Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Experiment Analysis: Part 1

Well, we conducted the Tyner vs. Eldar experiment over the weekend. The two subject CD's were Time for Tyner and Eldar's self-titled CD, Eldar (yeah, no kidding). The experiment even had some controls. Mrs. S did a really good job of mixing up all seventeen tunes from the CD's, and the artists themselves had basically standards with a few songs that I was completely unfamiliar with, as well as some made up of pieces of other songs, so there was no possibility for me to judge the artists based on the tracks themselves. Both CD's were studio CD's and for the most part, the accompanists and pianos sounded similar enough that I could not tell the artists apart based just on sound. I have to say, these two CD's match up very well stylistically, technically, and artistically, and it made telling the artists apart solely on their piano chops very challenging.

Before I present the results, here's my analysis.

Tyner's work in Latin and African rhythms and songs stands out. I just couldn't picture Eldar playing Little Madimba, African Village, or Afro Blue (which wasn't on the experiment CD) or something like that. So when I heard something Latin-sounding, I could assume it to not be Eldar. Similarly, when Eldar does that keyboard mashing glissando up or down, there is no mistaking it, and I just couldn't picture Tyner doing something like that. Eldar also makes with the lightning-fingers riffs that, while I'm sure Tyner could do if he wanted, he doesn't, simply because that's not his style. So again, I had no trouble identifying any songs containing those kinds of things as Eldar songs.

Where I got into trouble was when they were playing classic standards at normal tempo with what one could call standard arrangements. There just isn't enough individual style there, at least, not when you just listen to the song for a minute or two. So I need to point out, had I spent, say two or three minutes per song, I think the results would have been different. Yesterday morning and afternoon, I listened to the Eldar CD and in some of the solo work, I heard things I didn't hear when we did the experiment. I think I probably made my decision too early on at least two, and probably three of the songs. (I will do a song by song breakdown and what I heard or didn't hear or thought I heard at a later date, after I've had a chance to listen to each CD .)

Finally, the results were: out of seventeen songs, I correctly identified the artist in eleven of them, 65%. I think that is close to being statistically significant, but probably is not. More interesting is that I was unable to identify the artist in four of the first five songs I listened to. Maybe if I had gone back and listened to the songs again after doing a once-through on them, I might have changed my mind or been able to listen more capably. Hard to say if that would have been the case or not. I think it is accurate to say that, in truth, I cannot tell the difference between Tyner and Eldar just by listening, unless they do something that is one of their trademarks or play a song that the other just never would do.

My final comment here, for now, is this started as a comparison of block chords and based on what I heard yesterday, there wasn't all that much block chord work on either one of the CD's. (Maybe block chords would have made telling them apart even more difficult. The ramifications are endless.)

Next post: a song by song, post-listening analysis.

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