Thursday, June 2, 2005

Shrodinger's Cool For Cats

In Quantum Physics, there is a theory that the act of observing something happening causes a change in the thing being observed. "A watched kettle never boils" is probably not an example - but you get the idea.

So, what happens when you point a microphone at, say, Coldplay and start to record what they're doing? Ignoring the fact that Chris Martin isn't a quantum particle (although I'd bet he'd like to be), are you changing the very nature of what they do by observing/recording their music?

Funnily enough, there's an article in the New Yorker suggesting that this is exactly what happens.

Over the last 100 years, for example, violinists have increasingly used vibrato. The reason the technique came to prominence is that it gave the instrument a fuller sound amongst the crackly grooves of vinyl. These days, vibrato is ubiquitous, even outside the recording studio.

Pop music fares a little better, as it uses the techniques of the studio to keep it fresh -- although we've all heard amazing live acts sound flat and lifeless on CD.

Perhaps the biggest danger for pop is when bands get more interested in the studio than they do in playing together.

Blur's "13" is a case in point - most of the songs on that album are patchwork recordings pieced together in ProTools by William Orbit. It's an interesting piece of art - at the expense of having actual songs.

So, there you have it, a link between pop music and quantum physics.

But where's Dean Stockwell to make it all better?

Oh boy.


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