Many musical luminaries have warned that the MP3 single is the death of the vaunted album format. The idea is people will listen to single tracks instead of whole albums. Don’t tell that to Harry Pyle (seen at right, promoting the hard-edged stereotype of accordion players). Far from gravitating to the single, he’s made his album 453 tracks long.
Kyle McDonald writes:
Harry Pyle, a local musician near Albany, New York, released a collection of music called "The Vault" on June 4th. It is comprised of 8 "chapters" with approximately 50 songs each, for a total of 453 songs. He intends this to be a single release, the same way people have traditionally released albums. This must be some kind of record.
All the music: http://www.soundclick.com/store/byArtist.cfm?bandID=133254
"Evil is my Middle Name", a favorite: http://www.soundclick.com/Store/digital/01_Shop_Album.cfm?bandID=133254&albumID=24891
Some kind of record, indeed.
In all seriousness, digital formats do raise new questions about what our relationship to recorded music feels like, and how it impacts our lives. Roger Daltrey recently got a lot of flak from gaming blogs for criticizing the Rock Band. Now, I certainly disagree with Daltrey that “scrapping of long-play records signaled the death of the music industry.” And it certainly tends in the “get off my lawn, you crazy kids” direction so eloquently articulated by Bob “CDs are small – There’s no stature to it” Dylan.
But I think the kneejerk bloggers didn’t read Daltrey’s whole quote. I was surprised to find I agree with the second part of what he says:
"They’ve destroyed the form, as soon’s it went digital. The CD was a confidence trick," Daltrey said. "It wasn’t just music that people used to buy, it was a total art form. … I think that’s what people like. They like it personal. They like vinyl because if you scratch vinyl, it’ll be scratched, but it’ll be your scratch. It will only be on your record."
He also laments that music is “in the background.” Brian Eno might beg to differ, but I do think it’s important to have a “foreground” experience of music at least some of the time.
Daltrey takes pride in The Who [Associated Press, via CNN.com]
“Destroyed music” is strong, yes, but he is right that some of the physical object, its limitations, and the ability to relate to it in the physical world are missing. Even as a digital advocate, I think you have to figure out what that means, and consider how to deal with it. Of course, the limitations of the format are important, too. Artists from the age of 78s might well argue that the LP destroyed the craft of songwriting.
Of course, it’s still possible to make physical objects and find limitations in the age of digital. The responsibility is simply your own.
And, very likely, 453 songs is probably too much. (But, then, that’s Pyle’s point, right?)