Aug 2017 (rates & streams subject to change per platoform)
In music, as in film, we have reached a point where every element of every composition can be fully produced and automated by computers. This is a breakthrough that allows producers with little or no musical training the ability to rapidly turn out hits. It also allows talented musicians without access to expensive equipment to record their music with little more than their laptops. But the ease of digital recording technology has encouraged producers, musicians, and engineers at all levels to smooth out every rough edge and correct every mistake, even in recordings of real humans playing old-fashioned analogue instruments. After all, if you could make the drummer play in perfect time every measure, the singer hit every note on key, or the guitarist play every note perfectly, why wouldn’t you?
One answer comes in a succinct quotation from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which Ted Mills referenced in a recent post here on Miles Davis: “Honor Your Mistakes as a Hidden Intention.” (The advice is similar to that Davis gave to Herbie Hancock, “There are no mistakes, just chances to improvise.”) In the short clip at the top, Eno elaborates in the context of digital production, saying “the temptation of the technology is to smooth everything out.”
But the net effect of correcting every perceived mistake is to “homogenize the whole song,” he says, “till every bar sounds the same… until there’s no evidence of human life at all in there.” There is a reason, after all, that even purely digital, “in the box” sequencers and drum machines have functions to “humanize” their beats—to make them correspond more to the looseness and occasional hesitancy of real human players.
This does not mean that there is no such thing as singing or playing well or badly—it means there is no such thing as perfection. Or rather, that perfection is not a worthy goal in music. The real hooks, the moments that we most connect with and return to again and again, are often happy accidents. Mills points to a whole Reddit thread devoted to mistakes left in recordings that became part of the song. And when it comes to playing perfectly in time or in tune, I think of what an atrocity would have resulted from running all of The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street through a digital audio workstation to sand down the sharp edges and "fix" the mistakes. All of its shambling, mumbling, drunken barroom charm would be completely lost. That goes also for the entire recorded output of The Band, or most of Dylan’s albums (such as my personal favorite, John Wesley Harding).
There is a lot more to say about the way the albums represented above were recorded, but the overall point is that just as too much CGI has often ruined the excitement of cinema (we’re looking at you, George Lucas) ---or as the digital “loudness wars” sapped much recorded music of its dynamic peaks and valleys---overzealous use of software to correct imperfections can ruin the human appeal of music, and render it sterile and disposable like so many cheap, plastic mass-produced toys. As with all of our use of advanced technology, questions about what we can do should always be followed by questions about what we’re really gaining, or losing, in the process.
Nearly 50 years before DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing was hailed as the first album made entirely of samples, a French broadcaster envisioned a music made solely from pre-recorded loops.
Sampling, and even to an extent turntablism, can be traced back to the recording experiments of Pierre Schaeffer. An engineer, writer, composer, philosopher, musicologist, educator and acoustician, Schaeffer is one of the most influential figures in modern music, known for pioneering a radical innovation in 20th century music: musique concrète.
After receiving a degree in radio broadcasting, the young Schaeffer began working as an engineer at France’s public broadcaster Radiodiffusion française (RDF) in 1936. Soon after, sparked by an interest in radio art, the theories of Italian Futurist thinker Luigi Russolo, and the use of recorded sound in cinema, Schaeffer convinced the RDF to grant him permission to begin experiments in music research and technology (formally called “research into noises”).
In 1942, Schaeffer officially founded his first studio at the RDF, the Studio d’Essai, later renamed Club d’Essai. It was here, equipped with mixers, a direct disc cutting lathe, and a library of sound effects, that the composer lay the groundwork for what would later be termed musique concrète. The most pivotal moment in Schaeffer’s career, however, came in 1949 when he met Pierre Henry, a classically trained composer with whom he would go on to co-found the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète (GRMC, later GRM), the first studio designed specifically for electroacoustic music.
Over the next 10 years, the two composers would change the face of music forever. Apart from their countless aesthetic innovations, they achieved many technical successes, pioneering the use of magnetic tape by splicing and looping, and introducing several new inventions: a three-track tape recorder, a 10-head delay and loop machine (the morphophone), a keyboard-controlled device capable of replaying loops at various speeds (the phonogene), and several amplification systems used for spatial experimentation with sound.
Schaeffer, who was an outspoken anti-nuclear activist, once asked, “Why should a civilization which so misuses its power have or deserve, a normal music?” By rethinking the foundations of music-making, he produced an art form that was anything but normal — a music that aimed to merge art with science, composition with engineering. His ideas turned conventional music theory on its head. Traditionally, composition moved from the abstract to the concrete — from concept and written notes to actual sounds. Schaeffer’s approach reversed the process, beginning instead with fragments of sound—field recordings of both natural and mechanical origin—which were then manipulated using studio techniques.
One of the more profound consequences of Schaeffer’s inversion of the compositional process was that composers would no longer be bound to written scores and notation. Their music could exist solely as recordings, without the need for players or instruments to actualize them. Even among other experimental and avant-garde music of the time, notably the “elektronische Musik” being produced by Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, Schaeffer’s approach represented a radical shift. Because any sound could now be repurposed for the sake of music-making, the possible combinations of timbres, rhythms, instruments, voices, and harmonies became virtually infinite.
“After the war, in the ‘45 to ‘48 period, we had driven back the German invasion but we hadn’t driven back the invasion of Austrian music, 12-tone music,” reflected Schaeffer, who had participated in the French resistance. “We had liberated ourselves politically, but the music was still under an occupying foreign power, the music of the Vienna school.”
Dissatisfied with the state of music at the time, Schaeffer sought to create a new musical language which divorced sounds from their sources, thereby reducing music to the act of hearing alone — what he called “reduced listening.” Take, for example, a field recording of a train moving along its tracks. At face value you’d simply note the sound of a train; beyond that realization, listeners wouldn’t give it much more thought. Schaeffer, however, realized that there was a rich vein of musicality hidden within such seemingly mundane sounds: snippets of complex rhythms, unique timbral characteristics, tonal peculiarities, strange and interesting textures. Our perception of these qualities, he recognized, was hindered by the associations and references that sounds carry. The trick was to find a way to hide the associations in order to bring the musical qualities of those sounds to the forefront.
August 11, 1973: DJ Kool Herc throws the famous "Back to school jam" at 1520 Sedgwick Ave.
Hip-Hop would be born! During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” - sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “ breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. And with that, Hip Hop was born.
The importance of DJ Kool Herc
Clive Campbell, a.k.a. the Jamaican-American DJ known as DJ Kool Herc (which was an evolution of the nickname "Hercules" that he picked up in the neighborhood), was instrumental in the creation of the sound of hip-hop. Not only did his Jamaican roots bring forth the idea of having a DJ (or "selector") rapping (or "toasting") over the music they were playing, but he also brought the reggae sound system set-up to parties. What Herc was mostly known for was what he dubbed the "Merry-Go Round," a technique that he used to elongate certain parts of funk records that the kids on the dance floor would lose their shit to. That section of the record is also known as "the break" (or "the get down,") and those sections of these funk records became popularly known as "breakbeats."
The beauty of Herc's set-up was that once he would find that section of the record, he would create a loop live in front of the crowd using the two turntables and the crossfader on the mixer, allowing the dancers to go ballistic to the extended breakbeat.
YouTube has become a dominant force in the music industry in the last few years, particularly among younger people. With the help of YouTube’s geocoded streaming data, we set out to map the contours of music fandom and culture in the United States.
Of the artists on the Billboard Top 100 this spring, we looked at the 50 that were most watched on YouTube in the United States between January 2016 and April 2017. Each map shows relative popularity in different parts of the country. If one part of a map is lighter, it doesn’t mean people there weren’t watching the artist’s videos; it just means fans were more likely to listen to a variety of other artists.
See the complete set of fan maps below, listed in order of YouTube views in our data. (You can use your left or right arrow key to cycle through the maps.)
Interested in some music to go with your map browsing? Enter a U.S. location in the search box to get a custom playlist based on that area’s favorite artists among those in our data, or skip straight to the maps.
EINDHOVEN - Met verbazing en trots overziet Ton Scherpenzeel het oeuvre van zijn band Kayak, verzameld in de box-set Journey Through Time. ,,Mijn halve leven in een doosje”, zegt de 64-jarige songschrijver en muzikant. Het kloeke pakket bevat alle zestien studioplaten en twee bonus-cd's met onder andere B-kantjes en demo's. De set verschijnt 16 juni.
.Als je een plaat hebt gemaakt, hoor je bij herbeluistering alleen maar dingen waarvan je denkt: 'Ach, jammer'. Wat wèl goed is, vind je vanzelfsprekend.” Hij moet meestal kort na de release 'even afstand nemen', om vervolgens het werk goed op waarde te kunnen schatten. „Dat hebben de meeste muzikanten. Ik ben trouwens bijzonder blij met de nieuwe mastering van de oude vinyl albums in de boxset. Daardoor klinken ze weer zoals het bedoeld was.”
Despite the massive success of Adele's album 25, which sold a whopping 7.4 million copies in only six weeks, 2015 marked the first time in U.S. history that new releases were outsold by catalogue albums. Seems like everyone's been feeling extra nostalgic lately.
The term "catalogue" refers to albums released more than 18 months ago. According to Nielsen's annual year end music report, catalogue albums outsold current releases by 4.3 million copies, something never before seen in the industry.Just 10 years ago, current music sales outpaced catalogue music by over 150 million albums. Keep in mind that these stats don't include album streams, but regardless, it's a significant turning point. Read More...