Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jonny Greenwood on MP3s

Sasha Frere-Cohen's New Yorker blog has begun a series called Dithering, where he examines the sound quality of recordings during this the digital revolution. Interesting stuff. Keep up here. This week, Jonny Greenwood has this to say about mp3s.

They sound fine to me. They can even put a helpful crunchiness onto some recordings. We listened to a lot of nineties hip-hop during our last album, all as MP3s, all via AirTunes. They sounded great, even with all that technology in the way. MP3s might not compare that well to a CD recording of, say, string quartets, but then, that’s not really their point.

That's surprising from an audiophile and sound geek like Greenwood. But the part of this interview I really enjoyed came when Greenwood defined my own misgivings about the ease of music acquisition.

The downside is that people are encouraged to own far more music than they can ever give their full attention to. People will have MP3s of every Miles Davis’ record but never think of hearing any of them twice in a row—there’s just too much to get through. You’re thinking, “I’ve got ‘Sketches of Spain and ‘Bitches Brew’—let’s zip through those while I’m finishing that e-mail.” That abudnace can push any music into background music, furniture music.

True and fair, but I don't think I'd go back to the way it was. I mean, I can be doing my show (at!), start a track, suddenly think of the perfect next song, discover that I indeed do not have it, get online, download it, and have it queued up for the next track. That's just cool as shit. And there always have been those for whom acquiring new music had a purpose beyond the music. Like unread books adorning well-placed bookshelves, or a $5k road bike, hanging in plain view, that never gets ridden.

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