What We Mean When We Say “Record”

↑ E.T. (Katy Perry Metalcore Cover) by Jordan Ironside.

“People used to make records, as in the record of an event, the event of people playing music in a room.” 

— Ani DiFranco

I first read that quote on the back of a waitress’s shirt in a diner in San Francisco while I was eating my hash-browns, and I thought, “Yeah, exactly.”

It struck me mainly as a complaint about over-produced music, autotune, marketing-driven faux bands manufactured to appeal to certain demographics, etc.

While I still think some of those criticisms are valid, I also think we’ve seen a re-definition of the “record” that is not entirely bad. In fact, there’s some very cool stuff going on.

The Creative Commons for music is increasingly robust and interesting. YouTube is filled with “recordings” made between artists working in entirely different rooms—not even speaking to each other except through the music.

When I listen to something like Jordan Ironside’s metalcore cover of E.T. by Katy Perry (play above), I know full well that Ironside never sat in a recording studio with Katy Perry—and I actually enjoy the recording more for it. Knowing how this music was made adds a layer of meaning, longing, and alienation.

In some ways, these kinds of tracks remind me of Unforgettable, the record Natalie Cole made using the audio recordings of her deceased father’s voice.

There’s a specific kind of magic that can happen between artists who aren’t in the same physical room, yet occupy the same space in spirit.

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