Music in pieces

I was involved in a discussion a few days ago about my favourite track featuring a guitar.. and I realised that I really don't listen to anything with guitars in. All of the music I listen to tends to lack guitars, and, in fact, stringed instruments of any kind (I'm including the piano here).

Further than that, it tends to lack instruments that I can't distinguish between whilst it's playing. To pick an extreme (aha) example, Straight Ahead (Hardcore remix) ( sample: as .ogg ), despite sounding awfully chaotic, contains "clearly" distinguishable instruments (I count seven), each of which are on their own "channel".

When I say "clearly", I mean that you can work it out, not that it's easy to do so. It takes me a depressingly long time. I'm using the MOD definition of "channels", ie. if you have a set of audio samples (snippets), you can only have one playing on any given channel at a time.

This raises a couple of interesting (at least, for me) questions:

  • Can you teach a computer to take it back to samples and a playing order? Assuming this is insanely hard to do, can you do it for a restricted set/layout/etc. of songs, and/or with human interaction?
  • Would the sampled version offer better quality/compression? This depends on loads of things, like track length, repetitiveness, how well you can store the samples themselves (lots of little dissimilar files tend to be harder to compress than a long one), etc.
  • Assuming it does, and the artists are in on it (ie. you don't have to do the conversion), would this help with music distribution? How small can you get a 70min CD?
  • Can people with "different" hearing to me distinguish between guitars/other string instruments in anything but the simplest of songs?
  • If so, does people's varying ability to "focus" on the music change their enjoyment of it?
  • What would you do with partially discrete instruments like pianos, where more than one key can be held at once, producing a subtly different sound. 88 samples or one sample and fiddle the frequency? Fading off over time? Fall back to what'd have to be done with voice: try and seperate out "verses" of piano, and have them as a sample? Piano Track would be particularily susceptible to that.
  • Could one design a game based on people's ability to pick out instruments/number of channels? It'd have to be more fun than DDR and Guitar Hero. ;)
  • Do I really think that I can rate tracks simply on the number of channels they'd require to compose, ie. their compressability? ie., for ogg, Chris Lake - Changes(musicbrainz) (generated by oggspot and sed).
  • ..and so on.

This unfocused ramble was sponsored by Lasse Gjertsen's Ameteur (two channels).

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