When I’m 64: Communication of Humanity in a Digital Age of Music

Music has always been an integral part of my existence, from dance parties in my diaper years, to music-themed birthday parties when I was four, to my Jonas Brother’s obsession at ten, to now, where I’ve flown to Vancouver and stayed for 26 hours just to see Paul McCartney in concert. Anyone who knows me remotely well can tell you that I belong in the 1960s, and they’re totally right- that’s where most of my music taste comes from.

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This love for oldies music gives me a certain amount of concern for today’s music, and what music will become in the future. After all, as great as digital music is, for traditionalists like me, it means a loss of some of the humanity and imperfections that come with being a musician.

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Think about the Beatles. I mean, I never stop thinking about the Beatles because they’re my favorite musicians on the planet, but let’s put that aside for a second. When they first started out as a band, they recorded their music in a studio with only minimal recording technology. There was no fixing that accidental twang of the guitar, or that awkward harmony that just didn’t come out right: it was what it was. These are things that I find very important in music, because they are the essence of the music: they tell the story just as much as the lyrics and music do. I believe these mistakes give their music a certain amount of humanity; after all, as much as they are ridiculously famous human beings, they simply can’t get everything perfect.

(I mean, listen to the number of takes these things take, and how the recording process goes)

Nowadays with our increased technology, we can create songs entirely from the computer; we can fix that twang and that harmony with only a twitch of our finger and create a perfect, irreplicable song, and remove any humanity from our music. Suddenly, even though we have the writer’s style, and sound, and even lyrics to take meaning from, there’s an emptiness in the song that can’t be filled with more electronically created sound.

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But that’s not all. We’ve gone through quite the shift in listening technology as well as creating technology with music, and that has also brought about a disturbing change to oldies music that we listen to today. The switch from traditional media like the vinyl to newer technology like the CD or even digital copies of music has brought about the remastering of music from the past. The remastering process includes taking those imperfections and correcting them; in my eyes, essentially changing the meaning of the song. They can be little changes, unnoticeable to the untrained eye, but they still make a vital difference in the experience of listening to a song and connecting to its artist.

Listen to the difference between these two:



For example, the Beatles have been around for many years now, and their songs have gone through many changes as they’ve been remastered. The vinyl version of Help! that I have at home has a different word in it than  the new, digital version. One of my favorite Beatles songs, Across the Universe, has gone through even more remastering, which takes away some of the background sounds that make the music vintage: the static, background voices, and even sometimes changes the notes and chords themselves. In most cases, there’s no active reason to make the change, as there’s nothing technically wrong with the original. Listen to the difference between the ITunes version of the song (I can’t put a link for some reason, but I’m sure you know how to find it on ITunes), and this version:

Essentially, I believe the changes to music are drastic, and could potentially be changing the very face of music itself. Not only can more people now put out more music, but they can have recording studios in their own homes, and be able to achieve that technical perfection with whatever (expensive) technology they have at their disposal. Now, anyone with a slight twang, or a wavering note, won’t even be considered, no matter how good their technical expertise is. It’s almost as if the experience of music, and the way music communicates to us is changing; telling us that instead of faults and flaws being okay, nowadays it’s perfection or nothing. Now, I’m not saying we need to go back to the old ways- I’m just saying we need to be aware of the direction music is taking, and in what ways that change affects us as both producers and consumers.

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