Traditional Instruments Are Wasteful

Why Play the Same 3 Chords Over & Over When You Can Sample Them?

Our 21st Century society runs on information. At our fingertips we can access almost any kind of information we can dream of, & indeed we do, voraciously consuming all the information we can, immediately forgetting it afterward. But the world's information reserves are not infinite. If we don't change our information consumption habits now, there will be no information left for our children, or for our children's children.

When a chord is strummed on a guitar, or a key is played on a piano, sound waves emanate from the instrument & promptly dissipate. If no recording equipment is present, these sound waves are lost forever. This is what we call wasted information. It is used once & then discarded. These sounds can never be used again in any fashion; they must be re-created fresh by playing the same chord again. It is a vicious, neverending cycle: In order to hear the exact same sound twice, it must be created twice. Thus many musicians labor their entire lives yet produce a relatively tiny amount of actual new information that can be used by others. The bitter irony is that because of the fleeting nature of the information they produce, even with a lifetime of devotion to their craft, these live musicians can never create as much as information as they themselves consume.

Thankfully, it is not too late. There is an answer.

When a sound is recorded or sampled, it no longer disappears. The original sound waves themselves still dissipate, but the sound itself remains intact in the recording media until it is intentionally deleted. It can now be used more than once. If the sound is recorded on an analog medium like magnetic tape, the sound can now be reused until the physical medium itself breaks down (often many years, potentially hundreds or even thousands of plays). If the sound is sampled, recorded in a digital format, this same information can potentially be reused forever: Although digital media does fail, information replication across digital media is effortless & typically error-free (replication from analog medium to another analog medium causes information degradation). There is no theoretical limit to the duration that digitized information can last if it is properly replicated.

This is the key to information recycling.

When a guitar chord has been sampled, there is no need to ever play that chord again. The chord is still there, ready to be used at any time, so the musician can move on to creating new information instead of endlessly trying to re-create the same old, tired information. Not only that, but the sampled chord can be manipulated in a limitless number of ways & transformed into something different--new information--while simultaneously keeping the original information intact. From one sound that would have been wasted, an endless array of new, more permanent sounds can be created.

Furthermore, with the ease of replication of digital information, that same guitar chord can be freely given to countless other people, without its original creator ever truly "losing" it. The original information recyclist still has the sound safely tucked away in his or her sample banks; each copy of the sound is as identically useful as any other copy. Instead of only a single person having access to the sound, as would be the case with a physical instrument (like the guitar that's been used in these examples), now everyone who wants to use the sound has the ability to do so, without fear of depleting our information stores or depriving our children of a future.

Indeed, this kind of file-sharing is essential if we are going to save the world through information recycling. Under the paradigm of selfish information hoarding that predominated in generations past (a paradigm which many powerful organizations that purport to act on the behalf of information creators naively continue to advocate), an individual consumer will amass an enormous quantity of semipermanent information (in the form of printed materials, audio recordings, video recordings, physical art objects, etc) before the time of death. Then, when the consumer expires, the majority of this information is destroyed or thrown away, for whatever reasons (lack of space, no remaining relatives, items are lost, destruction by fire or other accident). Perfectly good information that could have been used by others, used by generations yet to come, is lost, depleting our reserves.

It is our civic & moral duty to practice information recycling. We must do so for our children. There is no other way we can guarantee that they will have the same kinds of access to information that we have had (the same, or possibly far better). To do anything less would be irresponsible, a crime against culture, a travesty against freedom.

Here's how to help!

Check out our information recycling links!
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