The beauty and opportunity of the iPod

Posted on 18 November 2007

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I’m still torn in two directions as far as the progress we’ve made thanks to the iPod (and all of the other mp3 players, i guess, if anybody’s actually buying them).

As far as I can see, it has done two things:

  1. Everybody now has headphones with them at all times.
  2. People steal awful sounding music left and right just to stuff it onto these things.

There’s something that goes before #2, though; apparently, most people think MP3s sound OK. Like, it’s no problem to listen to a garbly, shitty, spatially confusing, pile of shit as far as quality goes MP3 format track while you’re working out or whatever.

I’m telling you: just open an MP3 in any waveform editor (like the free Audacity) and reverse it like the Beatles used to do by flipping the direction of the tape. Because MP3 was designed to trick the auditory processing parts of our brains, it has a weakness–you can hear the shittiness as a fine haze and blur all over the whole track when it’s reversed. Most of the time, it’s considered “good enough.” But, if you have a decent pair of headphones, it’s painfully obvious when it’s running in the normal direction, too.

As a result of peoples’ desire to stuff shit quality sound onto their expensive new iPod, anywhere you can get a free MP3 of the new kanye album or whatever instantly has a huge user base. That’s exploitable, right there, folks.

I mean, really–does anybody actually care about sound quality anymore? I mean, if you’re making music, all you have to do is make this incredibly beautiful piece of artwork that CAN’T BE DUPLICATED WITH MP3s CAUSE MP3s SUCK THE SOUL OUT OF SOUND, and you’re golden. You will sell. You will sell because you will AMAZE people, because people aren’t used to hearing beauty anymore.

One way to do this is to start recording your stuff binaurally, using the Ogg Vorbis codec or uncompressed audio. I don’t mean like Pearl Jam’s pathetic attempt. I mean like THE WHOLE ALBUM IS IN BINAURAL SURROUND SOUND FOR HEADPHONES in high-fucking-fidelity. Like with two microphones in a pattern resembling where our ears are. Like NOT FAKE STEREO. Like not the pale imitation of life that has been pushed on us for the past forty years. Like REAL QUALITY SOUND.

I’m not saying that all music needs to be recorded with $9000 mobile analog tape decks made by hand in Switzerland and listened to on esoteric headphone designs. Sometimes, lo-fi is beautiful…when it’s cranked up until your old sony boombox is exponentially adding to the distortion and the speakers are about ready to tear themselves apart–that’s great…but it gets old after a while.

There’s something to be said for class audio production–not “expensive” production, ala j.lo–rather, “THOUGHTFUL” production. Production like somebody spent more than half a shit thinking about it…

…and guess what? Do you even realize how much space is on the iPod now? You could put hundreds of albums on an iPod in raw, red-book CD format and still have room for videos, podcasts, whatever…the point is, we don’t really need compressed audio anymore. It’s a relic. It’s like buying a brand new 44000GHz or whatever computer and running DOS 1.0 or System 6 on it. It’s just unnecessary.

Don’t tell this to timberlake or britney or kanye. This is ours. WE GET TO HAVE THIS. All we have to do is start trying.

So, all of you kids sitting at home wanting to record yourself and crying because you can’t afford pro tools or whatever, just stop. You don’t need pro tools. You can do far better. You can record like this and it will blow your mind and, if you try, you can make things sound trippier than syd barrett ever dreamed.

You can record yourself in surround sound that works on everybody’s ipod, no accessories required. Just forget the MP3 trashing of sound and make something beautiful already!

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Posted in: Art, Music, Ramblings