The Million Song Dataset is an interesting thing: MSDS. Although, witnessing art through data analysis sure seems like it would lead one toward the mean, as is happening in pop music these days, songs structured and run through focus groups, with all the rough edges smoothed out, analyzed to a sheen (never thought I’d agree with Trent Reznor, but there you go).
Then again, using the Million Song Dataset, researchers figured out contemporary pop music features “…less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” (Source)
So it’s not only less adventurous, but also has worse sound because everyone tries to be louder and louder and louder. And what does Reznor do, to oppose this trend? Bigger and bolder stage show. Whoopee. The audience is in a state of semi-permanent distraction, and if anything, needs music (and other arts) that nurture our need to focus deeply on one thing, not more bombast and flashing lights.
And, of course, if it’s too loud you’re too old, bla bla bla. No, it’s volume being used to disguise poor songwriting, factory craft, and an extremely limited set of ideas. “Wherever the consumption of abundance has established itself, there is one spectacular antagonism which is at the forefront of illusory roles: the antagonism between youth and adulthood. For here an adult in the sense of someone who is master of his own life is nowhere to be found. And youth — implying change in what exists — is by no means proper to people who are young. Rather, it characterizes only the economic system, the dynamism of capitalism: it is things that rule, that are young — things themselves that vie with each other and usurp one another’s places” (Guy Debord. Society of Spectacle).
Whoa, so many CDs I’ve listened to, in my quest to listen to all the ones I’ve hoarded! (yes, things rule. Listening to all these CDs has helped alleviate some of that sensation, oddly enough): 774) Migala: la increible aventura; 775) Ultra-Lounge: Rock’n’Roll Hits On the Rocks; 776) The Sisters of Mercy: Live in the Temple of Love; 777) Sade: Promise; 778) Moby Grape: Vintage; 779) the Stranglers: No More Heroes; 780) Schubert: Symphony No. 9; 781) Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Collection: Vol. 2; 782) Arvo Pärt: Alina; 783) DJ Spooky: Optometry; 784) The Last Poets: Time Has Come; 785) Curtis Mayfield: Superfly; 786) Bert Switzer: 1977-2002; 787) John Black: The Soul of John Black; 788) Slowdive: Souvlaki; 789) the Five Stair Steps: Best of; 790) Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs; 791) William Parker: Wood Flute Songs; 792) Controlled Bleeding: Hog Floor (a fractured view); 793) Ian Dury: Best Of; 794) Bjork: Debut; 795) Velvet Underground: Velvet Underground; 796) Richard Thompson: Front Parlor Ballads; 797) R.E.M.: Reckoning; 798) Red Hot Chili Peppers: Red Hot Chili Peppers; 799) Hank Crawford: South Central; 800) Márta Sebestyén: Sings. Whew. Time to stop for a box set….