A Snippet of What T Bone Meant about MP3’s

The keynote address given at AmericanaFest, the Americana Music Festival & Conference, Thursday, September 22, 2016.

There is so much in that speech, and I seem to be writing a series based on it, but I am more focused on an aspect he spoke of further here.

– Resonance – Wave – Vibration – Energy – Motion – Influence – Genesis-

There are truths that we recognize but do not understand.  The fact that sound influences us is obvious.  But, how it influences us is not so obvious.

Sound is information borne out of some action.  Whether that action is a raindrop hitting the ground with a pat or a person choosing to speak, some energy is transferred from one thing to another, and the sound tells you what it is.

In religion and philosophy there are; hymns, chants, cymbals, drums, horns, flutes, etc., that are all designed to touch the untouchable areas, like your soul and God.

Science is an area that is still discovering what this energy is, and the many forms it takes.

Science knows it can be used to harm or heal, see or blind, detect and alert, and affect us in mysterious ways.  It can elevate your mood or make you depressed.  It can make you forget and make you remember.  And, so much more.

As T Bone Burnett eluded to in his speech String theory suggests that all matter is just another example of the sound telling you what transfer of energy is taking place.  Some  “strings” vibrate in a certain manner and you get a series of quarks that constitute this then that until you get a hydrogen atom.   Which means all matter is actually just a form of sound…kinda… it’s more complex but you get the idea.

I know I am not being as clear as a bell, so this may not be resonating with you but, I am trying to explain there is so much more to sound than sound!

Which brings us back to T Bone (I feel I should be saying Mr. Burnett, but come on… T Bone is too cool not to use.) and his speech… An MP3 is a postcard!

If I listen to Yo-Yo Ma on my phone, in an MP3 format through very expensive headphones, I get a Yo-Yo Ma postcard…

“Wow, look how beautiful it is there!” I think to myself.

And Yo-Yo Ma is Saying, “Greetings from Beautiful Bach-land and its Cello Suites Nos. 1 – 6”

That is an introduction, maybe a handshake.  That has value, but very little.  I think ten cents was common.

The goal is to get the listener to the pinnacle of sound.  That place where your whole being is involved; Mind, Body, Spirit.

If I listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suites I am moved, even by the postcard.  But, take it to the next level of file format and more of me is engaged.  Go to a great recording in Analog and I am engaged much further.  My thoughts and emotions meld more and my awareness of the energy of Yo-Yo himself is more apparent.  All the way to the pinnacle (for me), which would be a solo concert of Yo-Yo Ma in my home playing for me alone (introvert) at which point I know I would be slightly swaying to the music with my eyes closed and tears flowing and my mind a whirl of thoughts riding that emotional wave Bach and Ma have created.

That is a rare and special place to get to experience.  You know who has gotten to experience that kind of a thing a lot?  T Bone Burnett.

So, when he says, “it is all about a guy with a song and a microphone,” it is.  But he is also saying a guy is not just a guy, and a microphone is not just a microphone.

A true artist is someone who is called to reveal something.  That something is more than a postcard.  Don’t disrespect yourself as an artist by only producing postcards, and don’t disrespect yourself as a listener by only buying postcards.

Always strive for the pinnacle!  We can’t get artists to come to our homes and play for us alone every night, so we will forever be beholden to technology to provide a facsimile of the experience.

The manufactures of the hardware and software, that is the technology we use today, want their lives to be easy and their profits high.  But, that is not how it is supposed to be for people who are just an accessory to an artist.  You are profiting off her hard work and genius.  To do that you have to work hard!  You have to work hard to get us to that pinnacle!

Until I have an android Yo-Yo Ma playing a real Cello in my home, you better be working hard to get me there.

You are to avoid any concepts of modern manufacturing (Six Sigma, The Toyota Way, etc.)  and be single focused on getting me to the pinnacle.  No standards should be sought, only perfection.

If we (Listeners, Artists, Scientists, Manufactures, etc.) are all focused on the pinnacle, we will achieve the pinnacle.  And, we will learn a million ways to implement those new methods we discovered along the way, and those will change the world!










If the Postcard analogy doesn’t work for you…

An Mp3 is like over-processed foods.  You put it in your mouth, it tastes kinda like what you expected.  Then you swallow, and your body can pull some nutrients out of it, but mostly it doesn’t recognize what it is and just surrounds it with mucous and sends it back out to the world.


For Noah.


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