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David Flitner on “Less Noise, More Soul”

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David Flitner, author of Less Noise, More Soul, has graciously written a blog post for us!

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“Anyone who has worked in the art and science of recording music knows the challenge of getting what’s in one’s mind to sound the same when, eventually, it emerges from speakers (or, more problematically, ear buds). There are so many variables that can alter and confound the journey of sound on its way from instruments and vocal chords, through hardware and software. And, for the most part, skilled hands and ears are required to navigate the passage.

This is also the dynamic that attends the writing and editing of a book, particularly one that collects the voices of numerous contributors. Less Noise, More Soul: The Search for Balance in the Art, Technology and Commerce of Music brings together, by design, diverse personalities and points of view, all trying to make sense of where music finds itself amidst the digital paradigm, and all with a passion for that music’s profound relevance in our lives.

Does the message get through?

Reviewers have commented regularly on the “wealth of knowledge” brought by the contributors (many of whom are Grammy winners). The essays have been called “well balanced,” containing “elegant arguments for rethinking where technology is taking the sounds we crave.” One reviewer even referred to the essays as “unexpurgated,” saying they were “amusing and eye-opening and sometimes shocking and will certainly make you start thinking.” (“Shocking” is likely a reference to a metaphor offered by essayist Will Ackerman that I’ll not spoil by revealing here.)

The Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association honed in on the diversity of argumentation in the book, declaring the volume “excellent food for classroom thought and study.” Another reviewer succinctly caught the book’s essential concern with “musical authenticity.”

And then there was the review that summed it up this way: “Less noise more soul. No more needs to be said.”

Since its release Less Noise, More Soul has been acquired by dozens of major institutions, from Yale, MIT, and UCLA to the distinguished Eastman School of Music and the Loeb Music Library at Harvard. And, for good measure, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Each reader may decide for herself or himself about the merits of the message. But it’s worth the journey.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Flitner - credit Thomas BovairdDavid Flitner (Wolfeboro, NH) holds a PhD from Tufts University and has been a consultant to the US Congress. He is the author of two previous books and has written on music and public affairs for numerous publications, from major newspapers to Billboard. He composes and records with the band Thinline.

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Digital Technology in the Making of Music

Guest Blogger: David Flitner, the editor of Less Noise, More Soul: The Search for Balance in the Art, Technology, and Commerce of Musicshares some insights about the modern music industry.

Less Noise, More Soul began as a commentary piece I wrote for Billboard. At the time, few questions were being raised about the role of digital technology in the making of music. Most people were, understandably enough, excited by the sheer sense of possibility the new tools represented. And there was always the chance that one did not wish to be seen as insufficiently cool regarding all things of a cutting edge nature. Yet, within a year of the article’s appearance, every serious recording publication was making reference to the issue. And here’s why: better tools did not seem to be correlating with an equal output of better music.

I felt it might be useful to invite serious and thoughtful exploration of this paradox by industry insiders. One of the writers, who is also among the most vigorous critics of the current situation, nonetheless counseled me to avoid letting the discussion become a “one note samba” of bashing. I needn’t have worried. As the essays began to roll in it became quite clear that each person was sharing a very individual point of view based on his or her experience and passion.

For example, few people on the planet combine gifts of technical expertise and creative sensibility more wonderfully than mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. Yet he is greatly concerned about music becoming less durably listenable due, in large part, to excessive reliance on processing.

Kenny Aronoff, arguably the top drummer in contemporary music, feels that loneliness (yes, despite the seeming connectivity of social media) is reflected in a lack of human feeling in music, work that is increasingly computer-derived and shaped.

Early reviews have been enthusiastic: “essential reading,” “an awesome manifesto,” “provocative, much more prickly than any guidebook to music tech has ever been,” “amusing and eye-opening and sometimes shocking.” The book has already found a home in libraries at MIT, Yale, UCLA, McGill and many additional distinguished institutions.

Music is perhaps the most profoundly personal, yet public, form of art. And popular music, especially, has the potential to shape culture on a global basis. That’s why it’s so important to get it right (as elusive as the definition may be) at all levels.

Digital tools can be part of an organic process that enhances the creative experience. Each of the writers in Less Noise, More Soul brings a unique voice to the larger conversation of how music is evolving with these tools. No one suggests theirs is the one and only answer, only that we ask better questions.

 

Less Noise, More Soul: The Search for Balance in the Art, Technology, and Commerce of Music brings together original essays by a select group of industry professionals, many of them award winners, who share a wealth of experience, passion, and insight into where popular music has been, where it currently finds itself, and where it’s going. The book is designed to be a portable vehicle for generating discussion: not too long, and replete with the poignant, thought-provoking commentary of many “brand-name” players in the industry. Perfect for the office or the college classroom, Less Noise, More Soul will enhance the understanding of music as a medium and a business for students, artists, producers, and other industry professionals. Contributors include Bob Ludwig, Adam Ayan, Kenny Aronoff, Lydia Hutchinson, and more.