6/15/15

Thoughts on Music #21 (David Byrne)

David Byrne. Photo: Catalina Kulczar.
"...Throughout the history of recorded music, we have tended to value convenience over quality every time. Edison cylinders didn't really sound as good as live performers, but you could carry them around and play them whenever you wanted. LPs, revolving slower, didn't sound as rich as 45s or 78s, but you didn't have to attend to them as much. And cassettes? Are you kidding? We were told that CDs would last forever and sound squeaky clean, but they really don't sound as good as LPs, and the jury is out regarding their durability. The spectrum of sound on analog mediums has an infinite number of gradations, whereas in the digital world everything is  sliced into a finite number of slivers. Slivers and bits might fool the ear into believing that they represent a continuous audio spectrum (psychoacoustics at work), but by nature they are still ones and zeros; steps rather than a smooth slope. MP3s? They may be the most convenient medium so far, but I can't help thinking that the psychoacoustic trickery used to develop them - the ability to cause the mind to think that all the musical information is there when in reality a huge percentage has been removed - is a continuation of this trend in which we are seduced by convenience. It's music in pill form, it delivers vitamins, it does the job, but something is missing. We are often offered, and gladly accept, convenient mediums that are "good enough" rather than ones that are actually better."
-David Byrne. 2013. How Music Works, Edinburgh: Canongate, p. 131.

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