Friday, December 14, 2007

Infinite Media Everywhere

Written around 2005, this was on the front page of the stylofone foundation for ages.

Chancing my arm at futurism, I predict that the development of computer technology, wireless networking, and peer to peer file sharing will result in an ether of human expression which I call Infinite Media Everywhere.

This info-nirvana would mean that every book, audio recording, film, video, computer program, or any other form of media which can be made digital, will be available instantly, anywhere in the world, on a range of inexpensive wireless devices. These devices could range from television sets, to portable or wearable devices such as wristwatches and hand-held media players. The proliferation of file sharing networks will help force the price of media down until the cost of intellectual property is negligible. Technology will likewise reduce the cost of networks and devices to acquire the media.
The first stages of this process are well under way. The continuing development of P2P networks is gradually forcing the music industry to offer its catalogue online. At the same time, storage technology, internet bandwidth and increasingly sophisticated file-sharing software is also making it easier for people to amass libraries of their own, independent of the music industry.

Wireless networking is now making those files easy to exchange within the home. Higher powered networks will soon make files available to increasingly larger communities. The spread of privately administered network resources both wired and unwired will provide a parallel resource to mobile phone and data companies, with individuals able to build small local networks themselves which previously would have been the preserve of large corporations. As these neighbourhood networks begin to link, and improve in efficiency, an extension of the internet, combined with local data networks will spill into the airwaves. Independent programmers will create protocols which will spread throughout the network and catch on like new P2P services have done in recent years. The local wireless spots will naturally complement the larger paid networks, and ensure that prices continue to fall as the technology improves until the majority of services can be offered free, often as leverage for other products, similar to the World Wide Web of today.

File sharing and private distribution by individuals will be the driving force behind this process, not products marketed by corporations which will have to play catch-up with people finding innovative ways to benefit from technology.

I can't predict how copyright owners and governments will try to stop this process. They might slow it down, but I believe they will fail in the end. The important thing is for everyone to share as much media as they can, and keep abreast of the improving technology and use it to its fullest.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Good Music

I get upset by music "fans" at work who seem wilfully ignorant about important artists. I want to say this to them....
You decrepit baby boomers with your Bob Dylans and your Beatles, getting excited over the Led Zep reunion, you think you're still in touch with "modern" music because you like REM. Well get with these or get to the old folks home! * Here are the new classics, which you've never heard of.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane over the Sea. Jeff Magnum's recurring dreams about Ann Frank spew forth directly from his subconscious, and mix with everything else in his life and yours. Sometimes they take form as simple folk songs, just a guitar and a cracking voice straining beyond its natural range; sometimes they become a raucous punk explosion to excite the mosh pit; then they take a left turn with a brass band funeral dirge or a solo from a bagpipe chanter. From its opening seconds to its final note this ageless album oozes brilliance, humour, passion and love, and expresses it in a totally original way.

Panda Bear - Person Pitch. This album takes the hypnotic soundscapes and high-tech methods of European minimal dub techno from the far left. From the far right it takes the melodic vocal sensibilities of Brian Jones and the Beach Boys at their finest. You also get the feeling of an imaginary Phil Spector who was born in 1979 instead of 1939. The oil and water is somehow mixed into a miraculous new compound. It's another dreamscape that gets you into the mind of its creator Noah Lennox, surpassing the work of his band Animal Collective. Somehow this album generates endorphin-like waves of love. I cannot stress how much I adore it.

Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy, Wind in the Wires, the Magic Position
All three of his albums are worthy of inclusion on this list. His mastery of classical music, his unorthodox instruments (viola, tenor ukelele), his embrace of new electronic music forms, all suggest a serious artist. But his fans have turned him into a pop idol worthy of throwing panties at. You get glimpses of Jacques Brel, then you see a bit of Tom Jones or Julian Clary. But everything about Patrick Wolf is young. According to the mythology he started his career at 14 as part of a performance art collective. Mythology is a key word with patrick, he comes across as a pop star version of Pan or Dionysus.

Sufjan Stephens - Illinois
It's all about rhythm, melody, and harmony on this album. Sufjan writes a great tune. Sometimes he puts it in an unusual time signature like 5/4 or 11/8. His small orchestra has the feel of Michael Nyman Band, a major turn-on for me. There's a lot of joy and a lot of sadness, sometimes there's horror almost too intense to bear (on a song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy). Hardcore atheist that I am, I am appalled by the explicit Christian theme of the lyrics, mentioning things like bible studies and "following the carpenter". But the music is so good I can go with the flow.

The Honeydrips - Here Comes the Future
So much of my favourite music is English, but in recent years, other countries are tugging at the crown. The Swedish invasion gets a big troop surge from the Honeydrips, using many of the weapons of mass seduction invented by the English in the 1980s. It makes me want to scream it from the building-tops, I LOVE TWEE POP! Add to that the lyrics which could have been written by Morrissey after consuming lots of very pure ecstasy tablets. Then all of a sudden a bassline is stolen (with Wildean genius) from Peter Hook of new Order. The final song talks about future archaeologists finding your name on a list of sexual conquests is a real spine tingler, especially for a fan of post apocalypse SF like me.

Also worth mentioning:
The Knife - Silent Shout
Bob Evans - Suburban Songbook
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away


*Hypocrisy disclosure: I was born in December 1962, I love the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, I barely escape categorisation as a boomer myself. Also, I respect the boomers because they are passionate about music, it is at the core of their subcultures, and I regret that music plays a lesser role for subsequent generations.