On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark

In art, cultural industries, everyday life, marketing, media ecology, music on October 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

If you are a fantastic cultural producer, what good is it if no-one hears, sees or gets to know about your work? The problem of structural support to the cultural industries is as much to do with supporting new forms of distribution and recommendation systems as it is to do with direct economic support to producers, or leveraging employment rules and state subsidies in useful ways, or due appreciation also to distinctly amateur forms of production.

That last note, about the importance of appreciating amateur forms of production, is essentially there as an inital reservation: Of course I’m in favour of an amateur-led wave of cultural production, better enabled by digital technology. Who isn’t? And of course it is great that tools and knowledge are more horizontally distributed now, favouring bazaar-like modes of organization over cathedral-like ones.

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The decade in popular music

In art, history, music on October 16, 2009 at 10:23 am

Apart from the material, social and technical reasons for change pointed out in this blog, I would like to take this opportunity for venturing further into what might constitute a zeitgeist in contemporary music.

This posting has a twin posting on the mp3 blog Solid Bond In Your Heart, where I am listing my 100 favourite tunes of the last 10 years.

Materially, we can already conclude that the last ten years have seen the partial death of the album, the definitive death of the CD single, the rebirth of the individual song, an increase in the sheer loudness of music (“loudness war,” effectively decreasing the dynamic range of music), and the birth of new, Internet-based music communities and distribution platforms often bypassing traditional record industry modes of manufacturing, marketing and “plugging” records. But we have also seen a range of stylistic and aesthetic formations during these last ten years. Here are some of them.

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Q&A re “pirate politics”

In politics, post-piratical, Sweden on October 13, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Goldsmiths MA student and “occasional journalist” Justin Pickard recently contacted me to debrief me regarding some background material for a forthcoming Wired article on “pirate politics”. Here’s an edit of our email exchange, for the record:

I guess, when being asked about “pirate politics,” that the Pirate Bay court case and the subsequent popularity of The Pirate Party (in the European Parliament elections) here in Sweden has showed that there is a huge civic, national interest in questions regarding digitization, changing conditions for copyright, and issues of privacy, surveillance, data retention etc. The problem is that the mainstream parties have failed to properly debate these things, to bring them up onto the agenda.

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I fought a loudness war

In aesthetics, art, everyday life, media ecology, music, philosophy on October 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

One of the most striking features of popular music in the last decade has been the “loudness war”. The music we listen to has become increasingly louder in the last 20 years, as it is now music industry standard to try and make the soundwaves contained within a sound file as maximised as possible, in terms of loudness.

By a combination of extreme compression of the dynamic range and make-up gain, the sound range is boosted to a more uniform level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus. (Read more about it here and here.)

As this is the normative aesthetic nowadays – “it has to sound like this” – the sociology of music should really sharpen its ears and point them in this direction. It is extremely interesting in terms its philosophical implications. So, let us delve deeper into the aesthetic implications of loudness below!

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