JUST SAY NO to backing tracks

smashed-cd

OK I feel it's time for a rant: are you sitting comfortably? 

Many of you will be aware that song books nowadays often come with a CD, either to help you learn the song or to serve as accompaniment when a pianist proves elusive. Even every singer's beloved 'yellow peril' now comes, at greater cost, with a CD. Producing backing tracks is a growth area among the big music publishers: Music Sales' website says while they are not recruiting composers or arrangers at this time, they may be interested in employing people to produce backing tracks.

Aaaarrgggghhh!

Pre-recorded tracks are NOT accompaniment - they do not adjust to fit the  performance. Interpretation is then not an option: the performer is not free to make music. All the performer can do is accompany the inflexible tempi and style of the CD. This is a travesty of real music, which happens in one place and one time, its transience being part of its value. Imagine actors going down the same route, with Hamlet or Portia fitting their lines into a pre-recorded play!

I experienced a music competition a few weeks ago where the adjudicator congratulated one young performer for using a backing track, thus adding variety of sound to the performance. Sigh. I also recently sat through the finale of a what had been a fabulous concert.  Backing tracks came out for the finale, killing the joyous vibe. 

My plea is that we all treasure our accompanists, pianists and otherwise, and use them. A good pianist does not necessarily make a good accompanist, though a good accompanist must be a really good player, and a far better musician that the solo pianist needs to be. An accompanist often plays much more difficult music than the 'soloist', while constantly adjusting, catching, retrieving and smoothing the way. 

Less experienced performers are in the greatest need of skilled accompaniment, as it boosts their confidence and sets the stage for them to do their best (see previous blog entry - Karaoke Musical Theatre!). It is at this early stage that CDs are really becoming a menace. 

The Associated Board now produces books of grade exam songs and instrumental pieces with CDs. In his work as a professional accompanist, my husband often has to spend time undoing the damage caused by these CDs straitjacketing performance: 

    "Where did that rallentando come from?" 

    "It's on the CD." 

Let's hold out against these wretched things - they kill self-expression!

[Rant over.]


April 2018