February 17 Readings

Internet Music

The readings of this week introduce issues related to the Internet Music exemplifying with different points of views the main aspects of this type of music production. Both of the authors address to similar topics such as the development of technology, the spread of music online, the means of distribution to the consumer, illegality and copyright.

Hugill’s article has a very introductory character and it presents basic concepts and terminologies such as peer-to-peer, HTTP and different network categories, the idea is to open the understanding of the internet configuration. He also provides a short review of scholars, showing their different approaches on the subject.

The author divides internet music in types that are broad and can overlap:

  1. Music that Uses the Network to Connect Physical Spaces or Instruments
  2. Music that is Created or Performed in Vital Environments, or Uses Virtual Instruments
  3. Music that Translates into Sound Aspects of the Network Itself
  4. Music that Uses the internet to Enable Collaborative Composition or Performance
  5. Music that is Delivered via the Internet, with Varying Degrees of User Interactivity

The classification happens according to degrees of interactivity and on each case, he exemplifies technical challenges for these activities such as, network latency, homognization of the sound and replicate visual cues. Solutions to the problems are also presented, including the concept of virtual agents interacting with humans and machines. On this topic, he also discusses the idea of arbitrariness of data traffic, asynchronicity on the process of music creation online and critical/ideological reflection to musical interaction with media. Should we still agree with these division of internet music? What has changed?

Hugil is concerned with music on the internet as a cultural phenomenon and he highlights internet aesthetics as something that explores characteristics of the network for artistic endings with no walls and no instruments. An example would be Lowercase Music and its technological characteristics with attention to details and also the given importance to Deleuze and Guattari`s philosophy of the Rhyzome.


Sterne's reading is a chapter of his book "MP3, The Meaning of a Format". It brings discussions related to the meaning of the creation of the MP3 in our modern culture. It is a fact that digitalization is a phenomenon that changed everything in our daily lives, from the way we work and communicate to the way that industries and economy act in the system. With music is not different, this reading tries to open a comprehension about how music is perceived in the digitalized world, how it's compression to files changed the whole idea of art.

In “Music is a Thing?”, Sterne talks about different ways that music could be considered a thing such as a commodity, intellectual property and as an idealized self/sufficient work. The main focus of the text relies on the relationship between the music industry and piracy. Sterne addresses the topic by giving historical background on the spread of the mp3 and explaining the development of digital technology in order to create a discussion about the right to music and define a form for music since it was desmaterialized by the substitution of CDs and tapes.

Technological changes social relations and music production, but can that define the "condition of music? Does it depends on money economy, becoming a thing with the development of recording industry, as suggested by Eisenberg? This chapter brings different points of view about music thingness and the author describes it as borrowing some from the process language and some of the thing language, so it should be considered a different kind of thing. Not only a social practice and not only a technologized form. He cites one of our firsts readings, Christopher Small. Should we consider both opinions different? In which way?

"…the short-term loss of compact discs as property can be overcome by industry players who seek ownership and control of the means of distribution as the main model for profit generation."

Some concepts are discussed about digital right managements, questioning if intellectual property is a property (as a concrete thing) or a policy for copyrights that changes and expire. Sterne argues that people don't buy commodities with MP3, but a license that restricts and curtail.

"A subset of media industries have an economic interest in piracy. The piracy industries are media industries that sell blank media, conduits, and connectivity."

The reading also explain several issues related to mass file-sharing, with no cohesive self-defined public and piracy as a business force responsible for leading the record industry to a crisis. Although the majority of MP3 were not purchased, they still are involved on the economic market by copying records produced in money. One of the examples used by the author, would be the Napster case in 1999, a website database of recordings that got closed for illegal copying and distributing music before official releases. Millions of users were sharing MP3 files anonymously.

"Pirate operations were not anticapitalists or anticommercial. They simply operated outside of the bounds of legitimacy as defined by the state and state-sanctioned industry."

Questions for consideration:

  1. Does the work exist independently of its performance? Is music a thing because it's a commodity?
  2. Is piracy important for commercial life? Why it can have an ambiguous relationship with record industries?
  3. How the digital music and file-sharing helped to create the idea of owning a music?
  4. Is asynchronicity in online music collaborations a problem? How it affects the creative process?
  5. Fixing and objectifying music limits our possibilities as musicians by loosing involvement and participation?

Internet Music by Andrew Hugill talks about the different aspects of Internet music. It dives into the cultural effect the internet has had on music. For example riding the bus, train, or driving in a car to your local music store to search through CD racks or LP racks has been fully replaced with the convenience of surfing the net. Having to purchase a Walkman, Diskman, or huge sound system has been replaced with the convenience of the smart phone upon which most songs are downloaded to. Now instead of a huge sound system all you need is a mini Bluetooth speaker and you can play music as loud as you want to your hearts content.

This article also talks about the file sharing network craze started by Napster and the record industry’s attempt to shut file sharing down. One thing that I found interesting here was that he spoke about how most Internet Music consumers felt like the record industry reaped what they sued in this situation. I would have to agree because if there was a bevy of quality music then I wouldn’t have a problem going to the store to buy it. But thanks to the commodifying of music and the record industry’s attempt to catheterize all of the soul and message out of the music I myself had Napster and became a file sharer.

He moves forward to state that the most successful music will be that which adapts to the new environment, and we are being to see that with the emergence of Lowercase Music, Glitch Music, and Microsound Music.

Lowercase music is a form of music where very quiet, normally unheard, sounds are amplified to extreme levels.

Here is an example of Lowercase Music

Glitch Music is a form of music that uses extremely high and low frequency sounds or sound distortions, errors due to static, and white nose to create a coherent musical idea.

Here is an example of Glitch Music

Microsound Music is a form of music that uses clips of sounds on an extremely small scale. These sounds usually last about 10 milliseconds, once created they are compiled then put together to create a coherent musical idea.

Here is an example of Microsound Music

To me these subgenres are an unnecessary categorization of electronic music. They are simply the evolution of electronic music.

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