Category Archives: Music

“Some day music will only be air”

It’s a story full of lists. Some day music will only be air. There will be no objects to hold or fetishize and people will simply collect lists. No disc, nothing spooled or grooved, no heads to clean, no dust to wipe, no compulsive alphabetising. Nothing to put away in shoeboxes or spare cupboards and be embarrassed about. A chip inside us and inside the chip a route to all the music there ever was, which we can compile and organise and reorganise and merge with and feel into and in whatever way possible find the time to listen to, and we’ll need the time, all the time there is, all the time that music finds to press itself into.

Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paul Morley, 2003)

In 2005, Youtube was founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim as a video-sharing site. In 2012, Youtube surpassed radio and physical media as the “most popular way American adolescents listen to music.

Also in 2012, Psy made an estimated $7.9 million dollars from Gangnam Style, including $870,000 from ads attached to his more than 1 billion Youtube views, $2.4 million in income from iTubes downloads, and $4.6 million from commercial endorsements.

Here in 2013, this article traces the artistic, social, and corporate forces that combined to create the Harlem Shake phenomenon.

Music is not quite “only air” yet, but it is close. Books are next, then video. There are all sorts of complex and sticky legal, business, technical, and design questions to answer as we make this shift. But it is worth stepping back and realizing just how big a shift it is. Since 1877, we have taken in the notion that music can be (and eventually should be, and eventually always will be) made available in the form of physical media.

In honor of the shift, I bought a Sisters of Mercy EP this weekend. On vinyl. I could hear Roy from the I.T. crowd saying in my head …

San Francisco through other eyes

An indulgence: seeing my home, San Francisco, through other eyes. With music and video.

One. Mike Skinner visits briefly.


Two. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs bust out of the Warfield (presumably) and wander (with some magic geography jumps) through a rainy downtown.


The latter captures, perfectly, how magical this city can be, especially when it's damp and rainy and you're wandering downtown at night. (With your leather on.)




Changing the audience

Still curious what the band was doing exactly during "Realize," and where all that melody came from, I press him about it. "There was no melody!," he exclaims. "Every melody everyone had  was in their head." The group played "all the strings on the bass at the same time and then me with this whammy pedal able to go two octaves lower and then bring it up and down like that. And then with various distortion pedals I could change the texture of the noise whenever I wanted so it wasn't just like one sound, it was just sort of moving along somehow. It was the best part of the night always and each night it was an experiment to see how long it would take for the audience to turn from like one state to another. A certain percentage of the audience would start sticking their fingers up at us or they would put their hands up in the air with their eyes closed, or do somethig physical. I pretty much would always go on as long as it took to change the audience."

"When it was clear that the audience was changed, totally–even if it was one person left with their fingers in the air or in their ears, we would wait for them to give into it, " Kevin explains. "Sometimes it would take forty minutes for that one individual to give up. When the audience was fully and utterly done, we had the signal process where I would look at Debbie and we'd go back to the final parts of the song."

— from "33 1/2: Loveless", by Mike McGonigal, a book-long essay on the album Loveless by My Bloody Valentine

Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine) goes on to explain that they had to stop "experiments" like this because of accumulated hearing damage. Although I'm pretty sure they did it when I saw them just a few years ago …