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Less Noise, More Soul: The Search for Balance in the Art, Technology, and Commerce of Music Paperback – January 1, 2013
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About the Author
David Flitner 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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Anyone expecting "Less Noise, More Soul" to be a series of diatribes railing against the tools of the digital age, while simultaneously longing for the "good old days", will be sorely disappointed. Instead, a collection of informed essays by leaders from varied ends of the music industry grapple with the ongoing use, and in many cases, misuse, of the recent advances in technology. NOT ONE advocates rejecting the "new" items at their disposal, whether for purposes of writing, recording, engineering, producing, distributing, or broadcasting. (And the list of writers from each one of these fields reads like a virtual All Star team of the music business). But then again, they all share a common opinion that the ease of operation and access inherent in the digital age has somehow allowed for a lack of attention to the fundamentals of creating music. In short, recording software, computer plug-ins, data-driven listener "focus groups", and the explosion of both the internet and social media, have essentially allowed bad music to be written hastily, recorded cheaply, produced thoughtlessly, and distributed quickly.
Though the book may be intended as a reference tool in an academic setting, it reads so easily, and its' writers are so adept at relating their individual experiences, that it really becomes a "must-read" for anyone for whom music matters. Whether or not it was intended, "Less Noise, More Soul" is sequenced much like a well-planned album. Lydia Hutchinson opens with, "I lost my iPod last week, and quite honestly, I'm shocked at how little it mattered to me". It's the best opener I've read or heard in a while, and it immediately pulled me in. From there, insightful pieces from the likes of drummer Kenny Aronoff, mastering guru Bob Ludwig, and others patiently explain their crafts in user-friendly terms, without ever sounding condescending. The two "think pieces" by editor David Flitner and producer Susan Rogers are situated mid-book, and neither should be approached lightly. They echo the intelligence and hard-earned experience of all the various contributors, but they raise the bar considerably, literally challenging the reader to recognize the far-reaching consequences of a "laissez-faire" attitude toward the creative process. The book rides out on the writings of authors whose pedigree provides instant credibility, including a detailed and insightful piece by "Acoustic Café" host Rob Reinhart about the current state of radio, and ends with a Rod Serling meets Hunter Thompson story by Cliff Adams. By itself, it's a damning indictment of industry profiteers, and while its' characters are fictional, certainly their motivation and behaviors are very real.
What ties everything together is, quite simply, passion - a simple belief in the necessity of taking the time to pay attention to every step of the creative process. Numerous references to The Beatles aren't exercises in nostalgia, they're just pointed examples of how a popular artist, while making use of every new technological development of their time, still cared about their craft. And while reading the book, I was struck by the realization that for the first time in my life, musical technology HASN'T resulted in musical advancement. For example, during the big band era, Charlie Christian began to strum a Gibson archtop with a pickup, and suddenly Benny Goodman's rhythm section had an entirely new sonic element. Sixty years later, can we imagine a world WITHOUT the electric guitar? Not much later, radio repairman Leo Fender routed an ash plank, installed pickups, and provided the Telecaster (born as the Broadcaster) to some of his beloved country artists - and while its' "twang" was immediately embraced, over the years, Leo's creation sparked artists from Ricky Nelson to Keith Richards to Bruce Springsteen to Prince. In similar fashion, former country singer "Rhubarb Red" turned pop star Les Paul teamed with visionary executive Ted McCarty to create an instrument which virtually defined rock music to this day -particularly in conjunction with engineer Seth Lover's dual-coil pickup designed to "buck the hum", and British retailer Jim Marshall's innovative "plexi" tube amplifiers. Almost every new technological advance, from Fender's Precision Bass and Stratocaster of the 1950's, through Les Paul's multi-track recording in the 1960's, Bob Moog's commercial application of waveform synthesis in the 1970's, to Floyd Rose's locking tremolo of the 1980's, were essential inspirational components of entire musical genres, let alone songs. And yet, today's innovations - blatantly misused in the service of profit, rather than selectively absorbed into the creative process - have many people wishing for "less noise". This book goes a long way toward not only explaining this phenomenon, but also offers both hopeful and pragmatic solutions toward navigating the musical landscape as we move forward in the new century. In short, it's a work intended for those who, like its' authors, believe that ultimately, the soundtrack to our lives should be handled with a lot more care.
"Less Noise, More Soul" is hard hitting and demonstrates this progression from "what it was" to "what it's become". I loved it.
David Flitner has articulated this trend and to use a sports term; "broke it down" so easily understood. The generations have changed for sure. Each said generation wants to have its own army. I'm one who believes this generation is getting duped and would welcome the excellence of our past if presented uniformly and not as an afterthought. Good is good.