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Variations in Spime Minor

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Many artists, ranging from Taylor Swift to Metallica, have voiced concerns about modern music streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music. Their main arguments include that these services take a lionshare from profits and commoditize music from art to meaningless, easily switchable and blurred background entertainment.

Having grown up with metal-hybride C-cassettes, moving coil turntables and AA-class self-built amplifiers, I can add the deep sound quality as an additional concern. There are DVD-Audio and Blu-Ray discs with up to 24bit sampling and 96-192kHz bitrates, but these seem to be quite rare, endorsed only by a few artists. CD discs were already a downgrade, but streamed MP3s are close to abomination.

One of the most striking examples is found from my old metal cassette containing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, which I recorded from a brand new LP around 1986. The master recording’s 4-way tape hiss is audible, but the guitar and eerie voice is full, coherent and enchanting. Whole and thick. Now take a 128kbit/s, 48kHz MP3 and you have all kinds of broken glass falling and whistling all around the song, leaving it just comical, totally ruining the esoteric experience.

Nowadays there are many lossless compression algorithms available to fix the MP3 unreality, but I’m afraid there might be a whole generation of young people who have been robbed of the true audio experience of their favorite artists.

Coming back to contemporary artists’ problems, I believe that spimes and overall digitalization offer an arsenal of opportunities for creating, propagating and enjoying music in totally new ways. What if the artist could interact with millions of fans and co-create music with notes and beats sent by them? Could a piece of music be just a seed, which would be different to every listener, depending on their personal traits, feelings and environment? Sibelius(or Sting)-as-a-Service? I’d certainly pay a monthly fee for Helloween-as-a-Service.

This would need a robust, distributed platform where high quality, losslessly compressed original samples would be stored and streamed away with endless permutations, all at the pleasure of the listener and the artist. A song, or symphony, would have a life of its own.

//Pasi

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