Consuming audio: An introduction to Tweak Theory
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis , Volume 6 - Issue 2 p. 117- 128
Audio technology is a medium for music, and when we pay attention to it we tend to speculate about its effects on the music it transmits. By now there are well-established traditions of commentary (many of them critical) about the impact of musical reproduction on musical production. Recording has commodified music, we are told, and driven a wedge between performer and audience. In popular music, multitrack recording dissolved the sense of group interaction; in classical music, audiences accustomed to the perfect accuracy of recordings demanded the same from live concerts, where interpretation consequently became cautious and stultified. Rock musicians, attempting to duplicate elaborate studio arrangements in concert performance, found themselves locked into synchrony with preprogrammed sequencers. And so on.It is my purpose here neither to refine these arguments nor to refute them. Rather, I wish to change the subject slightly. I have nothing to say about technology as a medium for the producers of music; I will instead consider technology as part of the culture of the music audience. Audio technology, like other forms of technology, is not simply a tool used for a practical purpose, but bears cultural meanings and personal emotional investments. Furthermore, though it represents a realm of creative involvement and practical mastery for audio engineers, for most of its users it is something purchased, a commodity.