You are being replaced by a robot

There’s a really interesting article about how robots will continue to take our jobs. Basically anything repetitive is a target for being replaced by robots. The author points out that a robot doesn’t have to be as good as a human. It can be “good enough”, because it’s cheaper in the long term. For large corporations, this is how you compete. In software, automation is what separates good engineers from great (and lazy) engineers.

In the 1980’s, drummers were hit by the automation of digital percussion. A real cowbell was replaced by the 808 cowbell. A more human shuffle feel was replaced by abstract straight time with digital drums. Those changes were good enough for the gate keepers of the major studios and radio. The revolution was not only a new aesthetic of music, but it had the promise of cheaper music production. These days, we look back fondly on much of that as retro. Well, I certainly do. ;)

There are some good lessons here. For one, the digital revolution of the 80s was an example of how anything repetitive will be replaced by automation, i.e. robots. If it’s repetitive, a robot will learn to do it eventually. Today, even bands like Captured by Robots have actual physical robots replicating analog music in a live context. The songs are written, so why not automate them? It’s human nature to solve challenges to free our minds for more difficult ones. This is no different. Nothing wrong with that.

So we drummers have to remember what it means to be a human drummer. What sets us apart. What cannot be automated… yet. So let’s not fool ourselves: the shuffle feel is back in EDM. We’re starting to figure out how to automate the “soul” of a good drum feel. And at the moment, rock music is dying. Jazz has leveled out. Drums are turning into a folk instrument. EDM is the new reality, where one or two DJs automate all of it. We are becoming folk musicians.

We have to be smart now. If we want to play drums, we have to stay ahead of the robots, or differentiate. But how?

Do we learn to play like them? Probably. We certainly can’t be as technically proficient. So then what? Embrace chaos, randomness, entropy? Learn a song quicker than it takes to program for a one-off event? Become amazing performers, showing off feats of strength, coordination, and endurance? Become great improvisers? Write and perform music on the spot? Become seductive in both our looks and personalities? Have interactive performances? What else?

Or we evolve, and become drum robot managers.

FolkLife 2013 — Monday

Here’s what’s going down today:

2pm — Klezmer jam, starting on the east side of Key Arena. We’re just gonna wing it with whomever shows up and play what we feel like or what you request.

3:30pm — Radost Folk Ensemble. Dance and music of Eastern Europe.

5:50pm — Zakuska. Vocal music from the Balkans

7:30pm — Fabulous Downey Brothers. Insane, frenetic new wave rock performance art.

… and then… sleep.

FolkLife Schedule

FolkLife 2013 — Sunday

Ooops, I’m posting this too late! On Saturday night, I ended up at a friends house and played music far into the night… then in the morning it was a mad rush to get to FolkLife–and my phone battery died. At any rate, here’s what all transpired!

3pm — Not on the online schedule, we checked out the Tom Lehrer sing-a-long! Some of the most snarky, sarcastic songs you’ve heard. Written ahead of their time.

4pm — Bulgarian showcase. Too much going on to mention it all. I was most impressed by Vladimir Mollov’s accordion awesomness. He started so very quietly, and then controlled our emotions like robots the rest of the performance with his mastery of dynamics and intonation. And it was pretty cool that Xti got to play darbuka with him! And we were all enthralled by the Bulgarian voices of Dunava.

7pm — Headed over to the Center House (now called the Armory??) for dancing into the night with Kef, Kafana Republik, more enrapturing Vladimir Mollov, and many others.

10pm — Afterparty time at the Sarajevo Lounge. Got to jam out and dance with so many folks from various Balkan bands in the area. This is a great, friendly community.

FolkLife 2013 – Saturday

Wow, tonight was insane. Looking forward to part 2 tomorrow!

Okay, here’s what we got for FolkLife Festival on Saturday, May 25, 2013.


1:40pm — Les Pamplemousses hit the stage to play music from the earlier part of the 20th century. Facebook. Video.

6pm — Balkan Misfits Party. I’ll be playing with Bucharest Drinking Team, and we get to share the stage with our good friends Orkestar Zirkonium, Erev Rav, and Chervona! FolkLife blog post.

10pm — The afterparties begin! First, the Klezmer FolkLife Afterparty at Re-Bar! Local klez artists The Debaucherauntes (fusion), and the legendary Nu Klezmer Army (trad), are proud to welcome special guests Fleet Street Klezmer Band, hailing all the way from Boise. Facebook.


… and then… ???


FolkLife Schedule

FolkLife 2013 — Friday

Okay, here’s the rundown for FolkLife tonight, Friday, May 24, 2013:

6pm — Check out OneFourFive. There is a facebook event. onefourfive will sing a cappella songs from Caucasus Georgia

7pm — Head over to DuBorziLanza. Indeed, there is a facebook event as well. They will play a set of sinister love songs and morose prison ballads from the south side of Italy.

8pm — The afterparties get started! First, I’ll be playing with Bucharest Drinking Team, and we’ll be joined by many of our good friends! Including Chervona and Erev Rav! Yes, indeed the facebook event is there for you.

Then… ???

Stay tuned for Saturday’s schedule!

Edit >> You can create your own schedule and see what your friends are doing this weekend. Cool stuff. See you there!




Tonight, I went to see Kocani. They quieted down, so we bought another ticket. And then we decided to buy one more. Because they are that good. One of the amazing traditions that is surprisingly missing from American rock music, is to keep tipping the musicians so that they’ll stay and keep rocking!! What a concept. And I was so happy to do it, because Kocani is one of the best brass bands in the world.

And tomorrow, I go to Vancouver to see them again, and again! Am I living in a simulation? I feel like I’m about to flip this game.

p.s. sorry for my site being down over the past few days. I freaked out, thinking I had been hacked, but turns out it was a false alarm. At any rate, things seem to be back to normal now… mostly…