|Amazon Does MP3s|
|Written by Murphy Simmonds|
Amazon's MP3 store hammers another nail into the coffin of analogue music.
Ones and zeros. Crack open your portable music player, empty out a handful of songs, peer inside and what do you see? Ones and zeros, billions of them, wobbling along in a great big line so your handy pocket gadget knows can rebuild your favourite tunes and spit them out down a little wire into your head. It's unsettling. This is music, one of our greatest achievements, the manipulation and feeding of a crucial human sense to create an artistic experience which bores into our brain and tweaks our emotions like an auditory sprocket wrench. And it's supposed to boil down to 1, 0, 1, 1, 0? Really?"Unnatural filth, pounding synthetic nosebleed grime that gnaws at your feet and claws at your spinal column, can only be delivered with the aid of ones and zeros"
In fact, we've been delving into the guts of sound for millennia. From the very first moment some ancient Chinese harpist fathomed out the pentatonic scale, we have sullied the mysterious beauty of music with our explanatory theories. Now we're clued up about ear drums, vibrations and waveforms, while modern production methods can lay out the parts of a composition like Lego on a white rug, sonic chunks to be combined and structured and augmented with digital precision. Where's the magic? This is music creation via computer, with circuitry replaying the result to the listener. A freakish causal sequence of human, machine, machine, human.
But hey, so what? Progress isn't comfortable. The marriage of computers and music has led to incredible progress, and anyone who's felt the thick, tangible mass of a truly dirty electro bassline pumping out from the ominous speakers of a darkened club knows it. That glorious species of unnatural filth, pounding synthetic nosebleed grime that gnaws at your feet and claws at your spinal column, can only be delivered with the aid of ones and zeros. That's the reason Daft Punk dress like robots. Well, that and the fact they're French.
The electro bassline is, of course, the merest glimpse of what mastery of binary code has done for mankind's audio prowess. There will never be anything to replace live music, but there doesn't have to be - this simply means we can do more stuff. Some random in a bedroom can churn out an award-winning tune using a PC, and though traditionalists might call it a travesty, they're just jealous because nobody wants to hear their Grade 8 clarinet recital.
All of which gets us to the tech news element of this column. The MP3, which is little more than a clever compression method which rendered songs small enough to download back in the days of dial-up internet, has gutted the music industry by wrestling control of distribution from its hands. Record companies must now compete with self-promotion, overhead-free publishing and a piracy scene too large to fight. Hence the rise of the legitimate MP3 store - and now Amazon has joined the party in the UK. Its MP3 shop isn't as friendly or exhaustive as iTunes yet, but it does boast no DRM (meaning you can copy the tracks once downloaded) and a bundle of cheapo deals for early adopters, like classic albums for £3. Still expensive, perhaps, for a line of ones and zeros. Then again, it is an extremely long line.