The Technology Trap
Digital 8-Bus mixing console by Mackie Designs
by Brian James (April 2003)Music is a form of communication. What this ultimately means is that music is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. This sounds shocking, and doubtlessly, there are any number of romantic sentiments firmly running counter to that statement so perhaps a more palatable way to say the same thing is this: music is a language. To contend that it is merely the assemblage of pretty sounds is like saying that books are nothing more than collections of pretty words. It is to say that music is nothing but another drug that humanity has spent immeasurable time and sweat in creating, absorbing, and analyzing the sonic equivalent of a lava lamp. In reality, man invented and played instruments because there were things that he wished to say which could not be said in any other manner, and which still cannot. "After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music," said Aldous Huxley. These words eloquently remind us of the continuing necessity of music in the human experience.
But perhaps it is not as easy as that. Even the most lightweight student of postmodernism would begin asking what music is and who has the power to answer that question, but even if we were to sidestep such concerns, it is patently obvious that not all music expresses the inexpressible, or much of anything at all. It doesnít take a lot of time staring at MTV to realize that some music, even that which is wildly popular, has very little to say. By this, I am not referring to lyrics- Beethovenís Fifth Symphony had no words, but only a fool would say it lacked meaning. Instead, I am wading into waters murkier than most rock critics tread, claiming that a songís content primarily lies in its sound and the organization thereof, not in the words that a singer uses to accompany them. Furthermore, I am claiming that what we are saying through our music has changed because the way we say things has changed, that is, musical technology has not simply facilitated musical expression but profoundly altered it as well. Why technology? The answer lies in the fact that its innovations are always formal, and while such strides are at least theoretically beneficial, the rate and sheer flashiness of those advances not only distract us from considering musical content, they threaten to replace it altogether.
To clear this out of the way up front, this is not a screed against electronic music or modern music or any kind of music at all. Great music can be made in any era with virtually any means at oneís disposal, and any number of terrific albums both modern and electronic will surely prove this. Great music cannot be made, however, with poor ideology, and we have allowed just such a thing to enter our midst with technological progress. All the space age gadgets that we use to produce records today carry with them certain prejudices, and while a prejudice does not inevitably lead to a negative result, it will, if left unchecked, yield many more bad products than good. It is my hope that subjugating the natural tendencies of the technology at our disposal to purely aesthetic concerns will enable us to incorporate their gains with modesty and care, thus saving us from taking a more reactionary, Luddite course of action.
Below, I will discuss four overlapping areas of concern: electronic sound generators, digital recording, the click track, and the sound effect. These are, I believe, among the most dangerous tools and processes we have at our disposal, ones whose seductive offers of ease and wonder must be limited if we are to continue making music consisting of stronger stuff than, well, ease and wonder.
Electronic Sound Generators
Virtually every time technology produced a new way to generate sound, a chorus of naysayers arise to denounce it. With the advent of synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers, it seemed like a mob of wielding torches and clubs gathered to smash them into oblivion. This, of course, is a simple-minded, regressive attitude. As the NRA might say, machines donít ruin music, people ruin music. Still, those machines, like guns, do make the job a lot easier. Consequently, placing certain restraints on how we use our musical tools is just common sense.
With an electronic sound generator, we are given entirely new elements from which to construct music. Many of the objections to music made in such a way is surely due to hidebound conservatism that claims that no new and unfamiliar sounds could possibly live up to existing ones. Itís easy and correct to reject such notions. Still, there is a fundamental change that occurs when we begin to use these sounds, and if we are to cross over, we should not do it without hard consideration of whatís happening. When a person goes from playing an acoustic guitar to playing an electric one, the differences are largely in the tone produced. Both instruments are played mostly the same and serve a very similar function. When a person goes from playing a drum set to programming a drum machine, the differences are not so superficial. There is no longer any human performance involved. It is strictly a composition executed with utmost precision by a computer. The number of split seconds between beats will be exactly the same for as long as the programmer wishes it to be this way.
This sounds like Pierre Boulezís sweetest dream, but it shouldnít excite anyone else, least of all musicians. What such an invention has done is to violate the sanctity of the human performance. The more of the performance that is taken out of a piece of music, the more blood gets drained. By this, I mean that the things we view as mistakes today were not always considered such. In centuries past, musicians would see the score as a point of departure, and each would inject his or her art into the piece of music when they played it. As time went on, musicians began to function less as interpreters and more as cogs in a machine assembled by the composer. The increasing industrialization around them gave them a metaphor that their predecessors would have found most distasteful, one that gradually decreased the expression allowed to performers. Human hands are shaky and pulses race during exciting passages, so absolute perfection is hard to come by. The final solution to this problem appeared to be the advent of machines to take the playersí places, but simply because an invention fulfills a goal with unprecedented success does not make that goal an admirable one. In fact, music history suggests that this particular goal is not admirable, that the idiosyncrasies and inaccuracies that have peppered music since its dawning are not mistakes at all. They are, in actuality, essential modes of expressing the human condition. Evidence for this lies in facts such as listenersí reported preference for slightly stretched octaves in piano tuning and their distaste for computer-generated sine tones, but even more convincing is the immense popularity of music throughout history with out-of-tune elements, accelerated tempi, and "improper" techniques.
Popularity is a dangerous yardstick to use though, and if that was the only test for quality, then the sales figures for music featuring drum machines or synthesizers or sampling would prove a formidable counter-argument. I must stress once more that these elements can and have been used creatively to make great music (Ikue Mori, Aphex Twin, and Venetian Snares are just a few examples), but far too often (and here is the real danger of these tools), they are used to produce music that is nothing more than a successful counterfeiting job. Moby once said that sampling is every bit the valid artistic tool that the electric guitar is. This is not quite true. Sampling can be as artistically valid, but it is not always so. There is no analogue with an electric guitar for looping the hook from a hit song to turn it into another hit song other than perhaps a wholesale theft of a popular riff. In the case of sampling, the performance is not only removed, it steals from a real one. Sampling can be used to stunning effect, and drum machines can be programmed in wonderfully creative ways, but the potential for unscrupulous laziness in the form of lifted hooks and perfunctory drum parts is too mammoth to ignore. You can say that boring drummers have always existed, bands have always ripped each other off, and that neither sampling nor drum machines are anything new in this department but that doesn't mean that these were ever good things, and it overlooks the fact that these technological developments have made these poor habits infinitely easier than ever before.
Sampling is still viewed suspiciously enough that the mindless thievery of a Puff Daddy is ridiculed by serious music lovers, so even though the room for abuse there is large, the impact remains somewhat contained thus far. More pervasive is the use of other electronic sound generators such as drum machines and other computer-generated noises. As I stated earlier, these tools remove the human performer from the equation and thus rob the finished product of a measure of artistic input, but the use of drum machines and laptops is far from universal. Bands made up of human beings still go into the studio to record their music, but horrifyingly often, they strive in the studio to play like machines. It wouldíve surprised me more to see a band that plays as mechanically as the Strokes mistaken for garage rock had not the perceptual shift behind this mistake been going on for decades. If unabashedly electronic music like techno were received as a wholly different genre with its own aesthetic standards, the problem would be much less severe than it is. But with our cultureís larger fascination with and deference to technology, we find it difficult to hold in mind that while robots may be able to make better cars and microchips and even compact discs, they cannot make our music better because robots have nothing to say. Note-perfect performances by man or machine are not actually perfect in any meaningful sense of the wordóan expressive performance, after all, is expressive precisely because it deviates from mathematical precision. Still, we persist in applying the same logic to music that allows us to be lied to with statistics, a logic that sacrifices our wavering, uncertain perception of whatís good and true for the sake of shining, computer-generated oversimplification and standardization. Our wish to avoid the nerve-wracking choices that go into making a fine work of art has led us to believe that there is a rational alternative, that some kind of mechanical perfection in form will lead to a similar consummation of content. The result of such a fallacy is no more compelling than a well-crafted piece of furniture, and nowhere near as useful.
Possibly the most primitively documented music that I own is collected on Robert Johnsonís The Complete Recordings. Not being a vinyl fetishist, I am happy to have them on CD, but a certain incongruity strikes me every time I play them. I load them into my multi-disc changer, press a button, and then the whole contraption whirrs to life. A mechanical arm grabs the CD and puts it in place. Then a laser beam shoots out and transforms the information it gathers into electrical signals that it sends through wires to two black boxes which then vibrate to reproduce approximately what it sounded like when a man in his twenties stepped into a recording studio over sixty years ago, long before much of this technology was ever even a wild dream. I wonder if this was how Robert Johnson was meant to be heard and whether or not that matters, but more than that, I ask myself if the intervening decades have seen recording move in a direction that we could adequately call 'progress.'
I love the sound of Robert Johnsonís records. Itís stuffed with enough spook and shadow to match the man himself, but I donít advocate all music sounding like that. Dark Side of the Moon would probably sound very silly if Pink Floyd had been booked into the studio after Johnson was finished, but I would also hate to hear Johnson making music for Virgin Records with the kind of producers they and every other major label use these days. If there was any spook and shadow in such music, it would be entirely the product of this or that type of processing and none the more convincing for it. If any complaint could be lobbed at "Sweet Home Chicago," it would be that the tools did not exist to capture it as it really sounded. Yet today, with a dizzying array of machinery at our disposal, the same complaint applies equally if not more so. Music as it actually sounds in a natural space very rarely appears on music made in the CD era. Itís even more of an anomaly for anything popular enough to be heard on the radio.
Astute readers will recognize that I seem to be waltzing into a very sticky argument at this point. Advocating a naturalist aesthetic provokes a host of prickly issues, foremost among them questions about what exactly "natural" means and what its artistic value is. As for the first of these, I have no special definition for "natural" beyond the informal one that most of us share, but I will discuss this more later. As for the second, the value of the natural in art is first misunderstood and then the misunderstanding is overrated. We fail to recognize that art is inherently artificial, that there is nothing natural about a man climbing a stage, playing songs that he wrote on a wooden box with strings while singing into a microphone for an audience of people trained to bang their hands together for a few seconds when he has stopped. We also fail to recognize that a song is not improved in any way if, say, the narrative of its lyrics happened in real life. A love song is not good because its author was in love. A love song is good if the singer can convince us that he or she is in love, or was, or wants to be. The crucial point is that the measure of good art is not its authenticity but its ability to be convincing.
This sounds like an argument against the natural, but it isnít. It rather answers the second aforementioned objection as to the artistic value of the natural. I may not have a specific definition of the natural, but like a good Supreme Court justice, I know it when I see it. It isnít that important to prove whether or not something is technically natural or not with regards to art. It is sufficiently so if I am never aware of its artifice. I rarely stop to consider the absurdity of the situation when I bang my hands together at a concert, and hence, it is a natural enough convention to serve art. The value of the natural then is to act as a transparent container, to render invisible that which would otherwise interfere with the transmission of artistic content. We do not pay attention to the natural or that which has become second nature, like applauding. These unseen artifices help us to suspend disbelief and neutralize obstacles in the communication between an artist and an audience.
Digital recording, with all its delightful promises of 'perfect sound forever,' should have been the pinnacle of invisible naturalness, but it has been anything but. Quite to the contrary, most modern recordings are at least as distracting as the popping and hissing specimens which populate the other end of historical spectrum with nowhere near the charisma. When we hear a band play, we presumably do not have twenty-four ears, each one suspended inches away from a drum, a mouth, or an amplifier, yet this is what it sounds like to hear a digital recording of such a group. Ever-expanding mixing boards and unlimited budgets for top-selling acts have allowed an unprecedented degree of control in capturing their sound.
This control is as much a curse as a blessing because it is rarely accompanied by restraint. With such ample technology at hand and other records competing for spots on the charts, a game of plastic surgeonís one-upmanship has ensued, with each new song slathering on more reverb, overdubbing, and other space-age trickery like so many nose jobs and breast implants. Digital recording as it is actually used does not capture sound so much as make it easier than ever for producers to doctor it up however they see fit. For instance, drums are not recorded simply by placing microphones next to them. Instead, the natural resonance of a drum is cut short by gates, mechanisms that will prevent the mic from picking up sound below a certain volume. That echo is then replaced by a digital surrogate, the end result being a sound that could never come from an actual drum. I would like to say that this is the only instrument to undergo such fiddling, but this is not the case.
But again, art is not natural, so these techniques should not instantly invalidate the results. Art is fake, true enough, but music does not exist solely in state-of-the-art recording studios. It exists much more frequently in bars and bedrooms, rehearsal spaces and orchestra halls. If we ingest music in any of these forums, we receive a constant reminder that the sound of the latest CD from Warner Brothers has taken music that ordinarily sounds a certain way and processed it as thoroughly as Kraft processes its cheese. It is extremely difficult for anyone familiar with live music to hear digital recording as natural, or vice versa; therefore, this medium segregates in many instances and flatly interferes in others. Such knowledge is bound to ruin the experience for those who know and love the real thing, but though I may say that digital recording is inferior to analog, you may just as arbitrarily say that the reverse is true, that regardless of what other issues are at hand, digital recording simply sounds the best. I would counter by saying that digital recording has cemented the secession of recorded music that began with Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles, however, did not kill off garage bands or preclude punk bands that maintained the connection between recording and live performance. Today, virtually the only place to enjoy the fruits of that connection on recordings is in the misnamed "lo-fi" movement. For the most part, the members of this movement seek to record music as it actually sounds. Their position on the margins of music-makers is a testament to the imperialist nature of digital recording. For me to say that modern recording techniques sound terrible is nothing more than an opinion. To say that they have endangered the naturalist aesthetic is a truly damning charge. I may not be able to objectively prove that naturalism is the best aesthetic, but it is axiomatic that it should be guaranteed a prominent place in our artistic vocabulary.
The Click Track
When the Byrds were first discovered, it looked like they had a potential hit in "Mr. Tambourine Man." Their producersí excitement over the song was overshadowed by the fact that they didnít think the band could hold the steady beat necessary for a danceable single, so they pulled in session pros to play all the instrumental parts except Roger McGuinnís, the rest of the band adding in their soon-to-be trademark harmony singing. Increasingly perceptive audiences grew wise to this trick soon enough and demanded that groups play their own instruments if their names were appearing on the record sleeves. The problem of keeping a steady beat didnít go away, though. Itís surprisingly difficult for most rock bands to keep an even tempo since the musicians frequently lack the discipline that comes with classical training, and because the excitement that so many of the genreís songs strive for invites acceleration. What were the producers to do? Taking a cue from the metronome, they began pumping a click track into the bandís headphones while they were playing, thus keeping them tethered to the desired tempo.
This sounds like a rather elegant solution to a problem that had plagued businessmen trying to mass market rock and roll ever since there was rock and roll to mass market. In its natural state, rock is coarse stuff, and the commercial adventures of the crudest bands have shown that the pop audience is not that excited about the rawest specimens. Still, there is much space along the raw-to-refined spectrum, and the click track has slid pop music extremely far towards the latter end. Perhaps the MC5 were unpalatable to radio programmers of any era, but itís simply impossible to imagine a song like the Kingsmenís version of "Louie Louie" making it onto the air today even though it was a considerable hit in the sixties. This shows that people are willing to put up with a surprising amount of sloppiness in their musicóthat is, unless they are conditioned otherwise.
The omnipresence of the click track today means that virtually no song you can hear on the radio will fail a metronome test. This or any other brand of homogeneity is likely to be a bad thing in art, but making sure that tempi are even seems harmless enough. However, the click track fosters the belief that speeding up or slowing down even slightly is not a valid artistic condition but doubtlessly a mistake, and the widespread use of this tool cements the impression that it is an unforgivable one. And while accelerating or decelerating frequently happens unintentionally or even undesirably, they do express meaning, most frequently a sense of excitement or relaxation. There are other ways to communicate this, of course, and changing tempo on purpose is allowed by the click track, but the subtle shifts are not. Hence, a form of artistic expression is precluded by the technology used to capture it, and the sound of rock bands getting carried away on studio recordings becomes ever more of a distant memory.
This leads into the second strike against the click track. By putting such a premium on maintaining a steady beat, musicians are implicitly encouraged to become more conservative in what they play. If a hypothetical guitarist were to put all of his skill into his part, he would still not be able to achieve perfect tempo, rhythm, and attack all at the same time due to natural limitations, so some qualities must be sacrificed. He can concentrate fully on the rhythm of his part, for example, but the attack will suffer. With an unbending dedication to the almighty beats-per-minute, other qualities will automatically be handicapped. He cannot risk speeding up or slowing down for any reward because the click track has caged him. It was designed to provide a perfect pulse so that individual musicians would not have to find and keep one in their heads, but adhering to an exact tempo, even with precise external guidance, requires much more attention than is needed to simply keep a satisfactory beat and weakens other areas which would certainly improve with more flexible standards. The ability to quantify this musical element, however, appeals to businessmen tired of the guesswork that inevitably comes with selling art, so they religiously employ it. Should they develop similar tools to ensure melodies and harmonies get perfect scores on some pseudo-objective scale or scope or meter, they will put them into service just as doggedly.
The last of the problems with the click track is also the most abstract and hidden, but it is perhaps the most dangerous because of it. A less obvious but barely less common use for this tool is to ensure that all the separate parts of a piece of music are at the same tempo. This allows musicians to add in overdubbed parts at any time because they know it will match up with everything else, and also allows producers to easily cobble together a track from different takes. But this again stresses tempo to an excessive degree. A click track can guarantee alignment of one kind but not of any other, and this spurious feeling of security leads its owners to ignore other elements, most prominent among them a sense of spontaneous interaction between players. The end result of all this is that the very space in which music is made is changed from a room with members of the band in it to a piece of graph paper with insured regularity where a song can be put together piecemeal. This is a very efficient way to crank out product, one that would stand proudly beside any assembly line. But with all due apologies to Berry Gordy, great art cannot be made on an assembly line, and simply increasing the efficiency of the process doesnít change that.
The Sound Effect
If youíve ever spent any time in a guitar shop, you probably have a good idea what high esteem that effects pedals are held in. Display cases lovingly show off the latest devices for twisting the sound of a guitar far beyond what even Leo Fender could have imagined. And while I will freely admit that many of the noises produced by the marriage of a guitar and this or that pedal are enjoyable, I must simultaneously point out that the rate at which these gizmos are invented in no way corresponds to an increase in the quality of music over time. Some technological advances have helped give voice to emotions previously silent or inadequately communicated Ė amp distortion and the electric guitar itself easily come to mind Ė but most others are a waste of time, or worse still, a distraction. Those falling into the latter category are what I would term sound effects.
The phrase "sound effects" seems like it denotes a certain group of instruments or tools, but that is not how I wish to use it here. What I mean by the term is a musical element included for the sake of novelty, not expression. Of course, that muddles the picture a great deal, so permit me two points of clarification. First, applying the term "sound effect" as I propose means that it is not the absolute that its appellation implies but rather a scale. Were it not terribly unwieldy to do so, I could refer to the degree of a musical elementís sound effect-ness. For simplicityís sake, I shall avoid this and leave it up to readerís discretion how much or little the term applies in any given situation. Second, a sound effect is also not absolute in terms of a specific element. The deciding factor is instead how an element is used in context. An ordinary electric guitar could hardly be a sound effect in a rock band, but it might be if used in an orchestra. Of course, a guitar with some unique electronic processing could then be a sound effect in a rock song, and an electric guitar in an orchestra could express real meaning, so determining what is and what is not a sound effect is a tricky and inevitably subjective process. This, however, is beside the point.
Regardless of disagreements as to which instances constitute the use of sound effects, their inherent flaw is how they subtly change the purpose of music from transmitting content to simply creating a sense of wonder in the listener. Wonder, despite our usual positive associations with the word, has a twofold problem. The first part is that wonder is inherently shallow. Wonder overwhelms rather than engages. It is an intense feeling of surprise and curiosity, but both of these things wear off and leave little if anything behind. The second part is that wonder is always attractive, if meretriciously so. We are drawn to the wondrous just as we are drawn to junk food. It is more immediately satisfying, and questions of substance are put off. We run from one novel sound effect to another, and the blinding acceleration of technology insures that a steady stream of new sounds will be paraded before our ears, with each entry making the same empty promises as the last. The sonic innovations technology offers, instead of aiding in the transmission of content, has often become the content itself, reducing music to nothing more than a showcase for new inventions rather than a vehicle for real human emotion.
Gratuitous elements in composition are nothing new, and in his own way, Liszt was as guilty as any laptop jockey of using sound effects in his music, but the particular danger of technology is that it makes its buzzes and blips ever more accessible to musicians and ever more riveting. It facilitates the tendency to grab cheap attention while forsaking substantive quality. We have such an unregulated proliferation of these buzzes and blips that few have stopped to question their value. An analogy should demonstrate how preposterous this is. Imagine that a man announces to the world that he has invented a new word, letís say, "snarb." Of course, the first thing a reasonable person would do is to question this inventor about what his word means. If he were to say that "snarb" refers to a person who never washes their hair and buys nothing but second-hand clothing, we might just find a place in our vocabularies for this new term. If instead he were to say, "Snarb is just a word with a pleasing sound," we would likely never use the word "snarb" at all, except perhaps in a derogatory anecdote about this self-styled linguistic innovator. Yet we listen to plenty of music that is very little but "snarb," and when we grow tired of "snarb," we move on to music thatís "zept," "youlou," or "courtbruns." If this is too facetious for you, try to determine what a talk box or a vocoder or a phaser pedal have ever expressed or helped to express. It is quite possible that they may be used in artistic ways, but if they ever are, it is far outnumbered by the number of songs that merely use them as novelty items.
We have allowed this to happen because we have lost track of music's purpose. I daresay that it was not invented so that it could culminate in the shiniest, most technologically sophisticated knob that man could ever hope to twiddle, and if thatís an unconvincing reason, then I simply find such a climax unworthy of much personal investment. The simple truth is that despite the superficial alterations that garner such excessive attention, music specifically and art in general express the same things they always have. They remind us of eternal themes much more than they discover them, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to be told the same things over and over again and yes, we need to find new ways to express ourselves, but the former part of that sentiment is kicked to the margins by those who continue to doubly delude themselves into thinking that art doesn't merely change but progresses, and that technology is the engine for this progress. Formal discoveries are worth welcoming only if they remain firmly in service of content and worthy of rejection when they eclipse it.
Though I have stated all along that technology is not inherently evil, I feel that I would be well-advised to offer some substantive proof for this belief at this point. To do so, Iíll offer the names Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Neu!, all of which use the technology they need to express their ideas and little or nothing more. The one figure that stands above all others in this regard, though, is the magnificent Brian Eno. For as much as he has been worshipped and poorly imitated by legions of electronica musicians, Eno retained a solid theoretical grounding that enabled him to employ a horde of sonic devices without ever becoming immured by them. Simply put, he knew why he was making music before he ever set out to determine how he would make it, something that can be said about his devotees all too rarely. A simple fascination with the sounds that computers can make combined with a nominal ability to combine them into a piece of music is fine as far as it goes, but it doesnít go very far. It may shine brightly for a while, but it will not endure, and neither will any other music made for such shoddy reasons.
Listening to Enoís music today, I am constantly thrilled by how masterfully he brought together his material. And such material! Itís easy to hear why people would be drawn to borrow it, or go to his well to take some of their own. Without at least a decent percentage of Enoís skill and wisdom, however, it all sounds clamorous and false, the product of good tools in bad hands. Computers have cracked open a plethora of fresh new noises, but we scarcely have time to grow accustomed to using one when another comes along to make its predecessor outdated. Too few know how to program a drum machine well, too few recognize unpalatable digital slickness for what it is. We have fantastic tools of considerable potential in our possession, but we have yet to learn how to wield them. In the meantime, a badly misused gadget will still secure a spot on the radio, often ousting a band who knows well enough to work within their grasp.
The net result of our march into the digitized future seems like a dismal one to me, but I am no Luddite. The reason I cringe when I see praise showered on those who march the fastest or even the most recklessly is simply because I am a lover of music and see blind technophilia as a dead end. Its products are just too different in nature to be used so thoughtlessly, and it will require a great deal of revaluation before I would feel confident in their widespread employment. By this, I donít mean that anyone wishing to make electronic music should take additional tutorials on Pro Tools. I mean that when we use Pro Tools or a drum machine or a synthesizer or anything else along similar lines, we should keep in mind the first caveman to beat out a rhythm on a rock, the first one to stretch his voice into a melody, the first time people played music to each other and with each other. We shouldn't waste our time banging on rocks or otherwise mimicking primitives whom we know all to well we can never be, but all great music extends from those primordial moments, remaining intimately connected in spite of all other differences. Music that breaks with them becomes something else entirely, something less valuable, less human. The presence of this or that gadget need not place the results in the latter category, but the history of technologyís usage suggests that we are all too susceptible to letting it obscure the purpose of making music, a purpose that remains as vital now as ever. It is our task above all others to remember that.
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