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Bytes and Backbeats

Repurposing Music in the Digital Age

Steve Savage

Publication Year: 2011

From Attali’s “cold social silence” to Baudrillard’s hallucinatory reality, reproduced music has long been the target of critical attack. Steve Savage, however, deploys an innovative combination of designed recording projects, ethnographic studies of contemporary music practice, and critical analysis to challenge many of these traditional attitudes about the creation and reception of music. Savage adopts the notion of “repurposing” as central to understanding how every aspect of musical activity, from creation to reception, has been transformed, arguing that the tension within production between a naturalizing “art” and a self-conscious “artifice” reflects and feeds into our evolving notions of creativity, authenticity, and community. Three original audio projects form an integral part of the work, drawing from rock & roll, jazz, and traditional African music. Through these projects, Savage is able to target areas of contemporary practice that are particularly significant in the cultural evolution of the musical experience from the perspective of composers, musicians, and listeners. This work stems from Savage’s experience as a professional recording engineer and record producer. “Instead of focusing solely on legal aspects, as many authors have done, Savage takes the time to study not only how technologies have altered the way we make and consume music, but also how technology relates to culture. This balance between ‘empirical’ and ‘critical’ approaches is powerful.” — Serge Lacasse, Université Laval

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Tracking Pop

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xiii-xiv

List of Audio Clips

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Reproduction and New Paradigms

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pp. 1-20

Music today is being created, performed, and listened to in ways that are profoundly different from music practices prior to the migration to digital audio. The traditional timeline from the composer through the performer to the consumer has been radically altered under new working paradigms, ...

Part One: Repurposing Presentation

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Introduction to Part I

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pp. 21-24

Part I examines the way that the presentation of recorded music has been altered by music production within the computerized environment of the DAW. I describe the implementation of a variety of these new capabilities in the postrecording process (work on the recording done after the actual recording is made). ...

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One: Application Study: Rock Band

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pp. 25-47

One of the first responsibilities that a producer of popular music takes on is the requirement that the final product delivered to the record company be “in tune and in time.” That is to say, the musical performances are to realize a certain standard of technical proficiency in pitch and rhythm. ...

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Two: Studio Study: Lipsmacks, Mouth Noises, and Heavy Breathing

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pp. 48-60

This studio study continues the examination of how the presentation of popular music recordings is affected by the repurposing of audio after recording. Generally the practices described here represent a kind of “cleansing” of musical performances, as opposed to the “fixing” described in the previous application study. ...

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Three: Art or Artifice?

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pp. 61-78

Determinism is a feature in various social science theories. For example, there is genetic determinism like that represented by one side of the “nature versus nurture” debate, and there is linguistic determinism whereby much of our thinking is understood to be determined by specific aspects of our particular language. ...

Part Two: Repurposing Performance

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Introduction to Part II

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pp. 79-80

Part II considers the musical performance as integrated into and transformed by the contemporary recording process. The temporal dislocation of music recordings from the listener has forever altered the nature of musical performance. The evolution of the recording process has been accompanied by an equally profound evolution ...

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Four: Application Study: Jazz Piano Trio

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pp. 81-98

Early in 2005 I conceived of a recording project that involved a jazz trio of piano, acoustic bass, and drums. I wished to use the expanded capabilities of computer-based recording technology to explode the conventions of traditional, improvisational jazz, without the results being apparent in the final recording. ...

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Five: Studio Study: Capturing the Unintentional Performance

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pp. 99-106

In 1992 I was working as the recording engineer on the Robert Cray CD that was released later that year under the title I Was Warned.We had been working for a few days and were getting ready to make the initial recording for what would become the title track. We were recording what is called “basic tracks.” ...

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Six: Artist or Artisan?

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pp. 107-126

Improvisation and Recording Subvert Categorizations My application study and studio study in the preceding chapters indicate some of the new possibilities that recording technology offers for capturing and constructing musical performances. They also raise questions about how we define composition and improvisation. ...

Part Three: Repurposing Participation

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Introduction to Part III

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pp. 127-128

Part III explores the changes in the ways that composers, musicians, and consumers are participating in the musical process as a result of the expanded capabilities provided by digital audio. I began by undertaking a project built around a traditional African piece of musical folklore. ...

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Seven: Application Study: African Folklore and Music Communities

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pp. 129-149

Some years ago I studied and played in ensembles with Kwaku Dadey, a master drummer from Ghana who lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the classes I took with him involved learning traditional folklore pieces from the Yoruba tradition. ...

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Eight: Studio Study: From iPod to GarageBand

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pp. 150-173

Much has been written on questions surrounding art, craft, amateurism, authenticity, and meaning in cultural artifacts. This studio study concentrates on the relationship of these broader ideas to the shifting dynamics of participation between composer, performer, and consumer of music. ...

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Nine: Integration or (Dis)integration?

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pp. 174-192

The relationship between the art of recording and the musician’s creative process is widely debated. Some observers take a reductive attitude toward reproduction, viewing recording primarily in its distinction from live performance. Benjamin observes, regarding acting, that “the ‹lm actor lacks the opportunity of the stage actor ...

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Conclusions: Reflections on the Future

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pp. 193-196

To best celebrate music and the efforts of human expression it is necessary to embrace change. While this is not to be done uncritically, it can only be accomplished with an open mind. The meeting of digital tools and audio production is the latest in the never-ending confluence of technology, culture, and the individual. ...


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pp. 197-218


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pp. 219-228


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pp. 229-251

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027736
E-ISBN-10: 0472027735
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472117857
Print-ISBN-10: 0472117858

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Tracking Pop