NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Video games, streaming and Internet technologies are only the latest pressures to warp the musical experience, from a musical and economic perspective.
Not so long ago, all music was unamplified and live. The group experience was not the exception but the norm: We traveled to a special venue to be together, everyone listening to the same band.
The distribution of recorded music began only with the start of the 20th century but it has now become the most common way we hear music.Recently, services like CD Baby, Spotify, Pandora (P), SoundCloud and Apple's (AAPL) iTunes are helping make popular the idea that musical style is an almost purely personal experience, no longer defining mass markets but much smaller social groups that often form online, physically disconnected. New avenues are popping up all the time. Last week, I mentioned that Dr. Dre's Beats Electronics is launching its own streaming music service, with former Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor as artistic director. That kind of startup competition could ultimately break iTunes' lock on online music sales, ultimately reshaping the market -- again. Recently, I spoke with Bob Ostertag, an internationally known composer and author of commentary on art and politics, about the role of changing technology in his music, particularly with regard to one recording from 2007 called "w00t" available (through relatively new technology) as a free download on his Web site. The title "w00t" was once a popular Internet discussion group interjection, particularly in online multiplayer video games -- a geekier version of a big smiley face. Some say it was shorthand for "woo-hoo! Loot!" when players found treasure in those games. The image is entirely appropriate here since the music of "w00t" is built entirely from samples of audio from video games, including Super Mario Smash Brothers, Warcraft, Halo and more than a dozen others. "As a performer, I had become interested in [video] game pads," Ostertag told me. "There's a lot of R&D that went into game pads. They emerged out of a lot of trial and error and the result is a device that's very intuitive to manipulate." Ostertag found he could use $29 game pads as an instrument to trigger any kinds of samples he chose -- musical tones or any other recorded sounds. "So then, I thought, I have my game pad, what kind of piece am I going to write for it? So that's how 'w00t' came about." Here's a snippet. The style may be strange to most readers -- but that's the point. This isn't pop or "commercial" music that could sell millions of copies. It's a more personal art form. Ostertag uses technology both to create the music and to reach his audience of listeners scattered around the world. (If the sound player doesn't appear below, go to this SoundCloud page to listen.) Shards of sounds are recombined here to create original musical phrases -- more like a mosaic than a collage. The features of the sampled sounds are recognizable, even as the sounds are turned from their intended purpose -- elevated, the way words are elevated into poetry.
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