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The Role of Virtuosity in Progressive Music

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pitfall View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pitfall Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Role of Virtuosity in Progressive Music
    Posted: May 02 2013 at 17:11
Originally posted by Sumdeus

virtuosity is not necessary for good music and neither is theory like someone else said above^. music is in your head and that's that . They can help make it easier for you to play what you hear in your head but at the end of the day you either got it or you don't. As well, they can also make it harder to play good music, with virtuosity leading to flashy self-indulgent playing and too much worry over theory can lead to very safe boring compositions that have nothing exciting going on.


Frank Zappa is a good example of someone who had a brilliant technique and a good understanding of music theory and application - I wouldn't describe his music as safe and boring, with nothing exiting going on - would you?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pitfall Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 17:36
Originally posted by rogerthat

Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes



"A person who excels in musical technique or execution."

"A consummate master of musical technique and artistry"

"A person who has a masterly or dazzling skill or technique in any field of activity"


All of these can mean "virtuoso."  They're pretty vague and open to interpretation, yes.  




Interesting that none of these definitions necessarily suggest a propensity to show off.  

Also, I forgot to address this the previous day:

Originally posted by Guldbamsen

 I would mind having hear a piano fugue in the midst of I Talk to the Wind or a jazz chase done during Cirrus Minor....

I'd suggest that that is poor songwriting/composition rather than virtuosity that needs to be blamed for that.   The virtuosos in KC did not ruin I Talk to the Wind that way, after all.  Big smile

It's interesting that Howe is mentioned when the subject of virtuosity comes up.   Certainly he is a master of the acoustic but I find Fripp and Hackett steadier on electric, maybe Latimer as well.   Look at Hackett's leads in Dancing on the Moonlit Knight, that's faster than probably anything Howe ever played on electric and yet it never sounds jarring the way Howe's electric playing often does.   Makes me wonder again if we simply equate virtuosity with flashiness in rock. 






Could you please give me some examples of these frequent occasions when Howe's electric playing sounds jarring? I've never come across it myself.
I find it difficult to accept that you have ever really listened to his playing!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 19:56
Originally posted by pitfall




Could you please give me some examples of these frequent occasions when Howe's electric playing sounds jarring? I've never come across it myself.
I find it difficult to accept that you have ever really listened to his playing!


Eh, any number of his faster leads with Yes but CTTE if you want one example.  Please read what I said with context - though I didn't specify it, I was comparing his approach with Hackett. Yes, compared to Hackett, I do find Howe's electric playing pretty jarring, the more so as he gets faster while Hackett is very smooth and makes me oblivious to how fast he might be playing. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 21:36
Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

^ What would an artist need virtuosity for?


To be DREAM THEATER!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 21:54
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes


<t></t><span ="dnindex"=""></span><span id="hotword"><span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">"A</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">person</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">who</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">excels</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">in</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">musical</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">technique</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">or</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">execution."</span> </span><span id="hotword"><span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">"A </span><span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">consummate</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">master</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">of</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">musical</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">technique</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">and</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">artistry</span>"</span><span id="hotword"><span id="hotword"><span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">"A</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">person</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">who</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">has</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">a</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">masterly</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">or</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">dazzling</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">skill</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">or</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">technique</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">in</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">any</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">field</span> <span id="hotword" name="hotword">of</span> <span style="color: rgb51, 51, 51; cursor: default;" id="hotword" name="hotword">activity"All of these can mean "virtuoso."  They're pretty vague and open to interpretation, yes.  </span> </span></span>




Hey!! It's John Petrucci!!
Belhold the power and gift of BEARD! As Damian Wilson sports a beard now his voice somehow got even better than it already was. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 22:15
Originally posted by Gerinski


Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

Originally posted by Gerinski

... but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.
Give me an example of that when it comes to instrumental virtuosity.
Phil Collins drumming (in his best period) could be one, he never focused much on speed and yet he played as a virtuoso in my book.
Dynamics control and expression are examples of musical techniques which are of course learnt by the musicians and mastered by hard practice, same as mastering speed, but few people think of them when using  the term 'virtuoso'.
The ability of knowing how to shift successfully between keys would be another technical quality which has nothing to do with speed (I do not mean 'shifting among different keyboards').
I'm not a musician myself but I would bet that out of all the stuff they teach in a conservatory, only little concerns learning to play fast.


Gerinski. You are right again. Im in full agreement on the Phil Collins point. Sheeesh!? I wonder if you have your own magic quote book or something. Lol I've been reading this thread from page one and you seem to agree with me the most. Very entertaining man. Keep up the good work. I'd say your a virtuoso right now.
Belhold the power and gift of BEARD! As Damian Wilson sports a beard now his voice somehow got even better than it already was. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 22:17
Originally posted by progbethyname

Originally posted by Gerinski


Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

Originally posted by Gerinski

... but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.
Give me an example of that when it comes to instrumental virtuosity.
Phil Collins drumming (in his best period) could be one, he never focused much on speed and yet he played as a virtuoso in my book.
Dynamics control and expression are examples of musical techniques which are of course learnt by the musicians and mastered by hard practice, same as mastering speed, but few people think of them when using  the term 'virtuoso'.
The ability of knowing how to shift successfully between keys would be another technical quality which has nothing to do with speed (I do not mean 'shifting among different keyboards').
I'm not a musician myself but I would bet that out of all the stuff they teach in a conservatory, only little concerns learning to play fast.


Gerinski. You are right again. Im in full agreement on the Phil Collins point. Sheeesh!? I wonder if you have your own magic quote book or something. Lol I've been reading this thread from page one and you seem to agree with me the most. Very entertaining man. Keep up the good work. I'd say your a virtuoso right now.


Oh wait. Phill Collins did play with some blinding speed on CINEMA SHOW. Wow. Here it live on the seconds out concert. :)
Belhold the power and gift of BEARD! As Damian Wilson sports a beard now his voice somehow got even better than it already was. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2013 at 22:29
Originally posted by cstack3



Bob Fripp could smoke any of 'em.   I've known Fripp since the 1980s, have played in a band with one of his first Guitar Craft students, and played guitar for about 45 years myself.  
The scalar riffing of DiMeola is very impressive, but not nearly as much as Fripp's remarkable cross-picking technique.  Fripp also has ungodly long and strong fingers, his reach is unreal.   And we can't forget, McLaughlin is the guv who launched this whole thing! 
I LOVE DiMeola, mind you, and he has done many remarkable things in fusion, world music etc.  Al DiMeola and many other modern guitar phenoms come out of either Berklee School of Music or the Guitar Institute of Technology, and the craft of playing guitar is much more refined than in the early 1970's.  The instructors have taken the innovations of McLaughlin, Martino and others and honed them into amazing curriculum. 
John Petrucci is probably the most technically perfect guitarist to take a stage in this decade, but I find his music to be very cold.   Frank Gambale just amazes with his sweep-picking technique (he has taught at the GIT), but I know even better players.   It is just amazing how many gunslingers are out there!  Fortunately, the hair-band shredders of the 1980's have pretty much gone away. 
Look around for the hidden gems out there, a lot of amazing guitar players are toiling away in the orchestra pits of the big city shows (Thjis Van Leer was in a pit in Amsterdam when he founded Focus, playing keys for " Hair").   I can think of half a dozen in Chicago who would rival any of the "big name" guitarists we are talking about.  




I like what you say here. Very interesting. Hate to be a buzz kill though and have to mention DRAGONFORCE in this thread, but they gotta really quick guitar player in HERMAN LI. That guy is the fastest I've ever heard. It's Malmsteen on speed.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote timbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2013 at 03:17
As many have said, if virtuosity simply means "look how fast I can play", then it has no place in any music.
 
If virtuosity is about having a technical command of your instrument, so you can use it to capture the feel of the music and interpret it then yes, it is very important.
 
Technique must always be subverted to advance the music, not become the end in itself.
 
To take a possibly controversial example: for me, I prefer Tony Banks to Keith Emerson, because I feel his playing complements the music better. Keith probably has the better technqiue, but sometimes (not always) sounds like he is simply showing off the technique rather than trying to play musically.
 
I haven't read his book, but it seems to me that even the title of the book, "Pictures of an Exhibitionist" confirms that.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2013 at 11:20
^ Just go through a few last pages and you will find some interesting ideas from rogerthat and Tapfret regarding what virtuosity is.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2013 at 12:41
Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

^ Just go through a few last pages and you will find some interesting ideas from rogerthat and Tapfret regarding what virtuosity is.


Agreed, although Gerinski makes some great points as well. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Neelus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2013 at 13:52
Look at the humility on this guy's face during his chat with the audience (a guy considered by many to be a virtuoso in the blues world) regarding the company he is in.  That speaks volumes regarding what virtuosity is.  And listen to the band adapting from Eric's solo to Wynton's...fantastic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvNIivHdy0Q


Edited by Neelus - May 03 2013 at 14:08
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 04 2013 at 02:27
I would say that we can divide the musical talents in 2 big groups: what can be learnt and mastered by hard practice and what can not be learnt, you either have it or you don't, and some have it more than others.

Virtuosity in its wide definition is to me the set of everything which can be learnt and mastered by practice, and this includes not only speed but all the technical aspects of playing, expression, dynamics, precision, range (in instruments where the range depends on the player's ability such as several wind instruments), mastering of all the different scales and keys and transitions between them (which allow the musician to be strong at improvisations) etc.
A musician mastering all these techniques is to me a virtuoso, and he will be able to impress any audience with his performance.

But besides all the techniques which can be learnt, there are things which can not be learnt, some musicians have the talent and others not. Some will have the ability to come up with melodies, riffs, arpeggios, progressions or harmonies which will be particularly beautiful, surprising, original or impressive, even if not particularly technically challenging in any respect. Also the vision of when to use which technique is very important. No matter how hard I study and practice, I may be able to play wonderfully well but I may never have the inspiration to play something truly interesting. 

Two different musicians may improvise on the same theme, one of them may be technically superior but he may lack that inspiration or originality, while the other, while being less technically competent may come up with a more exciting and rewarding improvisation.
Of course the more technique you have, the more it helps to minimize your lacks in inspiration.

As an analogy, in the painting world a hyper-realist master is an impressive virtuoso, but honestly taking an image from the real world and painting a perfect copy-paste of it does not take any inspiration from the artist, only technique.

So bottom line, both are important, but it is also true that music which is just beautiful or inspired but does not have any technical aspect (e.g. just some beautiful melody and harmony) will in most cases not be considered Prog.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote JediJoker7169 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 04 2013 at 04:35
Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity in its wide definition is to me the set of everything which can be learnt and mastered by practice, and this includes not only speed but all the technical aspects of playing, expression, dynamics, precision, range (in instruments where the range depends on the player's ability such as several wind instruments), mastering of all the different scales and keys and transitions between them (which allow the musician to be strong at improvisations) etc.

That, to me, is actually a pretty narrow definition.  In the Classical world, virtuosi are so called not just for their technical prowess, but for their emotionality and, in some cases--such as Baroque ornamentation or an unwritten cadenza--improvisation (which is arguably/demonstrably a learned skill, but not all great musicians are even good, let alone great, improvisers).  Why should these qualities be considered unimportant to the complete Rock virtuoso/a?  It could even be argued that improvisatory skill is of more use and therefore more important to a Rock musician than a Classical musician (but clearly not as important as to a Jazz musician).


Edited by JediJoker7169 - May 04 2013 at 04:44
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 04 2013 at 06:02
Originally posted by JediJoker7169

Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity in its wide definition is to me the set of everything which can be learnt and mastered by practice, and this includes not only speed but all the technical aspects of playing, expression, dynamics, precision, range (in instruments where the range depends on the player's ability such as several wind instruments), mastering of all the different scales and keys and transitions between them (which allow the musician to be strong at improvisations) etc.

That, to me, is actually a pretty narrow definition.  In the Classical world, virtuosi are so called not just for their technical prowess, but for their emotionality and, in some cases--such as Baroque ornamentation or an unwritten cadenza--improvisation (which is arguably/demonstrably a learned skill, but not all great musicians are even good, let alone great, improvisers).  Why should these qualities be considered unimportant to the complete Rock virtuoso/a?  It could even be argued that improvisatory skill is of more use and therefore more important to a Rock musician than a Classical musician (but clearly not as important as to a Jazz musician).
Well, then your definition is wider than mine. In your definition only those who have it all (technical skills and by that not meaning only speed) AND genius inspiration are virtuosi, and that's fine for me.

'Emotionality' is a tricky word, to a great extent it can be learnt and mastered by practice, and it is one of the aspects most pursued by classical musicians, a lot can be achieved just by hard practice but it's true that once reached some point, you can not get any further by pure technical practice and those who have that bit more of genuine emotionality stand out in the end.

But inspiration in the musical phrases, harmonies, etc is something which does not depend on training, nearly at all. Some people have the ability to come up with beautiful music without having much musical education. Others are technically very proficient but lack that innate ability. Sure technique always helps, but down bottom you can just not learn that, no matter how hard you study and practice.
I was just trying to make a difference between the 2 aspects and defining 'virtuosi' as those who master all the learnable aspects, compared to those who have the inspiration but possibly little technique. 

Many would call all the 'Mike Varney school' guitarists such as Tony MacAlpine or Vinnie Moore guitar virtuosi, but several of them fall into the category of technically outstanding guitarists but with little inspiration. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote King Crimson776 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 05 2013 at 23:33
Virtuosity is a means to an end. If it is not present, the possibilities diminish greatly. Perhaps a computer can eventually play everything adequately, but that time has not yet come.
"It's music, and I like it" - Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dr wu23 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2013 at 23:41
Originally posted by rogerthat

Originally posted by pitfall




Could you please give me some examples of these frequent occasions when Howe's electric playing sounds jarring? I've never come across it myself.
I find it difficult to accept that you have ever really listened to his playing!


Eh, any number of his faster leads with Yes but CTTE if you want one example.  Please read what I said with context - though I didn't specify it, I was comparing his approach with Hackett. Yes, compared to Hackett, I do find Howe's electric playing pretty jarring, the more so as he gets faster while Hackett is very smooth and makes me oblivious to how fast he might be playing. 
 
I was thinking about Howe's leads and his playing just yesterday and I agree with you that Hackett and others are much 'smoother' and more melodic at times. There are leads by Howe here and there on all the best known lp's by Yes that sound 'jarring ' to me also...but it fits somehow with their overall approach.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Morsenator Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2013 at 02:16
Originally posted by Gerinski

I would say that we can divide the musical talents in 2 big groups: what can be learnt and mastered by hard practice and what can not be learnt, you either have it or you don't, and some have it more than others.

Virtuosity in its wide definition is to me the set of everything which can be learnt and mastered by practice, and this includes not only speed but all the technical aspects of playing, expression, dynamics, precision, range (in instruments where the range depends on the player's ability such as several wind instruments), mastering of all the different scales and keys and transitions between them (which allow the musician to be strong at improvisations) etc.
A musician mastering all these techniques is to me a virtuoso, and he will be able to impress any audience with his performance.

Having played classical music and studied its theory for some ten years (on amateur/semi-pro level), I think one of its greatest benefits to rock/prog side of things (besides the obvious stuff like knowing scales, time signatures, tempo changes etc.) is a real understanding of dynamics. It is easy (after practicing really hard for some years) for almost anyone to compose and play for example a fast, loud guitar solo based on scales and whatever. But to play the same solo with expression, producing every note exactly like you mean it should be, using a wide amount of different dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo if necessary and not just one or two, that is in my opinion a big part of what makes a virtuoso player. I think this is an important aspect in almost any style of music. Many rockers don't even understand the difference between mezzopiano and mezzoforte (soundwise), let alone the more subtle aspects of dynamical playing.

Btw sorry if this was said elsewhere, I kind of got lost in this thread somewhere between pages three and four.. Big smile


Edited by Morsenator - May 07 2013 at 02:19
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Post Options Post Options   Quote twosteves Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2013 at 08:40
Originally posted by dr wu23

Originally posted by rogerthat

Originally posted by pitfall




Could you please give me some examples of these frequent occasions when Howe's electric playing sounds jarring? I've never come across it myself.
I find it difficult to accept that you have ever really listened to his playing!


Eh, any number of his faster leads with Yes but CTTE if you want one example.  Please read what I said with context - though I didn't specify it, I was comparing his approach with Hackett. Yes, compared to Hackett, I do find Howe's electric playing pretty jarring, the more so as he gets faster while Hackett is very smooth and makes me oblivious to how fast he might be playing. 
 
I was thinking about Howe's leads and his playing just yesterday and I agree with you that Hackett and others are much 'smoother' and more melodic at times. There are leads by Howe here and there on all the best known lp's by Yes that sound 'jarring ' to me also...but it fits somehow with their overall approach.
--

for me jarring is the wrong word --but I do know what you mean--his playing is more chunky (and funky) and guitarly if you will, where Hackett is coming up with his own smooth guitar sound---what I love about real artists like these two--is you give them a paint brush (the guitar) and they both paint in the same genre (prog) and they come up with completely different masterpiece's. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2013 at 10:38
Originally posted by dr wu23

Originally posted by rogerthat

Originally posted by pitfall




Could you please give me some examples of these frequent occasions when Howe's electric playing sounds jarring? I've never come across it myself.
I find it difficult to accept that you have ever really listened to his playing!


Eh, any number of his faster leads with Yes but CTTE if you want one example.  Please read what I said with context - though I didn't specify it, I was comparing his approach with Hackett. Yes, compared to Hackett, I do find Howe's electric playing pretty jarring, the more so as he gets faster while Hackett is very smooth and makes me oblivious to how fast he might be playing. 
 
I was thinking about Howe's leads and his playing just yesterday and I agree with you that Hackett and others are much 'smoother' and more melodic at times. There are leads by Howe here and there on all the best known lp's by Yes that sound 'jarring ' to me also...but it fits somehow with their overall approach.


Maybe because it provides a good contrast with the otherwise 'happy' sound of Yes.  And it's not as if he is not melodic but something in the execution gives an effect that I find jarring.  Fripp probably sounds smoother while playing harsh stuff.  And it's not as if I find it terribly flawed, pitfall just quoted me out of context.
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