My wife’s gotten into playing the guitar lately, in a big way. She loves playing the thing. It does my heart good to see her dive into this thing with both feet.

But watching her go through this process, has got me to thinking about the physical relationship between music and those listening to it.

There is an addicting quality I think, to playing music. And frankly years ago there was a similar quality to listening to music. There was a physical relationship in both cases.

Things have changed, however.

Consider the idea that with vinyl records and to a somewhat lesser extent with tape, there was a physical action going on and there was an interaction between the listener and the material being listened to. There’s a record going around. There’s a tape in that machine that you can see being played. You had to put something there, you actually have possession and control of something that makes that sound. The equipment requires at least basic upkeep and a basic understanding to make those sounds. The maintenance and operations of such beasts is as much an art form as it is a science. There is a personal interaction at that level between you and the music.

With some more recent formats, say, CDs, and certainly with MP3s there’s nothing of the sort going on. There is no physical connection between the music being played and the listener. And it got me to thinking that maybe that’s part of the reason why music hasn’t been selling all that well lately. There’s no holding it in your hand, no watching it being played. No technical expertise required to make all that happen on the listener end.

(Say what you will about the quality of MP3s, I will likely agree…. but frankly that’s a discussion for another time.)

In the days of vinyl and whatnot there was a lot of listener input to the Hobby, if you will. That’s no longer true.

I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t a major reason why sales of music has been dropping off, and why high-end stereo stores aren’t doing well except for those engaging in sales of retro material and equipment….. The Resurgence of tape and vinyl.

Granted, the music isn’t what it used to be either. For the most part it’s been absolute crap for the last 20 years. But I’m starting to think that that’s only half the issue. And the Resurgence of tape and of vinyl records for home use speaks loudly to me that point.

But but you know, about that as well, so much of today’s music is being played on equipment and instruments that are as plug and play as the MP3 player.

Example:

It’s certainly a lot more costly, less dependable, and certainly more fragile to carry a Hammond B3 /Leslie 147 combination around on the road with you everywhere you go. So, most people simply carry the synthesized equivalent. And it’s simply does not sound the same.

Another example would be Auto-Tune. Does anybody record vocals without it anymore? In listening to the radio these days, one has to wonder.

For that matter radio is another example of what I’m talking about here. Years ago every music station that you listened to had very little if any automation, or at the very least it was quite primitive and required a lot of user input. (An exception might be Drake Cherault, and their beautiful music systems.)

Back when top 40 radio was King, you had one or two folks on at ll times who knew very very well how to run a manual live board. Not only was there an art form to running the equipment but there was also an art form to making the sound. Every mix on the air was done live, you used Records & Tapes. There was no holds barred Talent involved, there was a direct connection between the people on the air and the listener.

These days radio stations can run 24 hours a day without any human input at all. Every single element is pre-recorded, voice tracked, the mixdowns on-air between each element, are sloppy at best, the connection between the broadcaster and The Listener is completely gone. And radio, is, as an industry, alas, is struggling.

So again we come to the question… Have we succeeded in separating ourselves from our music by means of Technology?

5 Responses to “Are We Separating Ourselves From Our Music By Way of Technology?”

  1. I’m trying to remember Eric, did you play the Mike Melody or Tommy Tunes character over there on French Rd when you interfaced carts to the mighty Harris transmitter?

  2. Neither one. I worked there after Lew Dickey bought the place, shortly after Gordon Brown died.

  3. Could have sworn Gordon was still breathing when you were there.  His Tbird was still in the basement garage.

  4. That it was not. And though there was a mess of equipment downstairs, and as I recall about a half a ton of country 45 that nobody had ever heard of

  5. Mess I recall was sitting in the parking lot. 
    We gotta catch up when you’re in ROC.  Shoot me an email.

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My rules are simple; This is my place, which gives me the right to do anything I jolly well please with it, including editing, or even rejecting your comments. By submitting a comment here you agree to these rules. -Eric (Bithead)