The Friday Informer: The Technology Will Kill Us All

The Friday Informer: The Technology Will Kill Us All

Tirade of the Week: Beware!

How dangerous our descent into technological madness! So mind your kpbs.

While I was out, it seems that I missed some material. Apologies for the oversight, but blogging without a vacation is dangerous stuff.

On the national stage this week, most eyes were on the candidates, and while the candidates’ eyes were sometimes crying, the audience’s ears were assaulted with some Psych 101 music manipulation all their own. Just know that the audience could have protested if they had wanted to, so we’re going to just go ahead and assume that U2 tracks are the tunes they want to vote by.

Speaking of civil disobedience, if you’ve never been a contender or you’ve never gotten the respect you deserve for your ability to rock out on the accordion, you don’t have to take it anymore. Personally, I’m wondering about the crossover potential between our Hollywood stars and our classical music icons. Throw in some CGI and a good make-up man, and who knows what kind of havoc a hack director might wreak, no?

Meanwhile across the pond, the prim and proper tweedy folk are flaunting their edgy book covers and playing their crazy classical dancing music till all hours. Maybe it takes an American pop star to sell out the Brits musical heritage, but it looks like when the horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding in, they’re going to be mounted on the Internet, listening to bands on Myspace.

Seriously, we’re on a slippery slope here, and if you thought that thing about the British composer, the soap opera star, and her Facebook revenge wasn’t getting us close to scrapping bottom, you probably haven’t read her blog yet.

And that’s not even taking the you-thought-it-couldn’t-happen Conductor Reality T.V. into consideration. So good luck out there folks. And keep an eye on your IP address.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

7 thoughts on “The Friday Informer: The Technology Will Kill Us All

  1. Chris Becker

    “…That standard is roughly a fifth an eleventh of what you can get on a CD, and you’ll notice immediately if you burn the Shostakovich (or anything else) to disc. But whatever. So far, I can tell you that it sounds just fine when listened to on a computer…”

    i.e. it sounds like sh*t.

    Thank you, thank you, David Lynch.

  2. William Osborne

    There are three fairly common media players used for the web: Quicktime, Windows Media Player, and Real Player. I use a lot of audio and video files on my website, so I have compared all three for quality and characteristics — at least informally.

    For sound, I prefer Windows Media Player. To my ears, it provides the most neutral compression, and the files are very good at 128k/sec. Real Player seems to stress mid-range frequencies, which is good for things like spoken word interviews or news casts, but poor for instrumental music. Real Player makes the trombone, for example, sound tinny because it stresses too many of the instruments mid and high range frequencies.

    On the other hand, I prefer the video compression of Real Player over Windows Media. Real Player dulls the colors somewhat in comparison to Windows Media, but WM leaves the images much more pixilated that RP.

    Quicktime seems to offer a combination of both good sound and video, but so far, I have not figured out all of its programming idiosyncrasies, so it is harder for me to judge it. In my view, the sound of QT is NOT better than Windows Media Player – in spite of the many claims by Mac fans.

    Real Player has a very useful feature not included in QT or WM. You can program start points in the middle of a file. This is very useful, for example, if you have a series of movements in a work and you want to allow the website visitor the option of skipping to any movement they might like to hear. Another plus for RP is that it is the most platform neutral of the three. WM is Microsoft biased, and QT Mac biased. Real Player is a system that both platforms can use with few conflicts. I would like to use RP more for that reason, but as noted, the sound quality often just doesn’t sound right.

    Windows media video has an advantage, because You Tube accepts WM, but not QT or RP. That can be handy if you want to mirror your files on You Tube. Another observation: I have noticed that a lot of Mac users do not want to install Windows Media Player on their system, so I am starting to include QT files on my site. As an option, one can upload WM files to You Tube for Mac folks, because the You Tube format is independent of any media player.

    I wonder what others might think about these three players, or about mp3 files played on other players like WinAmp.

    In general, I do not like the low quality of compressed sound. I have started recording and editing all of my works with DVD-A 5.1 surround sound, which allows for six channels of uncompressed 24 bit 48kHz sound. The quality is astounding. And the LFE filter allows for a kind of punch almost impossible in any other format (at least if you have the software to edit a really good LFE track.) It is also great to be able to independently control the levels of all six channels. It’s unfortunate that the DVD-A format is not catching on.

    William Osborne

  3. Chris Becker

    “…I can tell you that it sounds just fine when listened to on a computer…”

    I posted this excerpt from Marc’s writing to draw some sharp contrast between what David Lynch is saying in the YouTube video and the sort of passive acceptance of inferior fidelity that many music writers (and composers) perpetuate. The whole notion that a streaming broadcast “sounds just fine when listened to on a computer” struck me as incredibly ironic.

    I realize that Molly is just putting together a silly collection of links for the end of the week and isn’t trying to make any deep points in her column. But I also love and respect Lynch’s work and feel like taking a piss out of him is actually taking a piss out of anyone who just might agree with this “rant.” Of course, I’m being too sensitive (I’m not being snarky – I realize I am being touchy here…). But we composers are settling for less and less – when it comes to money, recognition and sound fidelity – in spite of the supposed “advances” in technology that are supposed to help us in these three areas. I connect an acceptance of inferior fidelity with passivity. Or maybe just ignorance.

    Hoping this is helpful to Marc who emailed me to say he found my initial post “confusing.”

  4. William Osborne

    Haven’t we musicians always accepted shortcomings in the fidelity of recordings? 78rpms, LPs, cassettes, and CDs all have weaknesses, though there was a steady rate of improvement in each new form.

    It’s true we have taken a step back in fidelity with the current super-compressed digital formats, but for good reason, at least in the case of the Internet. Now we can make our recordings available to listeners without the obstruction of the gatekeepers in the recording industry and other functionaries of the music world. As a result, my music is reaching a lot more people – about 300 sound file listeners and 150 video file watchers last month with the numbers steadily rising. For classical new music, those numbers aren’t all that bad.

    But I agree. The quality is poor. Hopefully the bandwidth of the web will continue to increase, so that we can have both fidelity AND audiences.

    William Osborne

  5. Chris Becker

    “…my music is reaching a lot more people – about 300 sound file listeners and 150 video file watchers last month with the numbers steadily rising. For classical new music, those numbers aren’t all that bad.”

    But what exactly does that translate into when it comes to survival as a composer? Are those sound file listeners buying your CDs or DVDs? Are they coming to your concerts (do you produce concerts of your own music as a result of all this online activity).

    Do those “steadily rising” numbers translate into less people actually buying music or tickets to shows?

    I have a lot of skepticism when it comes to the Internet and “new” technology that is supposed to help out composers. Online listeners and a lot of spam in my Inbox doesn’t really translate into my being able to produce more music. The fuel for my projects comes from other resources outside of this world of blogs and irritable posters (like me).

    We are in a time of transition. I would just ask that composers look at the technology around us – both old and new – as choices.

    And that’s it. No more posts for me.

  6. William Osborne

    I’ve rejected the model of trying to make money by selling CDs. I think very few contemporary classical composers make much money that way. Perhaps a telling example (though I am sketchy on the details) is how CRI shutdown. The group that took up its library just burns single CDs on demand. In my view, CDs are an anachronism. (These days, they seem to function mostly as a something like business cards.) The model I employ is to use my website to create profile, which is very useful for one’s career in many different ways. Let them experience your music on the web. If they like it enough, there will be opportunities for making money, most likely concerts, residencies, and teaching positions. We even get sponsorship from a large instrument company.

    In the last 12 years, for example, I have had complete concerts of my music in about 140 cities in Europe and America. (They are listed on my website. There could be many more if I wanted to devote the time to performing, but it takes too much time away from composing.) I work closely with my wife who performs my music. Our website averages 350 to 400 visitors a day and greatly increases our public exposure and keeps us in the loop, so to speak. When we set up tours, this public exposure helps draw invitations because presenters see that we have an active voice in the musical community (though we do not focus on the new music crowd.) Potential hosts can also thoroughly check out our work, download publicity materials, etc. The visits to our site translate into more invitations and larger publics for our concerts.

    My latest project is writing works directly for the web which I call E-Melodies. So far these include 27 short works entitled “Memos for Piano.” I think it is mistaken for most musicians of our sort to think of websites as money-making operations. They are publicity devices. In this media age, publicity is everything. Just ask Jeff Koons.

    Of course, this does not mean a website is a simple key to success. You have to have good stuff on it that people want to experience. It’s too early to know for certain where all of this will lead. And in any case, I am not much of a careerist.

    William Osborne


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.