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Aidan Nulman
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Kyle, as you *definitely* know by now, I'm one to make odd associations between the music industry and the film industry. Which is why it pains me to say that... well, I just don't see a truth behind Cuthbertson's argument. Don't get me wrong -- I love his conclusion and agree that, somewhere along the line, we fucked up and lost the magic of the album. I've also held listening parties for new (and old) awesome music, and know how poorly attended they tend to be. But it ain't comparable to movies. And here's three reasons why: 1. Movies offer a "totality of experience." Say what you will about the escapism and voyages music can offer (and music can offer such experiences), it's a whole 'nother story when your entire consciousness is being sucked in through vision, sound, and a limitation of external stimuli. 2. Movies have a(n unspoken) codified language. Assuming we're dealing with popular-and/or-indie films vs. popular-and/or-indie music here, the former is a powerhouse when it comes to a common understanding. Anyone can understand what a movie is trying to tell them/show them (on the surface level) without actively engaging with it; the same isn't at all true for music. 3. The movie ritual hasn't been disrupted. This one's a little weirder to argue -- I guess it assumes that there was a semi-unified album-listening ritual to begin with (which, if you admit there wasn't, causes an even bigger slew of problems to Cuthbertson's argument). Whether you're watching a movie in a picture palace in the 1950s/1960s, in a megaplex today, or in the comforts of your own home, the natural thing to do is to turn out the lights and grab some popcorn. The ability to move significantly beyond this ritual when it comes to movies is a pretty new experience, and we won't know whether the technology breaks the ritual for another couple of years.
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Thanks for the kind words, Kyle! You too, Paul -- hopefully you'll still feel the same way in the system; I just sent your invitation out a couple of minutes ago!
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@okthxgdby, while I agree with your premises and conclusions about songwriting (new forms/ideas often come from a given culture leveraging a technology in an unexpected way), I disagree with your interpretation of the article. When I was reading this, I didn't hear Jay (nor Kyle, for that matter) saying that technology is the be-all end-all, dictator of creativity. In fact, I barely heard anything about technology directly influencing songwriters at all. I believe, like Jay seems to, that the "survival of the fittest" world of pop music has, throughout history, been dictated by the macro-level habits of the listeners more so than the micro-levels of listeners' preferences, songwriters' interests, or the influence of a given subculture. What excites me and intrigues me about the coming months (and couple of years) is how the relatively recently found stability of MP3s will continue to influence listeners, and how songwriters and cultures might use this "new" tech to break existing traditions (such as limited cross-pollenation of genres and the necessity of nearby bandmates). But hey, maybe that's something I was looking to pull out anyway, since I'm working in that domain anyway. :P Kyle, great piece. I hadn't heard of Jay's book yet, but it's now on my "next-to-buy" list for Amazon. Thanks so much!
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Jan 12, 2010