Wednesday, February 21, 2007

woah, this program on BBC2 was pretty awesome, covering the labaratory-like environs of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, full of people with white overcoats producing music that at the time must have seemed totally alien-like. The bits about the origins of the Dr Who theme and Delia Derbyshire were obviously gonna feature heavily, but what was equally interesting is how the program linked what was going on in the Workshop to the primitive electronics stuff going on around that time too - The White Noise (featuring Derbyshire), Silver Apples, United States of America, and music concrete. Some hilarious appearances by Sonic Boom (looking stoned, or does he just look like that all the time?) and the Ghost Box people.
Inevitably, one of the remaining members of the Worshop pointed out comparisons in the size of equipment in relation to today. While the huge synthesisers and patch bays took up whole rooms when stacked together, a teenager can produce most of these sounds now in a laptop. I guess this also links to the age of the iPod, in which you can Shuffle songs, taking them totally out of context - something I can never get used to. I still like to listen to albums from start to end - and so do All Tomorrow's Parties, evidently - but with the Shuffle function, an album or collection of disparate songs can be played in any order at all. The other impact of the predominance of mp3s and downloading is that, as David Bowie said recently, music will become as common as running water - whereas just 20 years ago you had to go into a record shop and breathlessly buy your vinyl at the counter (or listen to John Peel on the radio). You can still do that, of course - apart from the bit about Peel, obviously - but I guess the novelty will wear off if you can easily download it for free, and with music in such cheap, plentiful supply...on the other hand, this democratisation of music is pretty DIY in a punk kinda way, if you think about it - it certainly pisses off the major labels. It's never been easier to make your own music.
I suppose labels will have to be more inventive with their packaging to lure customers, which is something Constellation Records have obviously picked up on - their albums are always amazingly designed.

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