Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 11

This is a summary of my thoughts on Sound Tracks Chapters 1 and 11.

Sound Tracks seeks to discover and study music geographically, meaning that the authors will take an academic look at music through culture, music scenes, artist distribution, and other aspects. Connell and Gibson write that music is largely ignored in academic circles because it is nebulous. Looking back to Sacks' writing, it certainly does seem that music is one art form that is most mysterious both scientifically and philosophically. Whereas film for example has been picked apart and studied extensively, music remains an underappreciated art form in the academic world.

Part of the reason, the authors argue, is that music is an abstract and always changing entity. It is difficult to pin down and truly study because it is so integrated into our lives, whether playing over the loudspeakers in a store or playing in the background of a television show. Another part of the problem in the academic of study of music, experts say is that we as a society are quick to reveal our own musical tastes even in a way that could be described as snobbish. Perhaps since music is such a personal and special experience, it is more difficult for experts to be unbiased in their criticisms and observations of music.

The authors describe how music can be both fixed and fluid. Fixed music is through headphones, or through a speaker. Fluidity is more complex, the authors describe it as the soundwaves that music makes or the cash flow from a successful musician or the "buzz" surrounding a new artist that spreads like wildfire. The authors also discuss physical fluidity of music through actual geography, discussing the "hearths" of music, such as the southern United States and jazz. Interestingly, the authors posit that socioeconomic factors determine what type of musical 'scene' a culture might have.

Next, the authors discuss the digitization of music. Corporate conglomerations control much of the music industry and this affects the globalization of music and the way it is sold. Since these conglomerates are "infotainment" industries who control many different forms of media and products, it is argued that they do not necessarily know what is best for the music industry and that they control what consumers hear. The authors cite manufactured artists like the Backstreet Boys suggesting that there is a standardization of the industry and copious amounts of marketing to the right consumer. However, the advent of mp3s and the internet has allowed some artists to circumvent the harsh controlling ways of the conglomerates.

The digitization of recording and of mp3s started allowing artists without corporate money to make professional sounding music in their own homes or for a much less expensive investment. This affects the geography of music, this cuts down on music epicenters and spreads the source or "hearth" of music much further around. Mp3s also allow artists to distribute their music all over the world, which further decentralizes music hubs. Interstingly, house music and techno is hardly centralized at all, partially due to its lack of lyrics. Artists from all over the world including Germany, Japan, and Brazil all contribute to this type of music. This discontinued reliance on major labels and the increase of piracy of music has perhaps started a new age in music in which independence and DIY methods are the norm.

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