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Dossier - Musiques électroniques : enjeux culturels et technologiques

« ... computer music is cool ! » Theoretical Implications of Ambivalences in Contemporary Trends in Music Reception

Klaus Neumann-Braun

Abstract : Technical inno­va­tions in the last years have deci­si­vely chan­ged the ways in which we consume music. The use of the inter­net has led to an here­to­fore unk­nown expan­sion in the access to dif­fe­rent kinds of music. Napster is the slogan which popu­la­ri­zed the idea of sear­ching the com­pu­ter files of mil­lions of com­pu­ter users through a cen­tral server and of down­loa­ding a host of music titles in fairly good qua­lity. Other “peer-to-peer”– sys­tems (i.g. imesh) fol­lo­wed. This prac­tice has led to an eco­no­mic battle in which it is not always clear which side the com­ba­tants are on. Net pira­tes see them­sel­ves as a kind of com­pu­ter van­guard and create a myth of digi­tal heroism for them­sel­ves. In the center of this new mytho­logy they place the pio­neer, a cultu­ral arche­type with deep roots in the mythic his­tory of the American conti­nent and pop culture. This com­pu­ter pio­neer is a figh­ter for free­dom in the name of a just cause. But the once wide gap bet­ween pio­neers and the mass of ave­rage com­pu­ter users has nar­ro­wed over the years. The easy acces­si­bi­lity of music has become part of a popu­lar life-style as people tend to spend more time with the com­pu­ter in cha­trooms and other vir­tual digi­tal worlds. Playful forms of consu­me­rism are beco­ming more inte­res­ting in this context. It may be argued that Jeremy Rifkin’s “age of access” has already begun, the age in which the access to the thing, but not the thing itself is it. In the context of music consump­tion new pro­ces­ses of a feti­shi­za­tion of tech­no­logy are taking place. Computer music is cool because of com­pu­ter strea­ming tech­ni­ques – a stance which obviously raises the ques­tion whe­ther music is lis­te­ned to at all. These trends will be dis­cus­sed in their impli­ca­tions for a fur­ther deve­lop­ment of music recep­tion theory.

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Innovation –