41. Absence Number 1: The Ocean And The Two Q's
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
A while back I read a book which left a lasting impression on me called Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. As I recall, the central theme of that book was the importance of quality in our lives and the essential role care plays in creating quality. Quality is the first "Q."
I bring this up because the first song from my new album The Presence of That Absence is called The Ocean and it is about the second "Q" which is Quantity.
The ocean that I refer to in my song is the ocean of data that defines and dominates so much of our lives in the digital age. Most of that ocean of data makes its' way to another digital entity with a name taken from nature which is of course "the cloud."
So here's where the song came from. Sometime in the past year it came to my attention in an ASCAP newsletter that there are 20,000 songs uploaded to Spotify every day, and that's just one streaming service. I was stunned. How is anybody supposed to have an even chance of getting their music recognized in such an overcrowded field? (One wonders how even Beethoven would fare today if he had to rely on social media to market his music to seven billion people.)
There was a time when new music and musicians were scouted, discovered, screened, evaluated, and even developed by a human network of music industry professionals such as talent scouts, A&R professionals, agents, publishers, and professional managers etc. You could try to contact them, and even if they didn't respond you could always go out and pound the pavement in hopes of securing face time with one of the deal makers. Not to sound naive, as Hunter Thompson once said, "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench......" but at least there were human ears and a human relationship element at play, and originality had a relative value depending on who you were talking to.
The story is vastly different today. The music itself is perceived and defined as data which is described by metadata using computer algorithms which provide a formula for determining which music has the highest statistical probability of making the most money. Artificial intelligence is being explored as a way to create new music, and just about anybody can upload automated, copied and pasted, rhythmically quantized beats and loops with vocal pitch correction to the many streaming platforms without benefit of the traditional musician's dues of experience and education.
Quantity (of music and of money) is winning the contest with quality. There's an absence of human ears being replaced by the presence of an ocean of music data which some of us are drowning in as we drift down our playlists from song, to song, to song, to song..........
P.S. As anyone who has ever scrolled through streaming movie channel selections knows, in film there is a similar reliance on increasing the quantity of digital pollution.
To hear The Ocean, please click on the Soundcloud button on the homepage.