Life Slips By (and I Want You)

(Image Credit)

Hi everyone – still here, still extraordinarily busy with EduCorp®, and still (mostly) doing well with the M1 Macs. Waiting on Monterey to drop before the next TNSS post so I can give you an idea of how everything is jacked up yet again. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I wanted to drop a few things from the past week I found significant.

The passing of Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire/Sandoz/too many other Projects to list here was the kicker for me last week. Kirk has been a long-time influence on art, music, and music technology for me since I started dabbling with it in the early 80’s. So although I’ve spent the last few days reminiscing by listening to a bunch of his tracks, about all I can say is thanks for the influence Sir and you’ll be very much missed in my little world.

High point for the week: I have no idea how I’ve missed this for so long, but I just discovered it Friday and now you should too.

For the uninitiated, Martyn was the founder of The Human League back in the late 70’s before being tossed out. He and HL bandmate Ian Craig Marsh went on to form the British Electric Foundation and eventually to notoriety with Heaven 17

I’ve been pouring through the interviews, and they are just addicting. Yes, there’s a lot of music geekery in there (tech heads rejoice!) but there’s also a lot of history about the early electronic music scene and behind-the-scenes of who did what and how and where and when. Hearing Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson (both original CabVolt founders) wax on about early days and current affairs riveting listening, and although Martyn says he wanted to but never got to interview Richard Kirk, I have a feeling that Kirk’s penchant for solitude would have amounted to nothing ever being recorded anyway. 🙂

This is one of those ‘must listen’ audiocasts, even if you were just a fan of the music and care nothing for the business or tech behind it. He’s up to 57 episodes as of this writing, so get cracking… 

Until next time…

Welcome to the Crossroads

Woke up this morning, ordered the last bit for the Modular system because of a nice sale over at Perfect Circuit Audio, made some coffee, and found this waiting in my Tube of Yous feed…

And it makes for a perfect addendum to Dynamic Range Day yesterday. 🙂

Rick Beato is another Saint here in the APITE Pavilion of Greatness. My Saints are those who give up a lot of their time and experience for free to pass on the baton of enlightenment to those that want to stop by and listen. He’s worth watching and following if you’ve even remotely interested in making or listening to music.

One of these days I’ll do entire post on Saints.

But for now go watch the video. I’ll wait – it’s less than 10 minutes.

Did you catch the ‘Junk Food’ analogy? Kinda fitting, isn’t it?

I tell my students over at EduCorp® that you have two choices in today’s musical landscape: you can play the Pop game by its rules and its changing goalposts and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it up the foodchain to ’stardom’ and ‘fame’. 

Or you can strike out on your own and donor art the way you want to.

Because there’s never been a better time to do just that. From creation to distribution to promotion, you have access to it all for next to nothing thanks to the power of technology and The Interwebz®. Just add your ideas.

But just like the proverbial Crossroads, you better make that choice wisely – AI is already figuring out how to duplicate what the ‘roomful of scientists’ are doing in Popland (and other Genres was well), and soon they’ll be able to flood the airwaves with sugar-coated addictive earworms targeted directly at the psychometrics of any given demographic market. This will be here sooner that you think, so if you want to ride out the rest of this train and try to collect some sweet, sweet cash before it comes to an abrupt stop, then you had better start yesterday. And good luck – you’ll need plenty of it.

Oh, and one more thing: don’t think you can play ‘both sides’ of the game. The chances of putting something out yourself and getting picked up by the machine for big dollas are ancient history. And even if you do manage that one-in-a-billion chance, you’re going to have to play by their rules anyway, so you might as well just play their game from the get-go.

Ian Shepherd started Dynamic Range Day to get the word out that even though digital recording and the the underlying technology behind it is a boon for musicians and engineers (higher quality recording, much less noise and artifacts, and can be easily mass-produced making it more affordable to the masses) it caused us to push the limits to the point where we were sacrificing dynamics for sheer loudness to be heard over the rest of the herd.

As humans, we like dynamics in our audio. And an ever-growing cadre or musicians and engineers is fighting to get that back.

Rick Beato is essentially saying the same thing with this video. It sounds great. It’s been recorded and produced to perfection using the same digital technology stated above. It’s catchy and addictive. It even has dynamics…

But it’s still Junk Food…

And just as the experts are telling us that too much of it is not good for our health, Rick cautiously warns that too much ‘overproduced’ pop can be hazardous to your creativity as well. Like Rick, I admire the production. The perfection. The absolute attention to detail. But ultimately it rings hollow to my ears – I know it’s going to be replaced by something else coming down the production line very soon. 

As humans, we like imperfections in our audio. And there are artists out there fighting to get that back too.

Surprisingly, Mabel McVey has an acoustic version of ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ that features just her voice and acoustic guitar. But unfortunately it’s not a demo or a live version performed in a small venue. It’s a textbook confection of Pro Tools and Melodyne and Autotune – professionally corrected and perfected to the Nth degree.

Same potato chips, slightly different flavor.

I loves me some technology, but I’m also playing for Team Human  and I know good and well that the tech is simply tools for people to use – for good or bad.

So we can either race towards perfection until the machinery does it for us better and cheaper and easier, or we can run in the other direction with all of its uncertainty and messiness and frailties and childishness.

Welcome to the Crossroads.