Wednesday, February 12, 2014

this was tomorrow #17 (text-only instalment)

"I was just trying to make something that I would enjoy. Something that wasn’t there. And there was so much new stuff around, it was exciting, there were new things that you could do that no-one had ever had the chance to do before, sounds that no-one in history had been able to make before. And the moment you know that’s the case, that’s quite exciting. There was a lot of that at the beginning of the eighties. If you think that when we made ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ in 1979, there wasn’t a sequencer on it, there were no computers within a mile of it – it’s all played. It sounds like it’s sequenced because we played it to sound like it was sequenced. But by 1983 it had all exploded. What was possible was incredible. Everything was possible suddenly, when it hadn’t been previously" - Trevor Horn, interviewed by Alex Niven, for The Quietus, on the occasion of ZTT's 30th Birthday

Alex goes on to ask: .

Some people would say that the pace of technological change has slowed somewhat since then. Do you think that that sense of possibility was confined to the historical moment of the early eighties?

to which Horn replies:

"No, but what has happened is that it’s not so visible now. Back at the start of the eighties you were able to sample a sound and make it musical, but now everything’s a sample. Whereas, back then we were sampling things and making a record out of it, now a record’s just a sample. There’s nothing that isn’t a sample, if you get my drift. There was this amazing thing about early sampling, whereby because the technology was primitive, it had a way of romanticising the sound and giving it an otherworldliness that made it seem even more different. Now that all the recording quality is perfect, you have to fake that. But technology’s changed – now all of the gear that we had fits into a computer, and that to me is an even more incredible environment. But you don’t hear that in the records. Back in the early eighties you could hear some shit was going on but you didn’t know what it was. Producers used to come up to me in ’82-’83 and say, ‘How the hell did you do that thing? What was that?’ And of course within a year they all knew. By the time we got to 1986 the little S900 samplers had come out and everyone had access to the same technology."

C.f. Mark Fisher's idea that we can no longer hear technology:

"It is not that technology has ceased developing. What has happened, however, is that technology has been decalibrated from cultural form. The present moment might in fact be best characterised by a discrepancy between the onward march of technology and the stalling, stagnation and retardation of culture. We can’t hear technology any more. There has been a gradual disappearance of the sound of technological rupture – such as the irruption of Brian Eno’s analogue synth in the middle of Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain”, or the cut-and-paste angular alienness of early rave – that pop music once taught us to expect. We still see technology, perhaps, in cinema CGI, but CGI’s role is somewhat paradoxical: its aim is precisely to make itself invisible, and it has been used to finesse an already established model of reality. High-definition television is another example of the same syndrome: we see the same old things, but brighter and glossier"

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