How Technology Affects Art

I’ve been thinking lately about how technology affects the quality of art being made.  Now art is not monolithic.  Just because digital recording became the norm doesn’t mean that analog gear isn’t still used.  Just because photography was invented obviously doesn’t mean that there stopped being painters.  But I am talking about trends in general.

I have mentioned numerous times that I have spent a lot of time listening to The Cure lately.  I want to use two of their songs as an example.  I am going to post YouTubes, but it would be much better if you could listen to higher quality recordings to really get the details.  First I want you to listen to Play For Today from their album Seventeen Seconds, which at the time was a low budget recording (However you are listening, I would recommend headphones):

Now I want you to listen to a song called Sleep When I’m Dead from their album 4:13 Dream album.  This is a song that was written much earlier in their career, in what many fans feel was the best period of their career.  I purposely picked this song because it was written at an earlier period.  Although there are probably reasons this didn’t make a record, I wanted to get the argument that Robert Smith isn’t as good of a song writer as he used to be out of the way.  I’m not trying to talk about taste in writing or performance, merely the technology to capture each song.  (I personally like all periods of The Cure, though I have slight preferences for some.)  Anyway, here is the song:

Now it is impossible to know what creative decisions went into recording each song.  However, what is going on in each song is part of a bigger trend in music, so that I don’t think you can just base the sound of each recording to the taste of the artist.  I would also imagine that the budget was much bigger for Sleep When I’m Dead, given the fact that The Cure has gone on to be a band that can play stadiums.

On the earlier song there is much more clarity to the way it sounds.  Each instrument is discernible no matter how loud or quiet they are in the mix.  There is also much more depth of field.  When things get it seems like they are farther away.  In a lot of modern recordings when things get quieter, part of the instruments seem lost in a way that does not happen naturally in reality.  The newer song has less clarity and less depth of field, despite probably having a bigger budget for recording.  This is also despite the fact that technology has progressed.  I’m not doing this to knock later period Cure.  Too many times fans of any band develop sentimental attachments to artists that don’t allow them to view their newer work clearly.  I personally prefer the older song out of the two, but I am happy to hear any new material by an artist that I like.  Plus, there are newer songs by The Cure that I prefer to certain older ones.  It just comes down to the material itself.  However, I feel that the way the earlier material was recorded gives it a better chance of flight.  It has more sonic ambience and atmosphere in just the recording itself.

Anyway, I’m using music, but this really could apply to many art forms.  Although there are certain movies that look great when they are filmed digitally, there is something about the way film looks, which is a longer and more expensive process, that often wins out on average.  It always, at the end of the day, comes down to the choices that each individual artist makes and how they use a medium that matters most.

Technology often makes things easier and less expensive.  This is good because it allows more people to express themselves.  The downside to technology is that sometimes less of what is made, as a percentage, reaches a certain level of quality.  It is easier to record than ever before, which means more recordings are being made.  This is a good thing.  However, even average quality recordings of earlier time periods usually have a higher standard that average quality recordings today.

I’m not trying to make a point necessarily.  There are people on both sides of the argument.  Both have valid points.  I only am trying to get you to think about how technology can affect art both good and bad.  Technology in art, as it does in life, can often make things better and worse at the same time.

Sunday Thoughts…

I need to go canvassing for a political group in a little, so posting will be slow today, at least until tonight.  Overall it has been a good weekend.  The Shinyribs band had an extremely fun gig at the Cottonwood in Houston, Texas.  I saw the excellent film Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter last night.  Although I might not catch it till tomorrow, I am really looking forward to The Walking Dead season finale that premiers tonight.  (I don’t have cable.)  I am enjoying the new Cribs record, For All My Sisters, that just came out.  I also have been diving deeper into catalog of the band The Cure.  Most casual listeners probably have a view of The Cure that is crystalized by their late 80’s and early 90’s singles, but their catalog is really diverse and experimental, while somehow always maintaining an identity.  I unfortunately haven’t had much time for reading this weekend unfortunately, but so it goes.  I am working on A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews and Dante’s The Inferno.

Although the world can sometimes squeeze my skull, especially the latest antics by the batshit insane modern Republican Party, overall there is an endlessly fascinating amount of things to dive into.  My work week is kind of backwards from most people, as I usually am working when most others are relaxing.  If you are having a lazy Sunday, even if you have completely different tastes than me, have fun exploring…

Random Thoughts of the Day

Half man, half ape, navigating Austin traffic and modern life.  I took a prescription to a pharmacist today that had been approved by the same doctor twice, only to be told it needed doctor approval.  When I said the word “fuck” I was told I was in danger of having to leave.  That was my day in America.  I did see a friend’s new puppy, so things were sort of evened out.  Though that episode seems like a passing dream at the moment.

Still, trying to catch up with things after tour, I was pleased to see the White House has said that Israel occupation must end.

On the other hand Ted Cruz is running for President.  It should go well for no one, but it still makes me wonder how many damaged souls are running rampant in this country.

I’ve been in the South long enough, and traveled to enough parts of it to know, for a fact, that many of these people are being deeply fucked by the American system.  However, these same people are often the ones that resist any attempts to make their lives better.  One time I had a cop in Beaumont tell me how people were getting cancer from pollution in Beaumont.  Yet these are often the same people that are voting in politicians that would gut the EPA if possible.  This may seem as if I’m slagging them off, but I’m not.  I think sometimes people get so defeated for so long that things turn upside down.

I drove on I-10 from Tallahassee to Houston yesterday, so that would explain my insane mental state and also why I’m thinking about the South.  More intelligent thoughts may return at some point, or they may not, but perhaps not today.

I was pulled over last night by a cop in Louisiana.  I was speeding, but only ever so slightly.  The cop asked me a bunch of questions that made me think they were looking for someone.  Afterwards he left me off without a ticket.  I’ve been highly critical of the American police here, but this cop was extremely kind and courteous.  (I’m not just saying this because he didn’t give me a ticket.  It was the fact that he treated me like another human being even before I knew I was getting off.)  He was young.  It made me think of what relationships with the police could be like if only they had a different attitude.  If one is going to be critical, one must also point out when expectations are confounded.

Lastly, over at Huffington Post I saw the following picture.  It is a piece of art where former King Juan Carlos of Spain is being sodomized.  Life is strange:

Brazil Sao Paulo Biennial

Ninja Turtles, Napalm, and Silly Putty

Ninja Turtles comic spoiler alert


Somehow I stumbled upon this yesterday and it made me laugh.  It’s such a ridiculous picture if you step back from it.  (No offense meant to comic fans.  Whatever floats your boat I say.)  The imagination of man! 

George Carlin’s book Napalm & Silly Putty, the title anyway, was based on the absurdity of the human imagination.  The same group of beings that could make something to copy the Sunday comics could also create something to melt someone’s skin off from a distance. 

Image from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #44

Major Labels Begin to Question Spotify ‘Free Music’ Model

Major Labels Begin to Question Spotify ‘Free Music’ Model

Out on the road in Florida through the rest of the weekend.  Posting will probably be a little slim till I get back to Texas.  Just read the above article in Rolling Stone.  It’s about time.  Hopefully this is the beginning of a major shift.  It is important to our culture as a whole that people are fairly compensated for intellectual property. 

My Wild One by Thin Lizzy

My Wild One

I will be on the road most of the day today.  Headed to a festival in Florida.  If I can get more posted from the road I will.  In the meanwhile above is Phil Lynott and the timeless Thin Lizzy to start your day right.  Their album run from Fighting through Black Rose is as good as any rock band’s.  And all of their albums have things to recommend them.  If Lynott had lived, who knows, who knows…

Pharmacy = DMV of Drugs

When did going to the pharmacy become like going to the DMV?  I don’t think, in recent years (And yes this started before Obamacare.), I have ever showed up where my information was correct, where medicine was ready if it was correct, and where I wasn’t in a long line of equally bewildered customers. 

The pharmacy is a good metaphor for much of modern America.  It is shiny and pleasant, it’s appearance over functionality, but beneath the surface is a system so fucked that, if it’s byzantine combination of bureaucracy and free market principles don’t kill you outright, it will at least wring your soul out like a sponge, to where you are less human when you entered.