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Music gets lost in the mix

By Denebola
Published: February 2008

By Mara Sahleanu

Once upon a time, mix tapes were composed of music on actual cassettes. Synthesizers were completely unheard of, and artists were actually talented.
Now, technology is credited for the successes of the absurdly impersonal digitized music world. Programmed machines are posing a threat to human musicians’ careers as now almost anyone around the world can press a key to create whatever kind of sound they want to.
Innovation has supplied us with such luxuries as the acoustic/electric guitar, the mp3, and the infallible iPod generation. But is the ease of using electronics getting in the way of what matters in music?
“Today, pretty much the whole process of recording, distributing and producing music is done through computers, Princeton University professor, Dr. George Tzanetakis said. This change of pace has its advantages, but in the end, the music is left slowly crumbling from its original standard.


Although programs such as Garage Band Programs akin to Garage Band, albeit provide the masses with hours of infinite amusement, but are also used to arrange loops and cuts to form “original compilations that are eventually produced and distributed as recorded music.
George Martin, the legendary producer responsible for piecing together many historic albums such as Sargent Pepper’s, strongly disapproves of modern innovations’ influence on the modern musician.
“With iPods, mini-recorders, and all the new technology, people can lie in their bath and make a rock record, Martin said.
Although encouraging amateurs to take part in the creation of music can prove to be beneficial to the industry, technology has recently focused on taking the music industry’s hand in the hopes of easily creating something truly magical. But together, all they have come up with is “rubbish according to Martin.
In 2004, the London production of Les Misérables moved from its original location to the significantly smaller Queens Theatre, the production dropping nine musicians in the transition. The solution to the new thin-sounding orchestra was to hire digital musicians to fabricate a thicker sound.
Chief executive producer of RealTime, Jeff Lazarus, the company responsibly for creating artificial music believes that the sound the machinery produces challenges the arguments against the ease of the equipment. The musical morality of replacing the once personal and unique performances given by the members of the orchestra, however, has been replaced with the mechanics of volume dials and spacebars.
Furthermore, in the event of a power outage or a server error, the show may not be able to go on. The dangers of this pre-recorded soundtrack have sunk to those of a middle school production; kids in costumes singing on stage, terrified of the instrumental CD skipping throughout their solo.
Designed in 2005, the Music Information Retrieval Evaluation exchange (MIREX) was designed to analyze and compare musical similarities on a scientific level. Acting on the development, labels immediately adopted the technology and created a new machine that evaluates submissions from new artists. The demo track is scanned in, analyzed, and compared to recent trends in music.
If it is too similar to other trends the track is trashed, however, if it is dubbed too abstract, it is also thrown away. This process of selection is remarkably effective at singling out talent that could possibly make loads of money or scale the music charts over the course of a couple weeks. But it just as easily destroys most hopes for originality.
What results is a top ten list of identical singles that are produced under a strict, profit-hungry producer whose job is to churn out as many in-the-moment tracks as he can.
“It’s a very greedy, artist-exploiting business¦we have [a lot to thank] record labels for, but we also have [a lot to blame them for]¦bands are getting grabbed by their balls before they even sign a record deal, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 said in the November issue of Rolling Stone.
Audio engineers are currently the best at using digital sound techniques to make an average product wildly popular. Time and money are spent adjusting pitches and copying-and-pasting simply for famous faces to “sing soundlessly into a microphone while their pre-recorded voices blast from speakers backstage.
It seems as if today’s artists can’t get by without “a little help from their friends, but is their hair, rockin’ body, and stage smile worth all the expensive trickery?
In the end, the music is slowly degenerating and moving away from the form of art that it once was. The people behind audio technology are all going silly airbrushing what’s not considered flawless by mass standards and are stuck producing and distributing the same type of music over and over again.
If the natural imperfections in music were taken with more pride, if listeners dared to test the gray area, and if listeners were able to save their souls from being sold to the digitized world, then perhaps this mess could be reversed. It is safe to assume that the heavily made-up celebrity in that music video is sadly beginning to one-up the old-school radio star, and that can’t happen now, can it?

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