February 14, 2002
3:36 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone care that nobody needs to sing well anymore? Spot-on piece about the way that digital music tools aren't just making rotten singers sound OK (with software that shifts their pitch upwards), but good singers lazy ("hey that's fine, just copy'n'paste it into the next chorus"). And removing the excitement from studio performance. Is the only honest response to this electro-fakery to go all Daft Punk? Or am I just an old Stevie'n'Retha'n'Marvin nostalgist?
posted by theplayethic (53 comments total)
Um, that second thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

From the article: "It's evolved to where any kid in Keokuk, Iowa, with a Pro Tools system thinks that he's competing with Max Martin. And he is."

And this is bad why?

This perceived "fakery" is already driving a counteracting desire in some musicians and fans for "authenticity". They'll co-exist. And anyway, how is releasing the best of thirty takes less "fake" than doing a quick edit?
posted by rory at 4:09 AM on February 14, 2002

Vocals are probably the hardest thing for people working in home studios to get right so anything the software companies produce that can help them has to be a good thing.
posted by kerplunk at 4:29 AM on February 14, 2002

The best of thirty takes a lot more realistic than editing your voice so you don't sound like a gravelly-voiced truck driver.

Mind you, this stuff has been happening for years. Look at Chris Cornell, his vocals were autotunned on all Soundgarden's releases (anyone who's seen them live would know this).

Nevertheless, this is becoming sickening. Singers should be required to display some form of talent. An album should contain the best cuts possible, but to me they should be the most realistic cuts possible. Part of my money spent on albums is because I believe the musicians have a talent that is worth my money.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:31 AM on February 14, 2002

kerplunk: amen. I don't have a great voice, but my home setup doesn't even do "average" justice.

I'm not complaining that this technology is evil, rather that it can be used for evil. Britney Spears' horribly overproduced vocals, BTW, are EVIL!!!
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:33 AM on February 14, 2002

Yeah, but horrible overproduction has been a feature of the pop music industry for y-e-a-r-s. As in, the horrible syrupy schmaltz that predated rock and roll in the 50s; the horrible syrupy schmalz that post-dated rock and roll and pre-dated the Beatles in the 60s; bubblegum music; any number of awful glam and disco bands in the 70s; that ghastly period in the mid-80s when synths were hitting their stride and the saxophone was in vogue; and so on, and so on.

Musicians who love to sing will still sing. Musicians who love to do other things now have better tools to do it with. And if a few teen-pop bands sound a bit better than they used to through "fakery", is this worse than the days when producers would use session singers and enlist good-looking non-singers to front a band?
posted by rory at 4:43 AM on February 14, 2002

Frank Sinatra: Best. Vocalist. Ever.

Just figured this would be an appropriate thread to mention that fact.
posted by davidmsc at 4:51 AM on February 14, 2002

So you're saying "fake, overproduced" voices bring us this?
Um. I'm okay with that.
posted by owillis at 5:03 AM on February 14, 2002

Of course, one can use ProTools to do fairly standard recording as well. I have a home studio and I record "live" (I'm not doing vocals). It's like having a Tascam 4 track, only more flexible. Let's not blame technology for poor taste.
posted by tommasz at 5:24 AM on February 14, 2002

Fakery or not......it's the SONG that matters. You can't fake songwriting skills.
posted by davebush at 5:28 AM on February 14, 2002

Dusty Springfield, one of the greatest pop voices of the 60s, drove producers bananas with her insistence of recording her vocals one phrase at a time. sometimes even only one word.

What kids are doing now digitally is no different than what engineers have been doing for over half a century with tape and a razorblade.

Why do people always assume that people in the past were saints?
posted by mischief at 5:33 AM on February 14, 2002

Fake what you want in a studio... You can't fake it live on stage (except when the audience is semi-dea teenger too far from the stage so that they can't see its lipsynched)

posted by Baud at 5:34 AM on February 14, 2002

You couldn't fake 'Strawberry Fields', 'A Day in the Life' and 'I am the Walrus' on stage, either, and I'll take those over a perfunctory run-through of 'Love Me Do' any day.
posted by rory at 5:37 AM on February 14, 2002

Way back in 1959, recording studio tricks made a star of Fabian Forte.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:40 AM on February 14, 2002

Dark Messiah wrote: The best of thirty takes a lot more realistic than editing your voice so you don't sound like a gravelly-voiced truck driver.

But how is it 'realistic' to choose the best performance out of thirty and have it create expectations that all of your performances are like that? And this isn't just a pop-music issue; it's an issue in classical music, too, where every cough and sneeze from the audience gets edited out.

And why is 'realism' so important anyway? What does it mean in this context? How is one particular disembodied voice reaching my ears via electronic speakers, wires, amplifier, CD player, laser beam, bits encoded on plastic, mass-produced from a master recorded on tape or hard disk from a microphone in front of a singer standing in a sound-proof booth, any less 'real' than another that's all of those things plus an extra line dropped into the third verse and the vocals sped up five percent?

If you're listening to recordings the whole question of 'realism' is moot. You want real, go and play your grandmother's piano.
posted by rory at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2002

(Um, I meant any more 'real'. Carry on.)
posted by rory at 5:52 AM on February 14, 2002

Bono sure could have used that software during the Super Bowl halftime show.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:07 AM on February 14, 2002

Well, for sure I will never hear Enya live in concert ; )
being part of a kicking band myself( yes, it is a worship team but we are fully rocking including a waaaailing electric solo guitarist I would put up against anybody)....I love live.

We have some of the most talented people imaginable...one gal and her husband have recently put out a cd, self distributed....she is a keyboardist and talented vocalist...honestly I prefer her voice live to whatever they have done to her in studio. The woman is a perfectionist and by the time she is done tweaking (or being tweaked) a lot of the passion and soul have been tweaked away....

I suppose too it depends on the style of music you are dealing with. To go back to Enya, she is doing that ethereal New Age celtic mysterious thing....all the bells and whistles are in service to her goal. In order to even attempt to do that live she would need to find a choir of people who sound like her...I have actually read of her thoughts on trying to attempt something like that live...and it would be an interesting experiment-but I digress.

These little pop-tart disposable "singers" foisted on the public are another thing entirely. It's all packaging, not substance-I guarantee if you spent that much time and effort on any one of us here on metafilter we too would be the next pop sensation. And I dare to think we might actually have more talent?
posted by bunnyfire at 6:12 AM on February 14, 2002

Look, when multi-track recording came about, everyone said that was the death knell of recorded music because suddenly you could do stuff that wasn't possible live. Now, all these people are talking about how digital is the death knell of multi-track recording. The fact is, technology is just a tool. Good music is good music whether it is was performed live at the local hole in the wall, or slaved over in the studio for months. All the digital tricks in the world can't make a bad song good. True, technical ability on an instrument is not necessarily a requirement anymore, but plenty of players who have huge chops on their instruments have been making terrible music for years (modern fusion, etc...). People will continue to make crappy, sterile pop music by talentless performers that sells millions of copies, just like they have for the last 50 years, and increadibly gifted musicians will also continue to thrill us with their music just like the have in the past.
posted by bob bisquick at 6:21 AM on February 14, 2002

Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.
posted by rory at 6:22 AM on February 14, 2002

Speaking as a musician, I think that making actual good music with computerized tools requires just as much in the way of musicality, thought & skills as making music the analog way. It's just a different set of skills and the person actually displaying the musicality may be the producer/engineer rather than the official musicians. Sgt. Pepper's really exemplified the use of the recording studio as an instrument in itself - they were using tape rather than computers, but the concepts were exactly the same.

I don't begrudge the engineer/composers (as you might call them) the fact that Pro Tools is easier to work with than cutting and splicing tape. I do get annoyed when I hear the electronic tools applied lazily, without thought or musicality. When I hear a pop tune dominated by a generic drum machine beat & vocals processed to where they lack personality, I just change the station.

I used to have a friend whose band performed live with a drum machine rather than a real drummer. If he had used one of the standard preprogrammed patterns that came with the machine, it would have sucked, but instead he spent hours composing and programming every beat & exactly how it fit in with every change in the song. It also forced him to get all the changes exactly right when he performed or he would have been out of sync with the machine. You can program "personality" into a drum machine - it just takes a lot more work, time, and creativity.

For those who aren't using ProTools as a creative instrument, but as a clean-up tool, it still has it's place. Suppose I'm in the studio and I get two usable takes. One is technically perfect but a bit emotionally dry. The other is filled with emotion but I blow a note on the 2nd chorus. I'd rather use the emotional take and use ProTools to fix the blown note if possible. I do dislike the concept of recording one chorus and cut & pasting it over - it makes everything consistent, but consistent is not necessarily musical.

As far as using autotuners to correct pitch, etc - it can make a mediocre performer more consistent - but it can't make you sound like a real master. Part of what separates out the great musicians is nuance - microscopic variations in pitch, tone & dynamics on each note according to the emotional context. Learning how to program those variations would be harder than learning how to sing them. Listen to the vocals of a Cheryl Wheeler or the guitar of a Chris Smithers - you can't program that.
posted by tdismukes at 6:25 AM on February 14, 2002

What bob bisquick said. Creative, quality music will always be entertaining whether the tool used to create it is a computer or a fretboard. Bad music will always sound bad, no matter how much Vocaligning it gets.

An aside: I've recorded on 2-inch tape and we used all kinds of tricks to get it to sound good, e.g. if you can't hit the high notes that day (the singer had a cold!), playback the tape at a slightly slower speed while you record the track so the pitch is lower. When you play it back, the overall pitch goes up to the correct level!
posted by transient at 6:36 AM on February 14, 2002

Kids used to learn how to play an instrument. Now, with equipment that costs a few thousand dollars, they can sit in their bedroom and chop up loops and beats.

And who's to say it isn't just as challenging to learn to "chop up loops and beats?"

To the novice, a laptop running Cubase and Reason is just as forboding an instrument as a guitar.
posted by Pinwheel at 6:43 AM on February 14, 2002

There is no _should_ in music, grasshopper.

If you ask me the Compressor, which has existed forever is the antichrist of vocal production and it more than an Autotuner is what makes BritSpears sound so overproduced. Any piece of music tech can do good or bad.

And FYI Cher's and Daft Punks vocals are Vocoded, not autotuned. A vocoder takes the pitch+tambre of (usually) a synth sound and maps it to the frequency pattern of a vocal input, Aggressive autotuning sounds exactly like Paula Abdul's singing or, say Mariah Carey's superhigh vocals.
posted by n9 at 6:43 AM on February 14, 2002

I never really understand this argument. I mean, it's nice when someone can actually SING and you can go see them in concert, but mostly we listen to recorded music, so what does it matter HOW the sounds we hear are produced, so long as they result in a pleasing effect?
posted by rushmc at 6:48 AM on February 14, 2002

To the novice, a laptop running Cubase and Reason is just as forboding an instrument as a guitar.

I'll vouch for that. I recently bought Cubase, and when I load it I still stare at it in befuddlement.
posted by rushmc at 6:50 AM on February 14, 2002

Frank Sinatra: Best. Vocalist. Ever.

Bing Crosby: Best. Vocalist. Ever.

But the first thing I thought of when I saw the FPP was this quote from G.K. Chesterton:

"Once men sang together round a table in chorus; now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If scientific civilization goes on (which is most improbable) only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest."

Even better than using digital tools to make a recording of yourself that sounds great: singing together with your friends and not caring how you sound.
posted by straight at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2002

The real problem with this kind of tweaking for me is the disappointment I feel when I see these artists perform live. I hear a song they've done on the radio, or I buy a cd, and I genuinely like it-- but then I hear them perform the same song live on SNL, and it bears no resemblance to the recorded version. I guess it's somewhat inevitable that the gulf between live performance and recordings will widen as technology becomes more sophisticated and accessible.
posted by altojen at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2002

You know, I saw Enya performing live on Conan O'Brien or some such a few weeks ago. She was definitely singing live, and had a bunch of strings backing her up. It was slightly simpler than most of her songs, but it was still undeniable Enya, and her voice was surprisingly lovely.
posted by annathea at 7:14 AM on February 14, 2002

As others have pointed out, this is really nothing new. In the 50's they used echo chambers and plate reverbs to "punch up" weak vocals, Les Paul was multi-tracking guitar parts in the 40's, etc. etc. Unless you're recording live to a master, you're relying on technology to some degree.

But even then...different microphones, and especially, microphone placement can completely change the sound. There must be an uncountable number of ways to set up 2 microphones in a concert hall. Which one is actually "the truth"?

Personally, I think the democratization of digital recording technology is wonderful. For sure, there are a lot of styles of music that are dependent on it, and would probably not exist without it. But would we have rock music without guitar pickups and amplifiers? Or classical music without the technology that allowed us to bend wood in the shape of a violin?
posted by groundhog at 7:16 AM on February 14, 2002

Damn. Four more comments while I was writing this one...

Granted a couple of things: that using digital tools to make music is a skill in itself, often involving hours of learning. More to the point, it doesn't matter how easy they make the interface, the computer is not going to turn you into Beck -- it's not going to educate your ear for you, for one thing. (And for the all the yapping about having a good voice, what tends in pop to set singing musicians apart from non-musicians is not the voice itself, but the ear -- the ability to hear oneself accurately, as well as others.)

Granted also that the natural and the artificial don't just coexist in pop and rock, they bang around in the mosh pit together. Rock ain't natural -- hell, an amplified guitar right away can make a single undertalented teen sound like all the brass bands that ever were.

But, Rory, would you agree that rock and pop (like other kinds of music) are heavily involved with, maybe even partially dependent on certain tropes, one of which is the trope of spontaneity, of "live" performance. Without getting all grad school about it, methinks the dismissal of "authenticity" as a concern is premature, because it's a legitimate beef to say "is this element of a cultural practice in danger?"

I think that performance unmediated by digital technology, as a valued form of human culture, is in danger. I see digital technology (and its capacity to edit and fine tune what we say and do) as something to be wary of in this vein. I think that there is something worth holding onto in the idea that the singer really can sing those notes. I can deal with Moby, because his music doesn't make that claim. But if you found out that Stephen Merritt was a tenor altering his voice digitally to make it a bass, wouldn't the music sour a little bit for you?
posted by BT at 7:20 AM on February 14, 2002

These arguments never go away... when photography came along traditional artists accused photographers of cheating, now photographers accuse digital artists of cheating. The same applies to music. In the fifties people like Pierre Henri (I think that was his name), caused controversy by using home made synths and samplers.

Technology is there to be used, and at the end of the day, if you like what you hear, then someone has done something right. Music, like any other art form is so subjective - different strokes for different folks and all that.
posted by twistedonion at 7:20 AM on February 14, 2002

There was a pretty good article in the Chicago Tribune back in August--a group of reporters used technology to record and "fix" their recording of "daydream believer". Kind of interesting.
posted by altojen at 7:37 AM on February 14, 2002

Voice is over-rated. I'll take substance over style any day. The power of a song isn't in whether the singer can hit a particular note, or if they can, how they did it. Some people just aren't ever gonna be able to sing like Enya, but I'd hate to think that meant they weren't allowed to make great music. Since when did it become a singing contest, anyway?
posted by Hildago at 7:39 AM on February 14, 2002

you know, i'd rather listen to the song of nsync's that samples pac-man than all the crap laments from overweight monobrows who can only write lyrics about their parents getting divorced <tm someone on another board>. and both genres are products, and both genres are just as reliant on marketing and slickery as each other, and if one person can use technology to their advantage, well, then, fine. isn't that in itself artistry?
posted by maura at 7:40 AM on February 14, 2002

also, like alicia keys isn't 'pro tooled' in terms of being hyped and marketed to death? i mean, come on, people. let's get real to what exactly is going on hereā€”the tendencies towards 'making product' in pop music aren't anything new, and they certainly don't solely exist in the fabrication of the records themselves.
posted by maura at 7:45 AM on February 14, 2002

I'm also reminded of the debate in visual art over it somehow requiring "drawing ability", which is currently receding in importance next to the "conceptual". Personally, I attach huge importance to drawing ability, as I do to singing ability, but I wouldn't equate that with a benchmark for art, music, or quality. That's just ignoring too many other factors.
posted by snarfois at 7:47 AM on February 14, 2002

BT - "I think that performance unmediated by digital technology, as a valued form of human culture, is in danger."

To the extent that this may be true, it's not because of studio tools. Recorded music is a different experience & art form than live performance, period. It doesn't matter if you're using ProTools or not (My band is in the studio working on our fourth album & we're only now capturing some of what makes our sound special live.)
The real danger to live performance is that people are so inundated with recorded music throughout the day from famous musicians, that they feel no urge to go out and hear local musicians live. The average person is also less likely to sing in public than he or she might have been in past centuries because of the constant exposure to top-notch professional performers - i.e. "I can't sing like <insert name of famous musician here> so I'm untalented and should keep my mouth shut." The G.K. Chesterton quote from straight was right on.
posted by tdismukes at 7:51 AM on February 14, 2002

I was going to post a similar list to Hildago above, but then I thought, we'd probably complain if Tom Waits sounded like, say, Robbie Williams in real life, and he used ProTools to make it sound as if he'd been smoking since he was six. As an interesting side note, Tom Waits frequently distorts his voice. But never to sound "better". Does manipulation only bother us when we're not supposed to notice it?
posted by snarfois at 8:09 AM on February 14, 2002

Even with all these technologies, recordings still can't compare with the acoustics of live performance. But, not everyone has 25 music students tromping through the house each week like we do here.
posted by sheauga at 8:28 AM on February 14, 2002

Tom Waits: Best. Vocalist. Ever.
posted by twistedonion at 8:29 AM on February 14, 2002

BT asked: if you found out that Stephen Merritt was a tenor altering his voice digitally to make it a bass, wouldn't the music sour a little bit for you?

Which comes back to the heart of the issue (thanks, Bill), the idea of authenticity: are these musicians pretending to be something they aren't? The answers being a messy 'it depends' and 'what's it to ya?'

Certainly no one has been fooled by digital trickery into thinking that Cher sings like she's gargling; a lot of digital tricks are so obviously 'unreal' (surreal? hyperreal?) that no one will be 'fooled'; instead, we get to enjoy sounds that couldn't otherwise exist. The supposed problem is this one of faked perfection, of singers purporting to be something they're not. But this 'fakery' has existed for a very long time, as various people here have pointed out, to the point where modern music lovers are aware of it and prepared for it.

Yes, perhaps the first time you hear your favourite singer turn in a dud performance you'll feel disillusioned; but after a while you learn and accept that this is just an inevitable difference between studio and live performances.

Perhaps, I concede, in certain cases the seal of 'authenticity' is so necessary a part of a particular musician's reputation that their reputation will suffer if they're found to be faking. An opera singer would be a good case in point (at the moment; but will it always be, and was it ever thus? Were the castrati 'authentic'?) But it's hard to see why this should matter in the case of most pop artists, who would never have achieved anything like their current standing without the aid of the recording studio and MTV. That's why I linked to the piece about Milli Vanilli—why all the fuss about a band that everyone knew was a disposable producer-driven pop band?

I guess it's yet another case of people chafing against the contemporary world, which is such an elaborate edifice of artifice, of layer on layer of manufacture and mass collaboration to the point where it's hard to tell who did what and what's 'real' and what's 'original' and 'authentic', that it's driving some of us in the opposite direction, to seek out the 'genuine', the solo singer-songwriter on acoustic guitar, the world music section at the CD store, the Buena Vista Social Club and the original demo recordings...

I can understand that desire to keep a sense of what's authentic, so that we have a base-line to keep in mind when listening to the 'fake'. But when you're familiar with a wide range of music, a sense of 'authenticity' distils from your musical experience almost without you trying. And that then frees you to enjoy the wildly 'inauthentic' - techno, house, trance, bangra; the indigenous music of the late twentieth century - because it's just as authentic to its own time and culture. The Chemical Brothers says much, much more about England in the 1990s and early 2000s than Elgar, Vera Lynn or even the Beatles. This is the authentic music of the moment. Performing 'pure', 'real' music with unedited voices and unplugged instruments is now reactionary, in the sense of 'a reaction against the mainstream'.

Calling electronic instruments and digital editing 'fakery' in 2002 is like insisting that orchestras go back to playing with lutes and harpsichords. Interestingly, some orchestras are doing just that. Both are signs that popular culture is redefining and reorienting itself, but hasn't quite finished yet. Personally, I'd be happy if it never finishes.
posted by rory at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2002

Am I the only one hear who does sit around a table with his friends and sing? I don't think it's as rare as some seem to think.

And Tom Waits has one of the most amazing voices I've ever heard.
posted by transient at 8:44 AM on February 14, 2002

Rock'n'roll! Glad I posted that link. Too much great stuff to digest with a proper reply - but let me tell you why the article got to me. Yep, me musician too. And the other day on a fan site, I heard this old live track of me singing - just some throwaway at the end of a concert. And damn, if that one take wasn't better than anything I'd ever sweated over in a studio, spending too much money and too much time indoors (and yes, "comping" from about 10 takes of each song). It's a dilemma that every singer wrangles with. (Don't worry, I'm not promoting product - I retired a while ago).

The only consolation I have is that my favorite singer of all time (F.A.Sinatra) was just as much a "technohead" as Daft Punk - he worked all the possibilities of close-mike singing as much as he could, coming up with an "artificially" intimate sound that killed all competitors stone dead. But you gotta have a tension between authentic and fake - i don't go with the blithe postmodernism that it's always been tinsel and glitter forever, and forever will be. For one thing, if it's all a camp construction, then that gives the A&R man as much of a right to tell you how your horn section should sound, as you do. And all I need to say about that is: Pop Idol.
posted by theplayethic at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2002

you gotta have a tension between authentic and fake

Well, as the 'blithe postmodernist' (I guess), I'll defend myself by pointing out that I said much the same at the end of my last comment.

Great performance, theplayethic; I wish I could pick you from the recording, but sadly can't! I'll play devil's advocate, though, by asking (a) how we can tell it's an authentic live performance other than your telling us so (yes, of course I believe it is, but the point being that with today's tricks an emotional one-take like that could be spliced out of two or three), and (b) would it really matter - it matters to you that it was one take, it mattered to your audience on that night, but why should it matter to us 'out here' if we get pleasure from it either way? Just a thought.

And as for all music being a camp construction, I wouldn't want that any more than you, I suspect - but there was a definite overtone in that Denver Post article that somehow the fact that 'teen-pop music is manufactured' was news to the author, and grim and ominous news at that - look at the producer he profiles, Max Martin of Britney and N Sync fame. Which is kind of like complaining that game shows are crass and commercial, or that soap operas aren't Shakespeare.

Still, a bit of camp construction has its place - viva Esquivel! But I'll happily come to your concert if you ever come out of retirement.
posted by rory at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2002

transient - "Am I the only one here who does sit around a table with his friends and sing?"

You're not the only one, but you are in a minority in the public at large. Be happy - it's a good thing (the singing, not the minority part).
posted by tdismukes at 9:45 AM on February 14, 2002

This question doesn't even make sense in the innumerably splintered underground dance music genres and their cousins, founded on digital manipulation and a certain home-grown accessibility. Nobody cares if Bill Leeb or Ronan Harris or Stefan Groth can hit the notes or not, and I think we'd be a bit disappointed if the engineers didn't have to spend days in the studio mixing up their digital audio concoctions. That's the entire point.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:46 AM on February 14, 2002

Thanks. But this bath-chair's comfy... The performance was a fan's bootleg, so even I (through my befuddled memory) am pretty sure it's continuous.

I suppose as a listener, it somehow matters to me that everyone was in the room, and in real-time, when Kind of Blue went down, or Aretha gets to the end of "Muddy Water", or my favourite recorded Stevie Wonder concert (that German early-seventies one they always play on VH-1) was a zillion times better than anything on his records (and Jesus, they were good).

There's something humanistically miraculous about all that talent, happening right there, right now, everything pulsing and throbbing around it... I watched the Grammy's last year, and I so loved it when Sheryl Crow and Shelby Lynne did this guitar-vocal duet - just sent shivers up and down my spine.

There's a UK live "MTV-unplugged-style" show (you'll know it) called Later. S eeing Mary J.Blige do "Natural Woman" on that, or Micheal McDonald surge thru What A Fool Believes - looking like Kenny Rogers swallowed Ray Charles - will never leave me. That's not to say that the slapped-bass-snap in that Basement Jaxx record doesn't thrill me too.

Hey Rory, I think pop music is one of those "both-and", rather than "either-or" mediums... pax vobiscum. (And I'm rather a tortured postmodernist myself, so feel no fret.)
posted by theplayethic at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2002

rory- good points. I'd like to add that apart from the musicality of a song or performance, there's also a unique - umm, the word that comes to mind is "texture"- involved. As cool and wonderful as digital technology can be, there are certain characteristics of a live acoustic performance that just can't be captured, synthesized or replicated. So, apart from any reaction to modern technology, I think there's a natural affinity for unprocessed sonic textures, whether it's by bangin' on a drum around a fire or going to the symphony.
posted by groundhog at 10:05 AM on February 14, 2002

"Both-and"... I'll definitely go with that; got a very "both-and" music collection myself. I agree that a performance where everything comes together perfectly in the one room at the one time is something to be treasured; and that there's a warmth about such performances that's valuable too.

Just wouldn't want to give up my Impossible Music now that it's Possible.
posted by rory at 11:14 AM on February 14, 2002

People are expecting authenticity in show business? That just... makes no sense. It's all smoke and mirrors. All that matters and has ever mattered is that it be entertaining smoke and mirrors. Being able to accomplish that is where the authentic talent is.
posted by frenetic at 12:37 PM on February 14, 2002

Fake what you want in a studio... You can't fake it live on stage (except when the audience is semi-dea teenger too far from the stage so that they can't see its lipsynched)

Actually software exists that will pitch-correct live music in real time - no prerecording, no lipsynching. Garbage in, flawless out. I think the article I read about it said n*sync, Cher and Jenifer Lopez use it among others. What a shocker.
posted by cakeman at 1:29 PM on February 14, 2002

People are expecting authenticity in show business?

yep- you nailed it frenetic...if you want authenticity, go see a local band sweatin' it out in your local pub, blues bar, punk club, etc...
posted by ayukna at 3:09 AM on February 15, 2002

As late as I am on this thread, I must comment. I've thought about this a lot, and it is a faulty assumption that older music was more pure or honest or even live. As soon as multitrack recording became a possibility, it was devoured by the industry. Miles Davis used to overdub solos in the 60s, Yes assembled entire songs ("Close to the Edge") from chunks of song, Steely Dan made some guy rerecord a solo 50 times to get it perfect. For at least 30 years, music on record has not been a representation of what that artist sounds like live. The truth is that an album is a illusion showing what the artist/producer would most like the music to sound like. The recent digital advances only make the illusion more believable. When I listen to some of the incredible soundling Pro-Tools albums (Tool "Lateralus" and Steely Dan "Two Against Nature" immediately come to mind), which incorporate pitch correction and are heavily digitally edited, I am forced to thank the pagan gods of the studio that digital technology has progressed so much.
posted by tcobretti at 11:35 AM on February 15, 2002

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