As those who religiously follow my nascent blog know, I’m tired. I didn’t do anything all weekend. On Saturday night, I was sitting at home, feel morbidly self-conscious about how tired, pathetic, old, and pathetic (did I mention pathetic?) I was, when my roommate turned on some music.
I cringed. That music is too loud! I thought. That music is abrasive!! I inwardly grumbled. I’m thinking like someone 4 times my age!!! I realized.
Then I remembered an article I’d read earlier in the week called, “The Death of High Fidelity.” According to Rolling Stone magazine, albums are being recorded at higher volume, with less musical subtly, to accommodate users listening to MP3 files through their computers.
“The excitement in music comes from variation in rhythm, timbre, pitch and loudness,” explained Daniel Levitin, a professor of Neuroscience and music at McGill University. “If you hold one of those constant, it can seem monotonous.” The article continues, “After a few minutes, research shows, constant loudness grows fatiguing to the brain. Though few listeners realize this consciously, many feel an urge to skip to another song.”
A master engineer called the sound “an assault on the body.”
Now, this is all very unfortunate for the music industry, but great for me, who can now blame someone else for the fact that I’m pre-maturely old and cranky, and can rarely listen to more than 30 seconds of any song.
(Incidentally, in many instances, neither can my brother. Not only does he love loud music, but he loves flipping through a mazillion songs.)
From a less self-absorbed perspective, I find this article part of an intriguing dialogue/debate about MP3s and computer music in general. I conclude (with my sharp powers of deduction and a splash of my characteristic hyperbole) that what music producers are saying is: Those MP3s and computers are destroying the integrity of the music industry.
Meanwhile, record companies are seeking to destroy the industries that are allegedly causing this decline in quality.
The Washington Post reports that the Record Industry Association (RIA) is trying to make it illegal to copy a song, even for personal use. In other words, you can now be fined for burning a CD, or putting a CD into a iTunes folder than you share with even one co-worker or roommate.
And it doesn’t stop there. Internet Radio will be gasping its last, if the Record Companies have anything to say about it. According to the New York Times, rising royalty rates may make free radio a thing of the past (just like high quality sound.)
So it comes full circle. Everyone is blaming everybody else with their own self-interest in mind; both sides feel attacked and threatened, but the determined accusation, “you’re driving us out of business” seems dangerous to the average listener (me). The possibility that this kind of inflexibility will lead to bad music that costs a lot money appears imminent.
And while that would give me the excuse to sit in total silence on Saturday nights, I’m not really sure that’s the end I’m looking for. Unlike the RIA, I’m willing to compromise with anyone who can help me start acting my age.
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