Thursday, August 09, 2007

An interesting tangent to the matter before us

Alex Ross obliquely responds to AC Douglas' (see below) attack on iPods. He also makes a trenchant and precise point, which point, of course, reminds me why he writes for The New Yorker. And, I - shades of Chevy Chase here - don't. His point:
My attitude remains this: all recordings are fakes, and CDs happen to be more convincing fakes than MP3s.
I don't think you can get a much better précis on the matter. Ross also looks at the death of the CD among the pop-music set, through another's essay - but a still-interesting take,
By the way, Jeremy Schlosberg has written a persuasive essay linking the decline of the CD among pop listeners — classical listeners show no inclination to abandon it — not to the Internet but to the CD's hour-plus running time. Few artists, he says, can come up with seventy-five minutes of first-rate material in any given year. Plus, there's something ideal about a forty-minute listening session.
Again, I'll iterate my point that "a collection of great dance songs" doesn't need to be 78 minutes long. That is, these days, all a record is. There is no chance that Wish You Were Here or Thick as a Brick would get made in 2007. There is a negative chance (i.e., a positive chance that this idea is being worked against by executives) that something like Quadrophenia or The Wall would get made.

The industry isn't interested in seeing what pop can be. They're interested in pandering to the lowest common denominator. Why? Well, to take a modern example and not run back to Sgt. Pepper's, Release the Stars (Rufus Wainwright) might be an interesting and complex record, but it won't sell nearly as well as Rihanna or that God-awful Plain White T's single.

So, they'll pander to the mighty Interweb (Did anyone else notice that Senator Ted "A Series of Tubes" Stevens is in trouble with the FBI and IRS?), which - with its track-by-track sales and universal distribution - is their ideal business model. The record, as a cohesive and interesting whole, is all but dead. Radio, then video, killed it. Then they stopped actually showing videos, except from 6 AM to 10 AM, while their target audience is either at school or still asleep, so radio finished their job.

I'll never meet "their" children, but I'd still be interested to know what "they" told them.


At 10:52 AM, Blogger Terry said...

Led Zeppelin's Zoso album is about 40 minutes long...and God knows what they did for rock. As you say, it isn't about the running time, but what you do with it that counts.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Henry Holland said...

Nice mentions of Thick as a Brick and Quadrophenia, two of my favorite albums. Out of my brain on the train, indeed......

What I don't get in the Industry's rush to make everything digital and downloadable --a good ten years too late, in any case-- is

a) only something like 60% of US citizens have a computer
b) most people only use that computer to send e-mails to granny, play Minesweeper or doing their accounts, that kind of stuff, they don't want to spend the time to go through hoops to download stuff
c) Broadband isn't ubiquitous yet

so, what about the vast numbers of people who either don't have a computer or don't want to spend the time/effort to download stuff? I guess that's money the Industry doesn't need, since they must be making so much money that don't have to worry about a physical product for the people who aren't/can't be part of the Digital Revolution.

Re: the length of rock CD's. 78 minutes = a well-stuffed double LP. How many double LP's were there that one could say were consistently inspired throughout rather than (my experience) 3 sides of inspired, 1 side of potential b-sides?

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Karl Henning said...

My attitude remains this: all recordings are fakes, and CDs happen to be more convincing fakes than MP3s.

Well done, Mr Ross.



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