Photo: Marla Cohen
There''s been a lot of negative buzz about Taylor Swift''s off-key performance at the recent Grammy Awards. At the risk of piling on, I thought I''d also comment. It really was pretty shocking to hear someone who was being fêted as the next big thing stink up the joint so badly on the night of her own coronation. Even putting aside her pitch problems, her voice sounded so pedestrian compared to the other singers who performed during the show. It makes you wonder about the packaging of artists. It also shows how much can be done in the studio to improve an ordinary voice.
I have no problem with using pitch correction in the studio. However, the Grammy incident shows that while you can hide a not-so-great voice in the studio, it''s not as easy live.
On the subject of pitch correction, this month''s issue features Michael Cooper''s review (see p. 44) of Celemony Melodyne editor, a product that takes pitch correction to another level. It''s designed to correct pitch in polyphonic material. In theory, you could, say, take a recorded chord and change it from major to minor by grabbing the third and flatting it by a half step. You could radically edit a performance, changing the harmony as well as the melody, assuming you''re starting with good source material.
If you read Cooper''s review, you''ll find out that it sounds like, at least right now, that''s not so easy to accomplish. Overall, Cooper says the product is powerful, but the polyphonic editing aspect still has a way to go. Read the review to find out the specifics of what he found.
Assuming polyphonic correction eventually does becomes ubiquitous and seamless—the way that monophonic correction is now—think of the changes (no pun intended) it might bring. From a producer''s standpoint, it will allow for a lot more manipulation of arrangements. Imagine being able to alter a song''s chord structure during mixdown. It would certainly open up a lot of possibilities. On the other hand, songwriters might not be too happy to find that producers have changed the harmonic structure of their songs during mixdown. (“Hey, what happened to that EM chord?”) As digital technology continues to give us finer and finer manipulation of sound, there are going to be consequences, both foreseen and un-foreseen, that we''ll have to deal with.
If you want an interesting take on a major effect technology has had on music, read this month''s “Industry Insider” column (see p. 42). In it, Panos Panay, the CEO of Sonicbids, postulates that the free accessibility of music online is causing the devaluation of music as a commodity. According to Panay, the business model of artists selling their music to the public will eventually become totally unworkable. He says that recorded music will return to its original role, as a promotional vehicle for artists'' live performances.
I certainly hope that''s not where it''s heading, but there is no question that selling albums is much more challenging than it once was. (By the way, I am now back to calling them “albums” because with so much music sold via download, it''s hard to accurately refer to recordings as “CDs” anymore.) In Nathaniel Kunkel''s “InSession” column this month (see p. 66), he puts forth the theory that the way in which we consume music—such as on mobile devices while exercising—has led to a lack of reverence for it and has helped fuel its devaluation.
Nobody knows for sure how all these issues are going to shake out or what the music business will look like in 10 years. We do know one thing, though: We''re going to keep making music, no matter what. Enjoy the issue.