Posts Tagged ‘Auto-Tune’


Music, tech and culture roundup

September 28, 2009

oblique strategies

Auto-Tune, by way of Brian Eno: Montreal’s Islands (opening for the Psychedelic Furs and the Happy Mondays at House of Blues on October 10) are taking flak for the track “Heartbeat,” off their brand-new album, Vapours, for the heavily-Auto-Tuned vocals. In this interview over at Street Carnage, Nicholas Thorburn defends their decision to  use it, inspired by their use of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies in the studio.

What does your music look like? Paul Lamere is spending a lot of time thinking about visualizations of music these days. Want to help? He’s collecting visualizations of musical taste. Grab a marker, sketch out what you think your music looks like, and upload it Flickr, tagged with ‘MyMusicTaste.’

Indie music stars on the big screen. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and James Mercer of the Shins star in upcoming release Some Days are Better Than Others. You can watch the trailer here. No word on whether they’ll be contributing to the soundtrack (via Line Out).

MP3: Islands – Jogging Gorgeous Summer (no Auto-Tune, I promise) [buy]


Auto-Tune, pop, and the body politic

May 5, 2009


A bit of pop culture commentary today…

What I Learned at the Pop Conference. From The Stranger, a lighthearted summary of the goings-on at this year’s EMP Pop Conference, which had the theme, “Dance Music Sex Romance: Pop and the Body Politic.” Under the heading, “People Like Gimmicks,” author Eric Grandy describes this talk:

Douglas Wolk, presenting a paper on the incorporeality of club and radio DJs, the disconnect between their bodies and the sound they produce—they can’t physically touch the sound they create the way that a guitarist can touch the vibration of a string, they aren’t physically interacting with their audiences, and if they’re doing their job right they might as well not even have a physical body—stood at the podium, silently shuffling his papers every couple minutes and cueing video clips while prerecorded voices read the paper he’d written. A cute and effective conceptual stunt.

The article is a great overview of the conference that captures both academic music nerdery, silliness and—the best part—the intersection of the two.

Auto-Tune reconsidered. Like most indie music fanatics, I have considerable disdain for Auto-Tune—at its best, it’s a crutch, and at its worst, it’s a way for people (young skinny beautiful people, that is) with no musical talent to become pop stars. That is, until I read this article in Frieze Magazine, “Pitch Perfect”. In particular, Jace Clayton pulls in examples from Cher to Kanye West to North African Berber pop, complete with embedded YouTube videos so you can listen. He argues that effective use of Autotune requires the vocalist to work with the electronics:

Unlike traditional effects such as reverb or echo, Auto-Tune actively responds to human error and pitch subtleties. It doesn’t flatten or smooth. Nor does it universalize. Ari Raskin, chief engineer of high-end Manhattan recording studio Chung King, explains, ‘if you sing really ‘on’ [key] then the effect is less drastic’. The software works hard to make wrong notes right, so correctly-pitched notes sound relatively natural. But a virtuoso will confound the software when sliding around notes. The interplay becomes complex.

and that this melding of the human and the digital is a ‘cyborg embrace.’ Check out the whole article and see if it makes you re-think the use of Auto-Tune, too.

[image credit: Mark Kaufman, The Stranger]

MP3: Matmos – Regicide [buy]