Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That post below about music in the internet age has really made me think about how technology has progressed and times have moved on when it comes to playing music. Twenty years ago, CDs had been only just been released on the market, and the idea of having your entire CD collection (and record collection too, with new technology, such as this Vinyl Adaptor) on an iPod only marginally bigger than a mobile phone must have seemed unthinkable. My iPod has up to 120GB of space - an unbelievably large amount, and enough to store an entire record shop's worth. Exactly what format music will be consumed in in twenty years time can only be imagined.
As mentioned below, the downside of the current download culture is the ubiquity of music everywhere and the slow eradication of the idea of the album as a coherent, whole entity rather than a collection of disposable, individually downloadable tracks, thus chipping away at the traditional pre-internet era thrill of buying an album from a record shop. Of course, you can still physically go into a record shop and buy an album, but there's no doubt that download culture has seeped thoroughly into the music retail market. The other issue of downloading culture is sound quality, of course, including the omniscience of compression more and more, as Simon Reynolds points out in this article.
The same thoughts above about iPods containing entire record collections also applies to the making of music, and particularly relates to a band that I'm looking forward to seeing at this weekend's ATP at Butlins curated by Mike Patton and the Melvins. Along with Silver Apples and United States of America, The White Noise are one of the original primitive experimental electronic 'rock' outfits, the difference with those two acts being that White Noise were based in Britain (albeit with David Vorhaus being American in origin), and congregated around the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, enlisting Delia Derbyshire along the way. An Electric Storm, with its panned drumming, tape loops and jarring samples juxtaposed with sweet pop melodies, must have sounded completely alien when it first came out.
The idea that the painfully-constructed sounds emanating from these mysterious rooms full of enormous primitive electronics, tape and synthesiser machines in the BBC headquarters could one day be distilled down to that coming from a laptop must have seemed incredible in the 1960s, just as with the idea of entire record collections existing on a piece of software barely the size of a phone. Consumer technology has become smaller - nanoized, you could call it - and more powerful rather than simply becoming bigger, as predicted in much old sci-fi. The downside of easy-to-use software such as Garageband that can be used in laptops now, as opposed to the painstaking work that must have took place splicing tapes in the huge laboratory-like rooms during White Noise's time, makes me think that perhaps punk's mantra of 'anyone can do it' has finally come true, liberated by the progression of technology.

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