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.
Some links:
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
MySpace: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=2911507

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:

Roger Daltry, by Poppyseed Bandits.

"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?)

  • gbsr

    mp3 killed the music industry. yeah right. the only thing the mp3 and the internet did was to let people NOT on EMI/BMG´s payroll to actually get out and get the exposure they deserve.

    imo, the internet and the mp3 made the real music available for the people. in this age you can actually hear what you like rather then beeing bombarded with the same eurotechno crap and the same mainstream concept over and over again. thats why the big labels are so damn ticked off: they dont have control anymore what they want you to listen to so now they are (supposedly) loosing money, because of a market that is bypassing their leash.

    they screamed in horror with the VHS aswell, and theyre still around. what they should do is to embrace the new technology, and use it to their advantage.

    besides, id rather buy a physical record over a digital any day. Daltrey is spot on in the second part of the quote.

    if only the big ones would actually release anything worth buying then.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    I agree with jsn's quote from the Joystiq forum:

    why wouldn't he be bored? He can actually write, record and play real music and he has all the tools to do so any time he wants with any musicians he wants. I'd be bored with the game if I had those options too!

    Regarding "death of the industry", etc., people make hyperbole all the time. Let's not turn this into "what will those wacky 60s and 70s rockers say next??"

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, indeed. But I think it's worth listening to him in this case, because the "scratch" point is actually meaningful. Maybe we're not getting that back any time soon, but there are other ways of making digital material physically meaningful… something I think we'll be talking about more on CDM soon.

  • http://evolvingmusic.wordpress.com Gavroche

    453 songs might be a little much for a release. It seems like Pyle did this just to get some coverage for setting some sort of release record. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'll be pretty suprised if there are 30 good songs in the entire lot.

    Daltry's got it all wrong. While the digitalization of music destroyed the album format, there is more music being listened to and consumed today than ever before. What Daltry doesn't recognize is that games like Rock Band have enabled fans to engage with music in ways not possible during the Who's hey day. The game has also helped a new generation of kids to discover the who, who wouldn't otherwise listen to them.

    I too, however, often lament at the decline of the album as a format. I loved listening to an entire album, all the way through, to get an idea of the work as a whole and to appreciate the progression of the album. Now, with Itunes and Pandora, most people don't do that. Every track has its own life and albums are merely the sum of all the tracks, instead of a cohesive work.

    For this reason, we have a new policy in our office at mixmatchmusic. As of 3 weeks ago, everyday we have an album of the day. While the morning is spent listening to Pandora/NPR/Itunes Shuffle, in the afternoon, we select an album and listen to the entire thing. Its been awesome!!

  • http://rpi.edu/~mcdonk/ Kyle McDonald

    just to get some coverage for setting some sort of release record

    Really, I think he's just slightly crazy, makes lots of music, and has no boundaries with respect to what he does and doesn't release.

    I’ll be pretty suprised if there are 30 good songs in the entire lot.

    If you see him live (totally recommended) he does have a couple dozen he's known to play most often.

    The CD was a confidence trick

    Tell that to Yasunao Tone. I don't think "Solo for Wounded CD" would have been the same on vinyl, and it was based mostly on the "personality" of the scratched CD.

  • http://corbucorbu.com corbu

    My CD copy of OK Computer is scratched and skips in the same spot every time (right in the middle of Exit Music – ouch). It's my scratch, and I hate it.

    There is something to be said for the grandeur of vinyl, though, even if just for the gigantic artwork.

  • James

    i was going to comment until i read the other comments. everyone has thought about stuff and has meaningful things to say. oh well.

    sweet album(s) though.

  • http://kimlajoie.com Kim

    MP3 didn't destroy music. It purified it.

    MP3 destroyed all that isn't music. Vinyl albums with massive full-colour album art. Physical round discs that require touching and handling. "Personalised" scratches. These are not music. These are distractions. MP3 has purified music by destroying this distractions.

    And now we have complaints that the general public are replacing these artist/label-provided distractions with their own distractions – namely life itself. THIS is personalisation. Previously we had to sit down to listen to music, to listen on the artist's terms, to put the rest of our life on hold. Now we bring the music with us. It is no longer the soundtrack to our living room or our bedroom. Music is the soundtrack to the park, the bus or train, the office cubicle, the city streets, the suburbs.

    Music is everywhere, and this is a bad thing? Music is more integrated into people's lives than ever before, and this is a bad thing? Where people used to have a few dozen albums, they now have a few hundred, and this is a bad thing?

    Free(er) from the physical contraints of the media, listeners are free(er) to enjoy music on their terms.

    And likewise, artists and publishers are free(er) to publish music on their terms. Albums don't have to be 50 minutes split into 12 songs. Look at NIN's Ghosts. Look at iTunes "albums" that include digital booklets and music videos. Look at MySpace.

    By reducing music to its pure essence – sound itself – and making it flexible and portable, MP3 has done what no other delivery medium before could do.

    -Kim.

  • http://www.3amnoise.net/runagate runagate

    The mp3 killed the album!?

    I imagine that the sudden explosion of wax cylinders did a tad more to detroy the immediacy of the previous couple million years of music… wtf? Is anyone really so short-sighted?

    It's not as though artists benefitted financially from it. Noble Sissle got paid *once* per recording! The record companies were always there to skim 99% of the profit from all merchandise.

    Are we still seriously debating the CD vs. the LP vs. the mp3?

    How about LP-jeck-sized releases containing a CD, an mp3-CD and DVDs containing all track stems in surround sound? That's what I've been dreaming of for 15 years now.

  • Abel

    If anything killed music, it was the brickwall limiter and the loudness war. I have several unlistenable CDs because they sound so awful.

    I still like CDs, but only because I don't trust hard drives to last, and because no one has yet figured out that lossless 24 bit recordings would be easy to distribute online. 16 bit mp3 is still often a step back in sound quality over CDs. Give me something better than CDs, not worse.

    I could care less about having a physical object. Give me some nice pictures or video and I'll be happy.

    Daltry is also apparently unaware of the home studio revolution that happened during the 80's and 90's and the huge amount of new music that affordable recording equipment and CD manufacturing by outfits like Discmakers unleashed. I'll take more available music over the supposed greatness of the LP any day.

  • http://www.harrypyle.com Harry Pyle

    Well this is interesting. It does make me want to clear a few things up. I came up with the idea to do an mp3 album on a cd. The problem was that I was releasing albums too fast early on. So instead of ripping off my fans by coming out with a new album every 3 months, I decided to fill a CDROM with mp3's. Shortly after I exceeded the boundary of the CD and had to move to DVD. The whole album spans 6 years of composing music and it is mostly instrumental.I think it is the first time you can actually listen to an artist developing new sound and talent over a period of time rather than just showing off the end result. If I had no boundaries about what I did and didn't release I would have just dropped a 1000 song album with alot of music that isn't half as good as what I did release.As far as the content itself I'm really more concerned with originality instead of marketability. The DVD will be out in a few weeks with 500 tracks on it for $10. 450 core tracks and 50 bonus tracks. The single is a full length CD. Maybe that is too much for some people. If you get 30 songs you like out of it thats good enough for me. Everyone has different taste and different tracks will and will not be appealing to every person. Some people probably hate what I do. But that's life. My point isn't that 500 is too much. The point is 12 isn't enough. The painter and the musician are both artists. Do you limit the size and shape of the canvas the painter works on? probably not. Musicians should be no different. The longest album in the world had 197 or 198 tracks on it by a band called Army Defense. I looked it up after coming up with the idea to do that for the release record. All I have to say about that it you'd do it too if you had my job. Hope that explains something. Thanks for giving me all these things to think about.

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