the original soundtrack

On a train zooming through Scotland.

05.24.06 @ 09:21 PM EST [link]

A tree I became somewhat obsessed with in Edinburgh.

05.18.06 @ 07:05 AM EST [link]

back in new york city.

Optimo at Fabric on Saturday.

05.15.06 @ 06:23 PM EST [link]

I just read "Imperfect Sound Forever," a fascinating, well-written article on music, dynamic range compression, and audiophilia (or lack thereof) by Nick Southall in Stylus, which I caught from a link on Blissblog.

I never had any patience for audiophiles, but I am simultaneously fascinated by them. I don't have a good system; I have a cheap and serviceable one--a Denon tape deck I picked up for 30 bucks, an old Onkyo receiver, and a cheap Technics belt-drive turntable and CD player, fed into a pair of speakers that closely approximate wet paper towels. I generally listen to music through a pair of reasonable headphones that I bought five years ago (Grado SR-80s, designed right here in Brooklyn) that cost me something like $75 and still work even after having had rum spilled on them (they actually soaked overnight in the rum, and one of the foam ear-snugglers got stiff and fell off, but the headphones still work!) When I want to hear music the way I want to experience it, I go to venues to listen to DJs spin records.

Film critics don't have glittering home cinema systems and projection booths in their homes; can we really expect broke music critics to have great systems in theirs? I imagine that by experiencing music through iPod Shuffles and tinny-sounding earbuds, or through our cell phones, or through mp3s, or on car stereos, we're actually being more realistic in our assessments; we're experiencing the music in exactly the same way that many listeners will. I'd also add that many publicists and labels are actually encouraging us to review albums based on mp3s alone, and a lot of the "promos" I get these days are mp3s. Labels that used to send beautifully-packaged vinyl 12"s now send passwords to internal mp3 download sites. No, it's not the same thing, and yes, it kind of sucks. But let's face it: As technology improves and the 21st century speeds forward, the quality of audio playback, at least as the average person experiences it, is going to be mediated more by cell phones than by sweet speakers. At the EMP Conference in Seattle this past weekend, Noriko Manabe of CUNY Graduate Center gave a really intriguing--if scarily dystopian--talk about the way things are heating up in the Japanese commercial market. Now, the iPod is a popular fetish object in much the same way as it is here, but iTunes Music Store Japan is not doing so well. This, she says, is partly because Sony Music Japan, the biggest Japanese label, refuses to do business with Apple, instead marketing their own proprietary music service called the Sony Mora. But downloading music onto your cell phone, and listening to it off of your cell phone (which I can't imagine sounds very good under the best of circumstances), trumps them all. The difference is that instead of downloading full songs, Manabe says, many people in Japan prefer to just download the choruses--30 seconds of the hit single. This is different from a polyphonic ringtone; this is more akin to downloading a song onto your iPod. Some would argue that a lot of J-pop, which tops the charts in these downloads, is pretty much all chorus to begin with. But it fascinates me that this is the same country that produced the 50-CD Merzbox, Les Rallizes Denudes, Acid Mothers Temple, and Hanatarash . . . that 30-minute extended bliss-jams by major-label act (in Japan, at least) Boredoms could coexist with 30-second downloads of major-label choruses. I'm not against it, but I am bemused by it. I have noticed that the tunes I listen to keep getting longer and longer--old disco like Tom Moulton and Patrick Cowley and Larry Levan extended mixes and steady forward-moving motorik pulses and weirdo 20-minute '70s prog epics and psychedelic jams and Phill Niblock drones and techno that keeps going and going and downloaded DJ mixes from random websites that go on for hours, shifting and drifting through endless ideas and genres and textures, and Fela and Sun Ra and Art Blakey and electric Miles and Alice Coltrane and Satie's Vexations and other kinds of music that never seem to want to end. I don't want music to ever stop; I want sounds to keep moving but not go away. Which brings us back to Eno: he wanted to make music that would stay where you left it, like a painting on a wall...

05.04.06 @ 04:46 AM EST [link]

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