Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Rise And Fall of the Music Blogging Empire

There's a good debate here called The Rise And Fall Of The Obscure Music Download Blog, which I read whilst listening to a free download called Fullerton Collage Tapes recently culled from the Internet Archive. This sound collage of US under/overground hits mixed with electronic effects and tape manipulation naturally echoes earlier works of Henry, Schaeffer, Parmegiani and James Tenney, whilst pre-dating the plunderphonic exploits of John Oswald and The Tape Beatles. The creator is Frank Long, about whom there's no info on the Net.

Whilst Long's sampled and spliced tunes played they mirrored perfectly the state of mind induced by so many files filched from download blogs. As Eric Lumbleau of Mutant Sounds so eloquently puts it, our experience of music today does feel like being 'inside this cyclotron of atomized information' which produces 'a palpable sense of vertigo'. He speaks from a blogger's perspective, but the same must be true of those reaping the rewards.

Reading the debate reminds me of so many discussions about musical 'golden ages', whether in the realms of Jazz, Jungle or just about any other genre that's since become calcified in time and treasured by fans. Who could have imagined, during it's peak, that file sharing would eventually have it's own classic era? Despite infamous crashes and shut downs, the impression we get is that the internet offers All Things for Eternity, whilst, ironically, perpetuating the feeling that nothing is permanent amid the ever-tumbling cascade of digital info. Music now is akin to information, such is the scope and quantity of it; a blizzard of bytes forceful enough to make anyone's head spin.

Yet, even for a relative newcomer to file mining like me, it does feel as if the golden age is well and truly over. Since the death of Megaupload, bloggers at best make valiant efforts to re-up some files, often with the help of their audience. Whilst others have simply given up due to the ever-changing specifications of hosts. Those of us who missed out on the good ol' days are more likely to find sites as mausoleums filled with hundreds of dead links. And as mentioned in the debate, the search today is frequently hampered by having to navigate spam whilst enduring a storm of prurient pop-ups, only to finally be confronted with the dreaded phrase 'this file has been deleted'.

However, as I remind myself time and time again, I do have plenty of music to listen to without needing more. Oh yes, the dilemma of the downloader who cannot resist the hunt, just as the shopaholic cannot resist another pair of unnecessary shoes. Like you, probably, I have great albums stored which I hardly know except through fleeting visits which prompt reminders to 'Listen properly'...another day.

Like democratic capitalist countries, we bask in this freedom to consume ourselves to death, whilst inhabitants of some tiny communist state (vinyl-only buyers, perhaps) look on, shaking their heads, and laughing whilst we endeavour to quench the insatiable desire for sound.

If blogs offering 'classic' obscure music (how's that for a contradiction in terms?) really are dead or dying, perhaps it's for the best. As options close down we're forced to re-examine what we already have, and to treasure what came so easily. For those of us old enough to have straddled the old vinyl and new digital eras, that shouldn't be so hard, should it?

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