Has Technology Ruined Music?

One famous rock singer thinks so, but do you?      23/10/12
Has Technology Ruined Music?
I technology ruining music? // Some rights reserved // Moehre

Technology is certainly changing music, it has been doing that since the very notion of recording music was invented. Then you have innovations in instrument technology changing the performance of music, such as the introduction of solid body electric guitars in the 1930s (and their later popularisation in the 50s).

But Corey Taylor, the singer of Slipknot, has once again publicly aired his grievances with modern music, and he believes that technology is ruining music.

The invention which most often bears the brunt of the criticism levelled at 'music technology' is Auto-Tune or pitch-correct. But as novelty rap group Goldie Lookin' Chain once sang: "Guns don't kill people, rappers do."

By this I mean to say that pitch-correct is not ruining music, somebody has to pull the trigger/press 'snap to closest semitone'.

I've been part of that dark world, not out of choice, but because the studio I worked in was being paid a significant sum of money to 'get that Hollywood sound'. Almost any producer would prefer not to have to use Auto-Tune, but sometimes they've got to do it.

The problem is that the trend catches on, and it snowballs, and now Melodyne is added to 'vocal template' on Pro Tools or Logic in most studios, alongside a compression plug-in, EQ, and reverb.

Corey Taylor said in a recent interview with Bloody-Disgusting.com:

"Now you've got people who don't really have the skills, because technology hides it, going out and putting these crappy singles out, and because that's all there really is, people basically eat it like hamburgers. It's become very, very commercialised.

"I would say 3 out of 4 people nominated [at the Grammys] were all Auto-Tune artists. At that point, you shouldn't be allowed to be nominated in anything that has a vocal category. You should be nominated in an instrumental category because the computer did all the work for you. If you sound more like a keyboard than a human being, you shouldn't be allowed to walk away with one of those trophies."

I can see where he is coming from, it's hard to fall in love with something that has as about as much soul as the undead. But still I think that levelling this argument at all Auto-Tune artists is a little bit harsh. There are loads of electronic acts producing incredible music, despite the fact that the vocals are pitch-corrected. Sometimes it just sounds neat and tidy.

Of course this is different to using Auto-Tune as an effect, and like gated-reverb towards the end of the 80s, the use of the effect might be wearing a little bit thin.

But Slipknot are barely known for the production on their albums, I was actually under the impression that the vocals on certain songs were pitch corrected on recent albums, but perhaps my ears deceive me.

Either way, I think to blame the actual technology for ruining music, such as Corey Taylor has done by saying "technology is so badly ruining music", then you open a can of worms.

I prefer recording to tape rather than recording to hard-drive, and most of my favourite music has been recorded onto tape, but that doesn't make it fair to say that computers have ruined music! There are 1000s of guys out there who could make much better music with a computer than I could ever dream of making with a full analog studio.

 

 

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12 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Synth_Fan    Said...

While I understand Taylor's gripe, and personally loath Autotuned vocals / tracks, here are some alternative thoughts that largely fly in the face of his argument:

1. The music of Vangelis, one of the most famous users of music technology, is among the most soulful music composed in the past 30 years.

2. Many modern tracks are (grudgingly accepted here) absolutely astounding. Lady GaGa's "Telephone" is, IMO, a modern day Bohemian Rhapsody. It's a smashing track and filled with all the latest computer techniques.

3. Far worse, IMO, is the issue of Loudness, where many otherwise great tracks are killed simply by poor judgment and lack of courage - even by the likes of country and R&B artists, who pro-port to be more purist singer-songwriters.

4. The history of music evolution is the history of music technology, from the evolution of the pianos and orchestral instruments, to the electric guitar, synthesizer and DAW. To deny this fact is to live in the past, where music is purely a nostalgic entity and not a living, breathing part of society.

5. Even concert pianists are using autotune to correct recorded performances to save money - it's not just dance tracks that are using it - jazz and classical are as guilty.

6. The idea of a Choir is a traditional form of autotune. anyone who has sung in one knows this. Whether you;re poor at sight reading or just loosing your place for a while, you use those around you to regain your voice and that's what we love in a 'chorus'.

7. You can be more than sure that great new artists will find jaw-droppingly innovative ways of using the likes of auto-tune. Who 25 years ago would have though that actual Vinyl recording playback materials would be used as musical instruments??

23-Oct-12 02:04 PM


KTB    Said...

The guy from Slipknot is talking bollocks. it's all down to who uses technology/an instrument and not the technology/instrument itself. Simple as.

23-Oct-12 08:13 PM


Lagrange Audio    Said...

Technology no more ruins music than a chisel ruins a piece of wood by itself. Technology is a set of tools that can be used badly by people. In the hands of a genuine craftsperson amazing things can ensue.

24-Oct-12 02:52 AM


Synth_Fan    Said...

Synth_Fan

Perhaps Taylor's real "beef" is that it appears that good playing of instruments, good singing and good (traditional) song writing are disappearing and being substitued, largely, by computer editing tools; so it looks like technology is replacing talent more than every before.

24-Oct-12 04:00 AM


Curmudgeon    Said...

I have to agree, so Slipknot dont use drum replacement or timing techniques in any of their recordings? Metal is probably one musical area where technology is used hugely to get the sound. ProTools has been responsible for the refinement of metal production in so many ways, reamping, timing, multi-tracking, editing, mastering?

What makes that different to autotune? Sure, Slipknot may be able to reproduce their stuff live -although I bet they use a digital desk running plug-ins, but not all pop singers are crappy. A lot of them are chosen because of their looks, but few are completely talentless. I dont happen to like what Christin Aquilera has become, but Genie in a Bottle was a great pop record and she certainly can sing - though she does now overdo it imho

24-Oct-12 07:05 AM


7cepp    Said...

Hi,

I dont like autotune as an fx;, but for pitching vocals i am in support. You can still get an incredible performance and sound from a pitched vocal..all you are doing is fine tuning, obviously too much radical tuning is not good but for small corrections i dont see it as a problem more of an enhancement. One of my favorite artists is Damien Rice...so much vibe in his stuff..no autotune on his records...but he goes out of tune occasionally...so people think this is authentic and adds to the character but id rather he sung it again or pitch corrected as i sometimes find it annoying.

24-Oct-12 07:14 AM


Ulalume    Said...

Corey Taylor speaks like an elitist who desperately wants to preserve his niche in contemporary music. Despite all of the pseudo-academic jargon and intellectualization on creativity and technology if you strip away the veneer of what Mr. Taylor is suggesting his thesis sounds more like paranoia. We can hear and assess his concern over the growth and expansion of technology, but the irrational vitriol towards the competition is what drives the crux of his dissatisfaction. Slipknot has always marketed themselves as subversive and anti-establishment, but something happens to musicians when they reach millionaire status and they are no longer a band in the typical sense but a brand. Corey Taylor's statement is on par with musical purists involved with classical music who perceive all new musical developments as a threat to their establishment, sphere of influence, finances, and livelihood.

Does anyone remember how Lars Ulrich flipped out because he felt that Napster was directly affecting his livelihood? It is the same in the case of Cory Taylor with Auto-Tune. These musicians have attained super millionaire status their true dissatisfaction is not Auto-Tune per se, but rather the fear of competition. These musicians have designed a world that is uniquely theirs and they do not want to share it with a young teen with a computer. This new up-and-coming generation does not relate to the music of Slipknot no more than Slipknot could relate to musicians like Bon Iver, Adele, Skrillex, or Justin Bieber. The music game has changed and Slipknot has become passé. In the 70s, everyone wanted to capture the sound of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd—in the 80s, it was Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. Nowadays everyone wants to capture the sounds of Radiohead, Aphex Twin, or Skrillex the same cannot be said in the case of Slipknot.

Examine a band like Radiohead that makes good use of their financial capital by utilizing rare electronic instruments: Buchla synthesizers and the Ondes Martenot. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead an advocate of the Ondes Martenot has single-handedly generated tremendous world-round interest in an instrument that hardly anyone the world over knew existed except for a very select few composers, connoisseurs, and musicians. Johnny Greenwood even spearheaded the creation of "Analogue Systems French Connection" an Ondes Martenot inspired instrument. Both Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have made the avant-garde accessible and intriguing without becoming redundant. What has Slipknot done in comparisons to a group like Radiohead—except to feather their own pockets financially, gripe, and moan about the influx of popular musical technology? You would have never found Vangelis in the 1980s saying, "Oh this Yamaha CS-80 sounds artificial I think I'll use a banjo instead."

The rise of competition is dramatically affecting the atmosphere of the music industry as we know it. Corey Taylor rightly so wants to keep his money and status. However, his attack on musicians who use Auto-Tune and who utilize technology is absurd. Just because someone uses Auto-Tune does not make them an inferior artist. The music industry and top-earning artists are currently fighting a paradigm shift where independent artists and studios who are skilled artisans and savvy businessmen can make a fortune. You had better believe that is a threat to the musical elite and their immediate livelihood and the luxuries they enjoy. Because now a young rapper or singer can use Auto-Tune and the Internet and gain a massive following, garner wealth, fans, and fame—where in the case of Slipknot their rise to success was gradual. The issue of Auto-Tune like the issue of Napster a decade ago is in part an issue of artistry, but is mostly fueled by self-interest and economics.

24-Oct-12 10:03 AM


daryl.classen    Said...

I think everyone here is missing a HUGE point. Once upon a time, we had tempering systems that were not even. The effect this had on music was that it had more of an emotional impact built right into the key. Some keys would be slightly happier or sadder, others would have more of a leading effect, while others wouldn't feel that great a push from note to note at all. Then we brought in the even tempered system, with its pros and cons. While its true that it made playing together and tuning with different instruments a lot easier, we did lose all those emotional inflections that had been built in before. It sterilized the keys, a compromise at best. None of this affected the GREAT singers. They were still able to add the same tuning inflections to create truly stunning performances. But when you autotune a great performance, you are tuning to the even tempered system. You take away these tuning inflections, and you end up with a sterilized performance. Personally, I'd put up with 99 out-of-tune performances just to see one outstanding one, and that's why autotune must die!

25-Oct-12 12:28 AM


H. Slaw    Said...

No, technology is not ruining music, bands like Slipknot are.

25-Oct-12 09:40 PM


Ulalume    Said...

Corey Taylor's interview reveals a man who claims to value artistic integrity and truth yet is unable to give his fellow artists representing the 'A to Zed' of the music spectrum the respect that he garners for himself and musicians like him. Corey Taylor claims not to care for the homogenous noise that dominates the music industry, but how is he any different in regards to his music, associations, and general outlook that would make him an artistic innovator and true individualist? His argument presents a parochial either/or dichotomy that in his effort to not conform he has conformed to non-conformity and the dictates of a subculture which affords him status, relevance, and luxury. Corey Taylor is catering to his core audience, but is also instructing them on how to think which seems anti-thetical to the anti-establishment ethos he has created via Slipknot, which he uses to question and ridicule authority—now he is the authority—how ironic. The problem with Punk like Heavy Metal is in its psychology of which anyone who is not part of that culture is a conformist, phony, or a sellout. Instead of revelling in his artistic niche he is threatened by musicians and artists who he perceives as less—who garner more prestige, wealth, and accolades for their efforts than he does for his own material. Annoyed by the success of what he perceives as 'inferior artists' he finds himself the odd man out—a victim—a martyr only he's not that humble. Just read what Corey has to say about his fellows in the music industry. His concessions to Deadmau5 and Skrillex are halfhearted.

Read how he sings Adele's praises for her unmistakable talent then read how he references the late Whitney Houston who was equally and supremely vocally talented without Auto-Tune or pitch correction of any kind. Corey Taylor turns Whitney Houston's life into a cheap anecdote, a statistic, a joke something he would not wish on himself or his friend and bandmate Paul Gray who died of an overdose. Corey Taylor has a set of rules for himself and one for everyone else no matter how contradictory they may be. Corey Taylor while griping about the lack of 'real talent' in the music industry acknowledges Adele for her talent, but not Whitney Houston for hers. Corey Taylor's comments are absurd, pretentious, and condescending and represent a wealthy music mogul who is profiting off the gullibility of his audience who genuinely believes that he is invested in their struggle and their life and represents them. How does one genuinely rebel when even rebellion has become a commodity? What struggles or obstacles is he faced up against daily? This man is a crafty businessmen more than anything else. He knows that for angry, disgruntled, marginalized people ages 16 to 45 he can capitalize on their misery with his special brand of nihilism and call it art. In the interview, he states he always tries to interject some positivity into his work. Since when has Slipknot's iconography ever been positive? Since when is playing with Nazi-esque imagery positive? His rant about Auto-Tune is hilarious given that his diehard fans will never listen to an Auto-Tune artist making it all a moot point.

What Corey Taylor takes seriously is the influx of artists from all different genres who he views as inferior gaining an advantage over him. This man does not really give a hoot about Auto-Tune, technology, and computers except that now the competition generated by these other artists is raining on his parade. Far be it from Corey Taylor to forgo having his albums digitally mastered by studio professionals to wing it à la Daniel Johnston tape recorder style. Technology is good for something after all is it not? This man truly has no reason to be disgruntled or angry he has his wealth, success, and loyal fans why worry about what other artists do if you are truly confident in your own artistic vision and message. A great man knows his greatness without bragging about it just as a rich man does not have to flaunt his wealth to know that he is wealthy. Insecurity and paranoia seems to dominate his thesis on modern music. Forget that this is a wonderful era where an artist can compose whatever he or she feels and find an audience that will listen as Corey is totally obsessed in his ranting with the grievances of what he perceives as the downfall of real music. When synthesizers were coming about in the 50s and 60s it did not destroy music it enhanced it—and traditional music and acoustical instruments have not disappeared because of it either. If anything, such innovations have given musicians more choice. Just because Auto-Tune exists does not mean the human singing voice will disappear. Nor for that matter will the existence of Auto-Tune compel every artist to utilize its capabilities.

28-Oct-12 06:02 AM


he?    Said...

Crap music, poor musicianship and greedy labels all kill music, not technology.

People who make such ridiculous claims obviously have no idea what they're talking about.

11-Nov-12 03:04 AM


Ms. Clark    Said...

I'm agreeing with everything Ulalume said; especially your slant on how Corey totally trashed one of the greatest voices of our time, Whitne Houston. Yes she did crack, but that in no way takes away from the legacy of the music she left us. Let he who is without sin...uh, we know the rest.

09-Jun-13 11:24 PM


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