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What's the point of music without originality?


dohhhhh6

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Hey guys, I've refridgerator's been running rather philosophically lately.

 

Here's the recent buzz in the brain: what's the point of music if you're not contributing something original? I mean, a lot of people play music to express themselves. So if you're not saying something that hasn't already been said before, what's the point? You're being repetitive and you're wasting others' time.

 

But I'll play the devil's advocate on my own arguement. Some people play music to have fun. Playing covers is the easiest way to A) get paid, B) have people like you and C) enjoy playing music. And afterall, not everything is about progress, it's about having fun, and playing unoriginal music that infects the audience is still certainly does that.

 

I'm not trying to say one thing is right or one is wrong or pick a fight, I'm simply asking you to join in on a deep question that I myself have been pondering. What's your take?

 

Enjoy,

LadY

In Skynyrd We Trust
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I see where you're coming from. I too think that music should have a splash of originality in it, though I'm not necessarily saying it should be a new groundbreaking kind of music. I just think we as musicians should strive to renew ourselves along with our music, and try to be open to new things and think "What can I do differently on this tune?"

 

My 2 cents... (Which means I'm yet another 2 cents poorer)

Current set-up:

 

Ibanez SR3005 into a Mesa WalkAbout head with a Mesa 2x10 Powerhouse

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

What if the music sounds nice and expresses emotions?

 

Isn't that enough?

+1 :thu:

 

I think that most of us wrestle with this issue at sometime (or even from time to time).

 

Originality, in my opinion, can only be a personal decision and one should not project one's desire for or ambivalence towards "original" musical expression on others.It is a pointless excercise that only serves to drive wedges between us.

 

After all how should one define originallity? Is something only "original if it is totally "new", unheard of before? I posit that in music/art that is virtually impossible. Can something be considered "original" if it is a unique approach to something that has been done before?

 

You see merely attempting to define "Original" is subjective and thus devisive.

 

My personal opinion is that we should each strive to be the best we can be at whatever is important to us. That approach is more likely to allow us the opprotunity to find our own "voice" onnthe instrument and thus whether we are playing something original or not we will be able to "make it our own" and thus something unique.

 

I believe that it was Duke Ellington who said that "there are only two types of music, good music and that other kind." Music is a big universe and there is room for all of us.Those who are happy with covering and/or re-interrpeting existing music as well as those who feel compelled to create something "new" and everything in between!

 

Each time you pick up your instrument, revel in the joy of playing! Everything else just gets in the way.

 

Cheers!

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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Baby always needs a new pair of shoes, and that ends up killing a lot of artistic integrity. I recall a Joni Mitchell lyric about "artists in noble poverty, going like virgins to the grave". Well, I'd rather make a living playing music than what I currently do for a living, so I guess I actually sold out anyway...

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

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Even when I play a cover, there's something original about the way i play it. Nobody will ever sound exactly the same (be it for good or bad :P ).

 

To me, music is about music for music's sake.

 

I love to listen to it, and I love to play it.

 

I think I probably get more satisfaction when playing original music with my band, but there are many covers that certainly stir some emotion too.

 

:thu:

 

It's all good ;)

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There is a time and place for being "original" and not everyone has the ability to be that creative. As mentioned by Luke, we all are original to some degree no matter what you are doing. But to produce something significantly original, one must be in a certain mindset, either relaxed from your environment or totally in tune with it.

 

It is very hard if you are caught inbetween, which in my busy life that is where I usually find myself, caught inbetween with too many distractions. At least that is my take.

 

As far as the question at hand. Are we wasting our time if we are not doing anything original? I say no, but only to a certain degree. It can and needs to evolve. Rock n Roll follows a pattern. Country music follows a pattern, etc. It works, but they do need to evolve or come full circle from time to time. That pattern does occur and occurs for a reason.

 

Originality is good, but we are all creatures of habit.

"Some people are like "slinkies". They're not really good for anything;

but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a

flight of stairs."

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Maybe we are more "original" than what we think. If you substitute the word "unique" for the word "original", maybe you'll see my point. We are all bass players (I'm making a broad assumption here.. :) ), and I will guarantee each and every one of us has our own "musical fingerprint" so to say. Between our tone, technique, how we feel the time and groove, etc., we are all "original" in our own way. If I asked ten bass players to sit in with my band and play "Mustang Sally", key of C.. I'd bet I would hear ten different interpretations... and I would bet most of them would sound just fine..

 

I have YET to listen to another bass player who plays, sounds, and feels it like I do... and I'm no technical wizard or chops monster either. Yet in my own way, maybe I have a bit of "originality" in the way I play...

 

Food for thought... :)

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Music without origionality is just hitting play on your cd player. If it's coming from your hands there's some origionality to it, even if you are note for note accurate and timing and groove are perfect. The song was sure as heck origional until you got to that point, and the people that recorded it probably aren't playing that way (or perfect)live anyway.

 

Remember right before you started playing and you heard something and said to yourself, "man I wish I could play that"? Well, that moved you right? Got your blood a-bubblin'? Sometimes you play "unorigional" music because you like it, and it sounds good. That's the point.

If you think my playing is bad, you should hear me sing!
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Originality comes in two forms...

 

By how you interpret and perform music which someone else has composed, and/or by performing your own original compositions.

 

A highly expressive and interpretive performance of a Willie Dixon or Robert Johnson blues song, for example, is no less original or expressive, than a band performing one of it's own songs.

 

Was Jimi Hendrix not being creative when he re-interpreted Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower'?!

 

Of course he was! More so than a lot of orignal compositions you will hear performed, in my opinion.

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Music, as any other form of art, is one of the few things in life that you do without any other purpose than doing it. So, the point of art is art itself.

 

Now, recording or selling music, or making a living out of it, is another thing. Then originality might be an essential part of your "value proposition". And then again it depends of the market you are shooting for. Originality in classical - or any other "répertoire" music (such as jazz maybe? - that could be a topic of discussion: has Jazz become solely "répertoire" music?) is somehow different than originality in pop music or in contemporary music. Originality might not be the thing that would help you sell your recording of the Bach cello suites (although I am still waiting for an integral on fretless bass...) or of jazz standards.

The other thing about originality is that it is always relative to a given state of knowledge. For example people who don't know much about some kind of music might believe (as they are being told by journalists and/or marketing people) that the latest group X or musican Y is "very original", although those who actually know something about the music see that there is nothing new there (does not mean it is not good though). Or, and this is probably less common, people might have to have a really deep understanding of some musical idiom or tradition to understand how original an artist really is, while others would miss it. For example, the person who buy only one jazz record a decade might think that Diana Krall is a really original Jazz musician. Another one, more familiar with the genre, might argue convincingly that she does nothing that has ever been done before. It's all a matter of packaging. Finally, someone who really knows this shit might be able to demonstrate that in fact she really does a lot things that are totally her own. Who knows? and, who cares?

 

My point is that originality can hardly be an attribute of the music itself. It is always related to the audience or the market.

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When I sit down and play, what I play is driven by several factors, including:

 

- My personal style (or, in my case, extreme lack thereof)

 

- My bag o' chops (or, in my case, extreme lack thereof)

 

- My emotional/physical state at that moment

 

- Whether or not I like the artist

 

- Whether or not I like the song

 

- My familiarity with the material

 

Since all of these factors will almost certainly not completely match those of the original, what I produce will be unique to me. It may not be good, but it will be unique.

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This applies to many things in life, what we are, how we act, etc. The really applies to music more than anything.

 

"We are a product of our influences."

 

Thus, no artistic idea is truly origional. When man first discovered music he probably heard a nut fall on a hollow log and thought, "I like that sound, I'm going to hit that log and make the same sound." A little later, he noticed that if he hits the log in a different place the sound changed, and on it went... He saught out exotic logs, and hard to find nuts and stones to hit them with, thus GAS was created. That's another story though.

If you think my playing is bad, you should hear me sing!
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The number of bass players out there who write all the material that they play is very small.

 

Most of the time you are playing someone else's music....whether it is a cover tune or whether it is written by someone else in the band.

 

Sometimes we play the part which is given to us by the songwriter or which is present on the recording and sometimes we make up something different.

 

Most of the time what we play is not truly original: it is a synthesis of other things we have heard and played before.

 

There's nothing wrong with that.

 

If you don't get joy out of playing music with people and joy of playing music for other people and need some other justification to be satisfied with what you are doing, you will have a long, lonely life as a musician.

 

Not that there is anything wrong with that either.

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Originally posted by butcherNburn:

Music without origionality is just hitting play on your cd player. If it's coming from your hands there's some origionality to it, even if you are note for note accurate and timing and groove are perfect. The song was sure as heck origional until you got to that point, and the people that recorded it probably aren't playing that way (or perfect)live anyway.

 

Remember right before you started playing and you heard something and said to yourself, "man I wish I could play that"? Well, that moved you right? Got your blood a-bubblin'? Sometimes you play "unorigional" music because you like it, and it sounds good. That's the point.

Well said, amigo. That's exactly why I got started trying to play music at the age of 40. I've tried make something up original, but it was beyond awful; even my dog scratched at the door trying to get out.

 

 

www.ethertonswitch.com

 

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My cover musical work lets others appreciate just how well the original artist did it and how badly it could have gone.

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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You can never step in the same river twice.

 

The musical experience will always be different, if only the frame of reference is large enough. Even playing the same CD over and over, each progressive listening of the music changes it within my mind. Different times of day, temperature, moods, and more. Different volumes, environments, arrangements, inflections, tempos, and more.

 

All of these make the music new and "original" each time it's heard, as long as the listener or performer is willing to accept all the new parameters.

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My current band is a cover band. I couldn't care less. One thing we don't do is try to be "sound alikes" or a "tribute band". We put our own stamp on the tunes we do and while we don't make them un-recognizable, we DO take some liberties.

 

I've also been part of a song writer duo in an original band. That was fun too.

 

Hey, it's ALL good! :)

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Da LadY In Tha Pink Dress:

Hey guys, I've refridgerator's been running rather philosophically lately.

 

Here's the recent buzz in the brain: what's the point of music if you're not contributing something original? I mean, a lot of people play music to express themselves. So if you're not saying something that hasn't already been said before, what's the point? You're being repetitive and you're wasting others' time.

 

But I'll play the devil's advocate on my own arguement. Some people play music to have fun. Playing covers is the easiest way to A) get paid, B) have people like you and C) enjoy playing music. And afterall, not everything is about progress, it's about having fun, and playing unoriginal music that infects the audience is still certainly does that.

 

I'm not trying to say one thing is right or one is wrong or pick a fight, I'm simply asking you to join in on a deep question that I myself have been pondering. What's your take?

 

Enjoy,

LadY

Wasn't originality outlawed a few years ago? At some point a musical idea is original, then it is absorbed into the musical vocabulary . Look how many times various songs are covered.As a bass player,I play the chart,what is expected.As an artist, I developed my own voice for bass guitar and no one sounds like that. Does the average listener notice or care? The music either works for them or it doesn't.

 

More people can get involved and make money and "live the dream" when the bar is lowered. Why not just copy someone else's formula if it works,right? Unique artists are far and few between and then they are all too hard to deal with . :D My cell phone sounds pretty good when it rings,lots of feeling and emotion-who needs new ideas?

JMHO- it is an Artist's job to progress and not be another copy of a copy.There are many Jaco clones.

 

Music is such a personal thing.It has many functions.Does music have to have a point? I think that if you want to be a fresh ,original sounding artist, then originality is the point.

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Good points made all around so far!

 

I'm with basshappi on this one: it's all been done before. The thing is, with music we have the "luxury" of only a century's worth of recorded music to compete with; visual artists have to compete with "recorded" art that goes back to cave drawings. (Yes, there are written compositions that go back a few more centuries, but still that's just a drop in the bucket.) If you limit yourself to Elvis as a starting point, you only have a handful of decades to deal with. Even less if you start with The Beatles.

 

This is roughly the path I journeyed: (1) learn how to make decent sounds, (2) learn simple songs (e.g., "Mary Had a Little Lamb") note-for-note from standard notation, (3) learn popular songs by ear, (4) learn improv and apply that to nearly everything I played, (5) realize anybody can put three chords together and started writing, (6) analyze my and others' creative efforts and compare, (7) realize that no matter how unique/original I try to be I can't escape re-inventing what someone before me has already written, (8) come to terms with being "original", (9) appreciate playing all music that "sounds nice and expresses emotions" (as Jeremy put it).

 

The real downer was a jam session two weeks ago with a guitarist that probably knows 10x the songs I do. We set out to write an original, and at every chord change it was "no, that's just like such-and-such song", "that's so overdone", "that's such a cliche".

 

For years, "originality" came from making new sounds. The electric guitar put a lot of wind instruments out to pasture in popular music. The '80s topped it off with synthesizers: you no longer had to make some new physical instrument or electronic device to produce a new sound.

 

Now with hip-hop, recordings themselves have become the sound and the instrument is the turntable (or sampler/looper).

 

Anyway, it can still be exciting to try to write the next big "hit" song. I'm not saying we should all give up striving to be original and just play covers from here to eternity. The "I found a new sound" well seems to have dried up for the time being, so unless we start using 12-tone rows in popular music we're going to have to live with the musical dead end we're currently in.

 

Just for comparison, consider the claim that all modern literature/plays/films can be viewed as simply rehashing something Shakespeare wrote centuries ago. Does that stop anybody from writing?

 

Oh, and some people don't mind leaving things the way they are. Consider the birthday song, for example. Would you expect people to sing anything else when it comes time to blow out your candles?

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I think there's people that have different prioirties, and that's what dictates what they consider important.

 

-Melody

-Rhythm

-Uniqueness

-Appeal

-Challenge

 

 

There's many bass player who will sacrifice melody for challenge. They will write their line based on what will "look cool", what will impress people.

 

There's many bass players who will sacrifice melody for rhythm. aka Fieldy (from Korn)... Fieldy's lines are uniquely based on his muted, fake slapped fifth string, which does not really emit any sound, just a rhythm

 

There are bass players who will sacrifice rythm for melody. Those who will play very beautiful lines, that are not interesting in any way because of how little groove they have to them

 

There are those who will sacrifice everything for challenge. Everyone (who is not a great bass player) who learnt the victor wooten double thumb slap double pop at some point implemented it by just playing octaves, which was challenging, but not unique or original or melodic... maybe a bit rhythmic...

 

There are those who will sacrifice melody and rhythm for uniqueness. Those who will play extremely syncopated and non grooving rhythms just to get a unique line, or those who will write songs in f13/14ths just because no one has ever done it before (or maybe they have and i dont know a bout it)

 

 

Finally, appeal.... its what everything else gets sacrificed the most for. Being radio friendly is the one thing everyone seems to look for nowadays. To some, it has gotten to the point to where what they want to play is not as important as what people want to hear. I think we all have a target audience for what we play, but i dont think we should base our music ONLY on what other people think...its obvious we always (at least subconciously) want to please some audience... i just dont think that should be the driving principle..

 

 

As you can see, i think there are several sacrifices you make as a bass player... personally, i think the 2 i sacrifice the most are sacrifice and appeal...

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Hey Lady, why don't we try looking at this from something of a historical point of view? Say the classical school?

 

For the sake of the conversation, let's talk about Beethoven's 5th symphony. The opening to the first movement is probably the most famous grouping of 4 notes in music. The thing is, Beethoven has been dead since 1827, and most of the musicians who played in his orchestras have certainly been dead almost as long. But does that make his music irrelevent by virtue of the fact that the composer and sometimes conductor, along with the musicians who played it for him are not around to perform those compositions anymore? The simple answer is no. But then we get into the really interesting question. Why?

 

The why part is tougher to explain, but it can be pretty simple to understand. Is Beethoven's 5th symphony any less compelling of a piece of music because he's not with us anymore? Certainly not. There are great orchestras all over the world that still perform this piece. Some of them offer different interpretations of this particular symphony. Recent history shows that one of the most lauded versions of this piece was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as conducted by Sir Georg Solti. I have a recording of it and it's fantastic. But they didn't compose it. So? It still doesn't diminish the composition or the orchestra's efforts. Playing pieces like this can be extremely challenging. So I will never be one to rail against these ensembles for performing a fantastic symphony like Beethoven's 5th.

 

Now how does this apply to band's playing covers? Loosely. But it's generally the same ethos. A cover band is playing work by another composer for an audience that wants to hear that music. The same as a classical audience that wants to hear Beethoven's 5th but can't wait for the dead to rise to perform it. Case in point, the Beatles will never perform again. Half of the band is no longer with us, but audiences want to hear that music. Cover bands can fill that demand. Will a cover band experience be the same as seeing the Beatles? For some people, yes. For others, not really.

 

Now, what about the musicians? What is the point for them? In the case of the classical musicians, it's about playing the composition with excellence as an ensemble. Along the way there is some interpretation. With a cover band the situation is actually quite similar. There may not be the schooling or discipline that's on par with the classical musician, but the same desired effect is there. To play the piece with excellence as an ensemble, and there's going to be some interpretation of the original piece along the way.

 

For some musicians, playing another artist's work is a satisfying state of affairs. That fills their needs. For other's it's not satisfying. If your artistic inclinations are not satisfied by playing someone else's material, then by all means go for it and work on your own material. Will it be easy? Not always. This is what turns a lot of other musicians off. Composition is not an easy process. Some songs just come to you, while others are so difficult that I've heard the songwriting process equated with childbirth. And then there's the inevitable criticism that comes along with your own written work. The guys in the cover band will never have to deal with writing criticisms if they play "Hey Jude" in their set.

 

I don't think the matter is completely cut and dry. People are playing music for their own reasons the world over. If you want to stick to originals, that's cool. But just because an orchestra plays material from a composer that's been dead for almost 200 years, it doesn't make their accomplishments any less signifigant.

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cool topic!

Bravo Nicklab, I totally agree...

 

There are components to music...content, delivery, etc... and sometimes you don't need to supply all of them to create beautiful music...you can supply one of them and leave the others to someone else...

 

On the other hand, if you are creating new music, originality is what puhes the craft further so its very important in that context...

 

rock on!

Aram

www.arambedrosian.com

solo bass madness

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Hello,

originality has certainly been killed off by money and the music business being turned into a "business" when rock got big. Record companies don't look for a band with a unique sound for the time. They look for a band that has the same exact sound and image as all the other music of that era that is popular. Look at how it is now, with emo and thrash metal. I'm not knocking these forms of music, but am saying that most of the music business has killed the drive to be different and have your own sound, while going through a new band that sounds like all the other bands that are popular every 5 minutes. It is said that those who are truly original in their sound and writing are never as successful as most big artists. There are exceptions (Rush, Primus, the Who, Zeppelin). Sorry I got off track. But I also think that you can still be original, even if kind of sound like someone else.

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nice post, Nicklab.

 

There seem to be a lot of people worrying about the state of the music industry. The industry does not compel you to play or not play anything or listen to anything. You make your own choices.

 

 

Let's get even more philosophical.

What would your answer be if the question was simplified to:

 

What is the point of music?

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Well, just FYI, the GP forum has already tackled this topic when ellwood posed the question (among others), "What if any is the value in playing cover songs?"

 

Now, people did get quite bent out of shape there, too. It boils down to an affront to musicians whose main focus is not composition, i.e. the old dig of "you're not a real musician if you don't write".

 

I eventually concluded that performing music was in itself an art, just like the dancer that performs the choreographer's moves, or the actor that reads lines from the playwright's script.

 

It's a little different for the performing arts as opposed to the fine arts of painting, sculpting, etc. In the world of fine arts you won't get very far as an artist if all you do is copy the works of others. Even the delightful collage is a topic of debate -- is it art? -- because it is a highly derivative work. (Compare to hip-hop's use of pre-recorded material in their derivative works, then imagine a song that is completely made from recording snippets and just stitched together by a studio engineer.)

 

The bottom line is that you can't apply the ideals of fine arts to performing arts. Nobody should question the dancer that is not a choreographer, nor the actor that is not a playwright, so why should we question the musician that is not a composer?

 

 

Jeremy, you may return to playing open E's and in the key of Bb (althought probably not at the same time). ;) Composers should feel free to use these too in their original compositions, even though they've been used before ad nauseum. Striving to be original and unique has its place, as does striving to be true to the original score/recording.

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Da Lady, obviously this question was taken as an affront by some forum members. However, I think it's a valid question. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I certainly prefer when those opinions are expressed in a mature and reasonable manner rather than with childish jabs and sarcasm, but that's entirely another issue altogether. Regardless, I'd suggest that you ignore those childish jabs and stick to your guns with what you believe is the right choice for you. If original creations are where your heart leads you, I think we as a bass community should lift you up rather than knock you down, but what do I know.

 

If you have something original, unique, whatever to say with your music, by all means dive into it. If you do it best by creating your own ideas, then by all means, don't hold back. Realize that taking the original approach is a much harder path to any sort of musical success than playing covers, and that's true of individual musicians as well as the whole group or band.

 

The point has been well-made that you can also inject originality into covers. This holds a lot of promise in many cases, and it's actually one of the things I really enjoy doing myself (ie. re-arranging some existing tune). This is a good way to take someone else's music and put your own identity on it. There are myriad's of examples of groups who have taken some old song that was good, and did it in a new way that was even better. And I definitely agree that the delivery is as much a creative element as the composition.

 

Playing covers does not indicate whether or not you are a good bassist or band in and of itself. Playing originals does not indicate this either, in and of itself. I should explicitly mention that I think there is a lot of value in learning covers, especially for younger bassists. You can take someone else's bassline and learn how and why they did it the way they did it. It's a great learning tool, IMHO.

 

Personally, I'm certainly glad that some percentage of the musician population has the creativity (10% of the requirement) and drive (90% of the requirement) to create new songs...otherwise, we'd have nothing to cover.

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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