In MIDI 1.0, all data was in 7-bit values. That means musical qualities were quantized on a scale of 0 to 127. Features like volume, pitch, and how much of the sound should come out of the right or left speaker are all measured on this scale, with 128 possible points. This is not a lot of resolution. For some really sophisticated listeners, they can clearly hear the steps between points.
In 1990, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan collaborated with Michael Brook and released an album called Mustt Mustt. [You might know Michael Brook as the guy who invented the Infinite Guitar which was used for the haunting notes on U2’s With or Without You] It combined a traditional Qawalli style song with guitar and produced a new kind of sound. The title song of that album was a big hit and inspired Massive Attack to remix it. This remix of the song became a smash hit and reached an even wider audience.
I was unaware of this song until 1996 when it was used in a Coca Cola commercial during the Cricket World Cup. It was an interesting ad and the sound went really well with it.
The Indian Cricket focused Coca Cola ad (1:04)
After I saw the ad, I tried to find out what this song was called (no SoundHounds or Shazams back then). Eventually I found the song through a friend who let me “borrow” the MP3. The file name on the song I got said ‘Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mustt Mustt (Massive Attack Remix).mp3″. I had no idea that Massive Attack was actually a band and assumed it was some fancy name given to the remix. But I enjoyed the song and …
Back in the early 90s, when I was growing up, I thought I had all of Michael Jackson’s albums in my tape collection. I was surprised when I first saw this video on MTV India of the song “Leave me Alone”, as I had never heard this song before. The credits on the song attributed it to the album “Bad”, but my copy of that album didn’t have it. Back in India, before the age of the internet, I didn’t even know there could ever be a way to find out why my album didn’t have this song. This song tormented me as I would randomly catch it once a year on MTV or VH1.
Many years later I found out that this was a single, released separately, and only on the CD version. And Wikipedia says that it was never released in the US either.
It interesting to think about how this song stayed apt for him all these years leading to yesterday.
Another lesser known song from one of his more recent albums where he lashed out at the media was “Tabloid Junkie”. There is no official video to that song but the following version by a fun comes very close to capturing the essence.
I do not quite understand at this point what could result in only a partial album to be available through a subscription service. Maybe since this is a Motion Picture Soundtrack comprising of different artists, each of the individual artists is prevented by their labels from being available through particular subscription services. I am glad that each of the subscription services isn’t mutually exclusive though, it would be really bad!
Does having playlists of mp3s in random order mask the “full album” experience that we used to have a not so long time ago? Back in the tape days, I would have complete albums which I would play and get used to – discovering more songs, hearing the artists’ (or music label’s) version of what they value and in what order.
Anyone who has heard albums like “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd would probably feel unhappy when they meet people who have only heard an individual song from that album. Unless one has experienced the continuity of the entire album, the heart-beats and voices in between songs, one can not fully appreciate why it was one of the longest running albums of all times (It was on US Billboard Top 200 for 741 weeks).
But today, more and more people are listening to only individual songs. I always felt like an old purist debating the sanctity of the complete album, but I just became aware of how our listening behavior can actually destroy the concept of an album altogether. This gentleman has explained how the science of economics will catch up with our listening experiences.
Maybe individual songs could be priced in such a way that it would be cheaper to download a complete album; that would be one incentive to make people still download all songs from an album. Or maybe people can use one of the subscription services from Yahoo or URGE. [I am working on a comparative review on Yahoo Music Unlimited 2 Go and URGE All Access To Go. I have used them both, but currently am siding with URGE for reasons I will explain in the review]. These services do allow complete album downloads and URGE seems like a savior since it really retains the flavor of the complete album; it even throws in an album review from All Music Guide in the mix.
I sincerely hope the album does not die. But I am not sure if I am simply resisting a good new-age trend or am concerned about the loss of an experience which is too valuable to forgo.