Piece image

99% Invisible #56- Frozen Music (Standard 4:30 version)

From: Roman Mars
Series: 99% Invisible (Standard Length)
Length: 04:29

Embed_button
Composer Jon Brion reminds us the difference between a performance and a song. Read the full description.

99invisible-logo-square-for_prx_small [For Director's Cut, go to: http://www.prx.org/pieces/89178-composer-jon-brion-reminds-us-the-difference-betwe]

Goethe said, “Architecture is frozen music.” I like that.

Of course that was before audio recording, so now, for the most part, music is frozen music.

It’s only very recently in the history of music that we’ve been able to freeze music into an object. In my life, the form of this object mattered a lot. I once bought vinyl albums and cassette tapes, where there were two first songs per album, Side A and Side B. The energy of a first song makes it stand apart, at least in my head it does. Then the CD came along and eliminated Side B and there was only first song, and the actual number of a track (that you see prominently on the UI) became my index for sorting songs. Then MP3s jumbled my sense of track order, and albums began to feel more like a loose grouping of individual pieces rather than a conceptual whole. I could name hundreds more examples like these, and I welcome you to chime in, but my point is: the form of the thing matters.

But no effect has been as world changing as that original innovation: freezing music in time onto a recording, where a single version of a song, a single performance of a song, became the song. An inherently mutable method of communication was fundamentally changed.

I heard a radio broadcast several years ago that really affected the way I thought about all this. Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot are the hosts of a radio program I’m a huge fan of called Sound Opinions (subscribe now). The songwriter, composer, and producer, Jon Brion came to WBEZ in Chicago to talk to Sound Opinions in 2006. At the time, Brion has just co-produced Kanye West’s album Late Registration and he was also already a renowned film composer. In this interview, Brion talks about the difference between what he calls “performance pieces” and “songs” and how recorded music has changed the way we appreciate the different art forms.

Special thanks to Sound Opinions for allowing me to rebroadcast this segment. Extra special thanks to SoOps producers, Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha, for being two of my favorite people in public radio.

Also in the 99% Invisible (Standard Length) series

Piece image

99% Invisible #101- Cover Story (Standard 4:30 version) (04:31)
From: Roman Mars

You know the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. With magazines, it’s pretty much the opposite.
Piece image

99% Invisible #100- Higher and Higher (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

A battle for supremacy in the New York skyline.
Piece image

99% Invisible #92- All the Buildings (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

An artist draws New York. And vice versa.
Piece image

99% Invisible #89- Bubble Houses (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

Buildings of the future, once.
Piece image

99% Invisible #85- A Noble Effort (Standard 4:30 version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

The man behind the background.
Piece image

99% Invisible #83- Heyoon (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

Bored and disaffected and angry, Alex longed for a place to escape to. And then he found Heyoon.
Piece image

99% Invisible #80- An Architect's Code (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:29)
From: Roman Mars

Some architects say there are just some buildings that should never have been built: buildings that violate human rights by design.
Piece image

99% Invisible #77- Game Changer (Standard 4:30 Version) (04:30)
From: Roman Mars

The two tweaks to basketball that made it the sports juggernaut it is today.
Piece image

99% Invisible #75- Secret Stairs (04:29)
From: Roman Mars

Wherever there is sufficient demand to move between two points of differing elevation, there are stairs.

Piece Description

[For Director's Cut, go to: http://www.prx.org/pieces/89178-composer-jon-brion-reminds-us-the-difference-betwe]

Goethe said, “Architecture is frozen music.” I like that.

Of course that was before audio recording, so now, for the most part, music is frozen music.

It’s only very recently in the history of music that we’ve been able to freeze music into an object. In my life, the form of this object mattered a lot. I once bought vinyl albums and cassette tapes, where there were two first songs per album, Side A and Side B. The energy of a first song makes it stand apart, at least in my head it does. Then the CD came along and eliminated Side B and there was only first song, and the actual number of a track (that you see prominently on the UI) became my index for sorting songs. Then MP3s jumbled my sense of track order, and albums began to feel more like a loose grouping of individual pieces rather than a conceptual whole. I could name hundreds more examples like these, and I welcome you to chime in, but my point is: the form of the thing matters.

But no effect has been as world changing as that original innovation: freezing music in time onto a recording, where a single version of a song, a single performance of a song, became the song. An inherently mutable method of communication was fundamentally changed.

I heard a radio broadcast several years ago that really affected the way I thought about all this. Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot are the hosts of a radio program I’m a huge fan of called Sound Opinions (subscribe now). The songwriter, composer, and producer, Jon Brion came to WBEZ in Chicago to talk to Sound Opinions in 2006. At the time, Brion has just co-produced Kanye West’s album Late Registration and he was also already a renowned film composer. In this interview, Brion talks about the difference between what he calls “performance pieces” and “songs” and how recorded music has changed the way we appreciate the different art forms.

Special thanks to Sound Opinions for allowing me to rebroadcast this segment. Extra special thanks to SoOps producers, Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha, for being two of my favorite people in public radio.