

I can't think of a way to usefully differentiate art from product unless the product is generated by machine learning, in which case we're back to the Turing test and whether the product will have lost value when the buyer finds out it's not the product of a creative human mind.
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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by RichardT »

Hi Shufflebeat,

Well, musical ability correlates with IQ. Whether IQ measures anything meaningful about intelligence is, as you say, a much debated question. But there’s very good evidence that a high IQ score protects you from an early death, so it’s definitely good for something.

Re emotions, maybe things are more subtle. Experiences of music are definitely emotional ones so if my idea is right, somehow selection of emotional qualities may be involved in musical / dance abilities. Maybe being emotionally affected by music correlates with something valuable?

On average, musicians don’t actually seem to be more mentally unstable than the general population, according to the relatively few studies that have been done. I enjoyed this quote:

We found no significant differences in personality traits between classical and heavy metal musicians, but both classical and heavy metal musicians differed significantly in personality from the norms, having higher scores on extraversion, agreeableness, and especially intellect. Belonging to a heavy metal musicians group was associated with consuming alcohol more often. Also, frequency of alcohol consumption was statistically higher for heavy metal musicians than in the general population.

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Re: Mixes: art or product

Post by shufflebeat »

RichardT wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:56 pm Hi Shufflebeat,

Well, musical ability correlates with IQ. Whether IQ measures anything meaningful about intelligence is, as you say, a much debated question. But there’s very good evidence that a high IQ score protects you from an early death, so it’s definitely good for something.

As does wealth - coincidence?

Re emotions, maybe things are more subtle. Experiences of music are definitely emotional ones so if my idea is right, somehow selection of emotional qualities may be involved in musical / dance abilities. Maybe being emotionally affected by music correlates with something valuable?

Absolutely - and imagine the emotion with which the lucky lady-bird responded to this:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=W7QZnwKqopo

On average, musicians don’t actually seem to be more mentally unstable than the general population, according to the relatively few studies that have been done. I enjoyed this quote:

We found no significant differences in personality traits between classical and heavy metal musicians, but both classical and heavy metal musicians differed significantly in personality from the norms, having higher scores on extraversion, agreeableness, and especially intellect. Belonging to a heavy metal musicians group was associated with consuming alcohol more often. Also, frequency of alcohol consumption was statistically higher for heavy metal musicians than in the general population.


I've done a bit of reading around the Big Five and they do make interesting reading but, again, there's an element of, "being a good pianist correlates closely with being able to play the piano well". Too many assprions and shortcuts to be intellectual bedrock.

Also - really what this says is the classicals are as bad as the metalheads who might be much more accomplished it they were ever sober.

:)
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