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drillkicker

Is there any room for music in our world ? (Reposted from twoism)

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I originally made this post on Twoism, but due to that site's decreased activity I'm reposting it here:

Now that music is free to listen to and free to make, the old industry has been made obsolete, and everybody is a musician, what could the future of the medium look like ? I've been coming to the shocking realization that the recordings we've made decades ago are still in existence, and new ones are being made at an exponential rate by practically everyone under the sun. We now have such a daunting mass of recordings that there exist more genres than any one person can be aware of, let alone individual artists, albums, Bandcamp pages, etc. There now exists such an amount of diverse recordings that trying to discover new music is like scooping up a bucket of sand and trying to pick out the few grains that look the most interesting.

Trying to put this phenomenon into the context of human culture throughout history has been confusing and even slightly unsettling. Music was once an incidental, ephemeral activity that could be done in a participatory, communal way. When my grandparents were my age, they would get together with their friends and sing songs with one another all night long, and they claim that there was never a moment when the singing ceased. There was no stage, nor were there any dedicated performers, but everybody contributed to the energy of the music that surrounded them; this was uniquely defined by the people who were present, never again to be repeated in any plane but that of memory. And what's especially notable is that everybody was perfectly fine with that. Nobody cared about plucking the songs out of the air and storing them forever because each instance of music was understood as something inseparable from the moment, uniquely tied to the air into which it was born.

I suppose the great tragedy is the shift in our social structure from community to individual. No longer is there any sense of binding camaraderie or sobornost that involves the total giving of oneself into an indissoluble whole, and so music in our age is developing in increasing contradiction to what has long been its traditional conception. As our society has become massively hyper-atomized, thus paradoxically contrasting with the definition of "society," so has our music undergone a similar subversion. We no longer make music in common, we no longer listen to music in common. Everybody has a "sound" and everybody has a "taste." The zebras have isolated themselves to display their unique stripes, and in the process negating the actual purpose of the camouflage.

Taking this into consideration, it can be posited that magnetic tape (or even before that, the invention of scoring) has, in a sense, killed the old form of music. No longer is it a living, continual, perennial part of a cultural organism, but rather an individual form of personal expression that can only be shared with a community after it has already completed its cycle of life. An album is, in this sense, akin to a stuffed animal rather than a breathing companion, a musician's role now as something of a cultural taxidermist.

Nonetheless, our desire for community hasn't dissipated in the same way that its actual presence has. We still make music with the intent of contributing to a human collective. But, as music is no longer made as a collective, we do this in the form of sharing our finished works in any way we can. In former eras this was done mainly in concert halls and conservatories, later in record stores, and now in Bandcamp pages. In a metaphorical sense, we are singing into a void and waiting for someone else to sing along, only we are all singing different songs. The result is a much more antisocial reality than we had in the past, and music has become a race to gain exposure, and thus more voices singing along.

The reason I post this is because I'm wondering what to make of all this, and whether there's still any room for music to exist. How much longer can this continue before the possibilities have simply been exhausted ? Will anybody even bother to keep listening to stuff that was recorded just five years in the past ? Is the growth of Bandcamp and similar platforms actually a portent of the collapse of our cultural artifice, bringing the return of ephemeral, communal music into the coming generations ? What does WATMM think ?

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I'm shy and can't really sing good so I gotta say I greatly prefer the current set up.  Honestly I think this is all a bunch of nonsense fomophobia.  Being afraid of the idea missing out, that there's something out there that other people are enjoying and you could enjoy too, to the point where you crave the loss of all of the expanded possibilities that we've had, casting those as destructive things when you're still totally able to get people to sing in a room together.  That's dumb.

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A lot of the digital-only stuff of today will probably be gone in the next decade or two anyhow, so maybe the extreme impermanence of digital storage (and more importantly the digital economy's tendency to perpetually destroy itself) will end up being a check on the cultural overload of everyone being able to access everything instantly.

 

Try finding an old mp3.com release in 2019 if you doubt.

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"Cultural Taxidermists", I like it, lol!

Yeah, the cultural noise floor is deafening these days; hard to be heard above it.

I liken releasing music these days to throwing a paper airplane off of a building and seeing how far it travels. Self-releasing on Bandcamp is, for most, akin to standing on top of a parked car at street level and throwing it as hard as you can. More often than not it will inevitably falter and crash land, the act having drawn the attention of only a few in the immediate vicinity. Occasionally though it may be caught by an updraft and land on someone's balcony!

The Skyscrapers above are inscribed with familiar logos, Geffen, Sony, EMI, etc. A few multistory indies with logos like Warp, XL, FatCat, occupy the spaces between the skyscrapers. Your plane will still travel quite far from the tops of these structures, but getting up there is harder than it's ever been due to everyone clamouring around the entrances at street level, demo in hand.

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5 minutes ago, TubularCorporation said:

A lot of the digital-only stuff of today will probably be gone in the next decade or two anyhow, so maybe the extreme impermanence of digital storage (and more importantly the digital economy's tendency to perpetually destroy itself) will end up being a check on the cultural overload of everyone being able to access everything instantly.

 

Try finding an old mp3.com release in 2019 if you doubt.

This is an excellent point that I bet a lot of people haven't thought about.

I wonder though if the rise of streaming services has mitigated that somewhat? After all, instead of impermanence, streaming services could also be looked at as a preservation resource, keeping long out of print physical releases alive by having their digital counterparts still available years, even decades after the release, label, and potentially the artist themselves are no longer around.

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19 minutes ago, Joyrex said:

This is an excellent point that I bet a lot of people haven't thought about.

I wonder though if the rise of streaming services has mitigated that somewhat? After all, instead of impermanence, streaming services could also be looked at as a preservation resource, keeping long out of print physical releases alive by having their digital counterparts still available years, even decades after the release, label, and potentially the artist themselves are no longer around.

This is how I've always seen it.  The idea of permanence of online data is scary to most, but I find it reassuring, considering that I tend to forget about things and computers don't.  That's why I love the Internet Archive so much.

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Yeah, but streaming services have no interest in preservation and the music you are streaming today could be gone tomorrow. If you want preservation you need collectors, hoarders, archivists,... not some profit-based service.

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Music seems so fragmented these days, which is good for variety and diversity, but I feel we've lost some of the generational identity music can assume.  Gone are the days when everyone knew the songs on MTV, they played them incessantly til we memorized them.  YouTube, file sharing and streaming have obliterated most of that, and reality TV didn't help the fall of music videos either.  Just seems we're all isolated in our scenes, live music is really my antidote to that.

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9 hours ago, drillkicker said:

Trying to put this phenomenon into the context of human culture throughout history has been confusing and even slightly unsettling. Music was once an incidental, ephemeral activity that could be done in a participatory, communal way. When my grandparents were my age, they would get together with their friends and sing songs with one another all night long, and they claim that there was never a moment when the singing ceased. There was no stage, nor were there any dedicated performers, but everybody contributed to the energy of the music that surrounded them; this was uniquely defined by the people who were present, never again to be repeated in any plane but that of memory. And what's especially notable is that everybody was perfectly fine with that. Nobody cared about plucking the songs out of the air and storing them forever because each instance of music was understood as something inseparable from the moment, uniquely tied to the air into which it was born.

Well, his applies to pretty much all human experiences nowadays, doesn't it: Them being perceived foremost as a stage for self presentation, documentation and supposed preservation. Lots of people seem to be so busy filming events and posting their statuses online, externalizing their memories, that they really let those moments slip by in a way. For what though? A weird mix of the pursuit for social acceptance and a subconcious cheating of time? I honestly don't even get it.

As for music:

Yeah dunno, stopped caring quite some time ago due to general jadedness and oversaturation. There's a few artists i still follow kinda religiously, otherwise i'll take what comes along (not alot), but the days of being actively on the lookout on Soulseek all day, excited for finding something fresh are long gone.

I don't think possibilities will ever be truly exhausted tho, as there are just too many, too variable parameters and because ppl tend to rather rehash shit for the nth time anyway (which they are continously getting better at thanks to growing sophistication in techical terms as well as broader cultural education).

Like srsly i couldn't even tell what's the typical sound of the 00s or 10s like with pretty much any decade of the 20th century.

Also fuck physical media. Can't be bothered anymore. Sure my digital vinyls will be around just long enough.

10 hours ago, drillkicker said:

I suppose the great tragedy is the shift in our social structure from community to individual.

Dunno. Both collectivism and individualism have their ups n downs i guess. Might mostly be a matter of transformation pains.

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there's

always

:aphexsign::aphexsign::aphexsign:

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11 hours ago, Joyrex said:

After all, instead of impermanence, streaming services could also be looked at as a preservation resource, keeping long out of print physical releases alive by having their digital counterparts still available years, even decades after the release, label, and potentially the artist themselves are no longer around.

Streaming is absolutely not a preservation resource — releases get edited or just absolutely deleted from streaming libraries so often.

We had a preservation resource. Twice.

RIP OiNK and What.CD

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56 minutes ago, oscillik said:

Streaming is absolutely not a preservation resource — releases get edited or just absolutely deleted from streaming libraries so often.

We had a preservation resource. Twice.

RIP OiNK and What.CD

P2P/decentralisation seems to be the answer, no?

Why rely on a single node to host the files when we can all collectively own them ourselves? We have access to more music on slsk than any other server based platform possible.

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4 hours ago, oscillik said:

Streaming is absolutely not a preservation resource — releases get edited or just absolutely deleted from streaming libraries so often.

We had a preservation resource. Twice.

RIP OiNK and What.CD

I said it could be looked at as one - IF the streaming providers (and the license holders) approached it that way. You're absolutely right - a streaming service could lose the right to use an artist or label works, and it's no longer available.

3 hours ago, Kidrodi said:

P2P/decentralisation seems to be the answer, no?

Why rely on a single node to host the files when we can all collectively own them ourselves? We have access to more music on slsk than any other server based platform possible.

Piracy though takes control away from the labels (and more importantly the artists who actually make the music) and removes their incentive to keep music in print, available on streaming, etc. It also can result in sub-par versions of legitimate music being propagated, which further dilutes the preservation effort.

Also, has SLSK gotten that big? I always thought of it as a very niche, very specific outlet. I haven't been on it in probably 10+ years, so I had no idea it was even still a thing.

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being the best musician in your village should be enough

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Posted (edited)

woah, welcome back @drillkicker, do you still have your Grandad's straw beret?

Edited by hello spiral

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6 hours ago, oscillik said:

Streaming is absolutely not a preservation resource — releases get edited or just absolutely deleted from streaming libraries so often.

We had a preservation resource. Twice.

RIP OiNK and What.CD

The real tragedy about What.CD is that it was barely even a piracy site.  A major fraction of the stuff on there was music that's been forgotten entirely by the industry and can't be located for sale at all.  It's a shame they couldn't work out a way of keeping all the archival data.:cattears:

 

1 hour ago, hello spiral said:

woah, welcome back @drillkicker, do you still have your Grandad's straw beret?

It's funny you should ask, because I actually have it right next to my computer at the moment.  I still wear it occasionally.  I'm surprised anyone remembers that post, though.

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You left this forum in a blaze of glory

spacer.png

Then you left Maryland on a boat to Mumbai dressed in 1940's French military combat gear armed with a machete looking for your true purpose

The rest is history

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If before the digital time you had to show a certain music skill and determination to reach a certain quality level and then form a group (a band), today the same grind is made through solo bedroom music production, failed collaborations and personal maturing until you are able to break through. Solid ideas and perseverance still stands out.  It kind of balances out itself, I think.

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17 hours ago, Joyrex said:

Piracy though takes control away from the labels (and more importantly the artists who actually make the music) and removes their incentive to keep music in print, available on streaming, etc. It also can result in sub-par versions of legitimate music being propagated, which further dilutes the preservation effort.

Also, has SLSK gotten that big? I always thought of it as a very niche, very specific outlet. I haven't been on it in probably 10+ years, so I had no idea it was even still a thing.

I'm not necessarily even talking about piracy. The BitTorrent platform already allows you to legitimately sell files I believe, so that could be one way if enough artists/labels get involved. Thom Yorke already tried it out some years ago.  

I have no clue how big SLSK actually is but I can tell you you can find pretty much anything on there in lossless quality + artwork, etc. if you're willing to dig a little bit. That would be another way, even as a last resort.  

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post is tldr but i don't buy the notion that "everyone is a musician". overwhelmingly, most people i encounter have no idea about music or how it is made. there is more visibility because of the internet, sure. instead of trading tapes and CDRs inside a small circle these can now be made available publicly. i think this tricks us into thinking there are more musicians than there have been in the past. even if this is the case, i don't think the increase would be all that significant. prove me wrong though, i guess.

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On 8/8/2019 at 6:38 PM, Joyrex said:

This is an excellent point that I bet a lot of people haven't thought about.

I wonder though if the rise of streaming services has mitigated that somewhat? After all, instead of impermanence, streaming services could also be looked at as a preservation resource, keeping long out of print physical releases alive by having their digital counterparts still available years, even decades after the release, label, and potentially the artist themselves are no longer around.

If anything streaming makes it worse because there aren't copies being made, it jsut lives on centrally owned private servers that could go away at any time for any reason.  C.F. Geocities.

 

But my point is that other than redundancy there isn't any way to reliably preserve any kind of digital dta, and even redundancy isnt' that great.

 

I've found reel to reel tapes that were 50 years old, unboxed, covered in literal dirt and mud, and they still played fine.  Try playing back a 10 year old DAT tape.  Or visiting a Geocities site.  Or playing a Windows 98 era PC game. Or accessing a file on a thumb drive that has sat in a closet for more than 8 months. Or copying files off of some 20 year old CD-Rs.

 

Digital culture has a massive, looming archival problem and there aren't really any good solutions yet.

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