Saturday, August 29, 2009

Playlists are the New Album

It occurred to me a while back that the playlists you have on your ipod are very vivid expression of post-modernism. The album forged in the furnace of the bands creativity, with it's own narrative arch or thematic development are no longer important--it's the hit song purchased for 99 cents blended together at the whim of consumer. It's the death of the author in a nut-shell.


Mike said...

Oh come now Bryan. Think of the Mixed tapes you made for Kandice. Did your intentions get communicated?

Jack's Mannequin - Mixed Tape

Death of the author? :)

Bryan Halferty said...

never before have singles totally dwarfed whole album sales. i think it's significant.

death of the author is a term referring to the post-modern assasination of authorial-intent and the rise of the reader as a agent of meaning.

Mike said...

I think this observation is the result of consumerism and not so much the death of the author. Singles have been on the shelves for as long as I can remember, but the odds are that if the consumer liked one song off the album then they would like at least a couple more. Not to mention it wasn't even possible to skip around on albums until just a couple decades ago. So the listener was more or less forced to engage in the band's creatively forged album.

But distribution is more advanced now and people can buy the songs they want.

I guess you are getting at the intent of the consumer. I would say that you would have to look at what the music buffs are buying and not at what the general public is doing. I know people who spent absurd amounts of money on the new Radio Head album for the very simple reason of engaging in that creatively formed album.

Also you should look at whats being bought. I doubt very much the same group I just mentioned would put the work in trying to figure out why "Circus" followed "womanizer" on the new Spears album, as they did listening to "In Rainbows."

I don't think you considered my point in the last post. While a playlist or mixed tape ignores the authorial intent of the song and the album. Does creating one for a lover indicate a new authorial intent? A collage of sound if you will.

Doesn't locating the reader as the agent of meaning give the reader power to determine (for example) that which is good and bad? Or if I am impressed by a work isn't it something in me that lends salience to the work?

Bryan Halferty said...

certainly there are differences between 'pop' joe public and the cultured sophisticates... that's a good point. the arch on Britney's album wouldn't be the same as a Decemberists album... sure.

With regard to your last two paragraphs... I'd give the consumer the position of editor, not author. The best she can do is to edit and anthologize to create a well put together anthology that has it's own arch.

There are certainly layers of meaning in any work. I don't like the idea of the reader being able to have a 'final say'. I guess I'm a bit more formal.

I'm not doing your comments justice... I;m in a hurry.