by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
After reading your musician reader's note about the iPod's utility as a creative tool, I felt compelled to chime in. I'm a musician too, and like pretty much every other musician I know, I'm a devotee of Apple's products. It's very true that Macs and iPods are flat-out indispensable for producing and recording modern music. And I think the taste and elegance of their industrial and software design, their stores, and even their advertising is a net plus for our culture.
But. There is a negative, or at least an artistically-questionable sea change in music, which has been abetted by the success of the iPod: the death of the album.
When's the last time you made a conscious effort to listen to ten tracks in a row from one artist? Personally, my life is on shuffle, and I'd wager most people around my age (32) and younger are on the same trip.
Of course, I'd never want to "go back". If I told my 12-year-old self that I'd soon be able to carry 5,000 songs on a portable touchscreen telephone, I would be pretty excited about that. But here's the thing: artists know that people don't listen to albums start-to-finish anymore. Does that affect the creative process? I think so. Most "concept" albums may be overwrought, but with the bad stuff, we also got the Stevie Wonders, the Harry Nilssons, The Beatles of the world. From the mid-'60s through the early-'90s, we got a lot of capital-'A' Albums. There will be exceptions, but frankly, all that's over now.
It also saddens me some that my child won't experience the same tactile relationship with music that I once did: helping my father clean his vinyl records with a silk brush. You listen to music a little differently when changing songs is that much of a pain in the ass. And the music itself has a lot more perceived value when the medium itself requires some modicum of care.
I'm no luddite. And I know Apple didn't invent the mp3. But as we praise them, and enjoy the convenience of digital music, I do find myself just a little bit wistful over what we're losing.
And then you have artists such as Gregg Gillis, who breaks down albums even further - by shattering individual songs into pieces and reassembling them into tracks greater than the sum of their parts. But ironically, those tracks are then seamlessly stitched in albums with the intent of being listened to as a single piece of music. And you get fan-based projects like this:
We’ve set out to combine the amazing talents of improvisational dancer Anne Marsen (and a supporting cast of contemporary dancers) with the epic new Girl Talk album, All Day, creating an album-length music video of grand proportions. We’ll continue shooting through the spring of 2011, then plan to screen the piece, in full, in public, as well as make it fully available for free online.
First installment seen above.