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Information for the People

When I posted yesterday about information policy really being an approximation of people policy, I didn’t have any specific example in mind. Via Boingboing, however, here is one, from David Byrne (his June 5 post):

Record collectors and consumers often view music as something that is inseparable from the object on which it resides. But if the digital world has taught us anything, it is that the musical information on CDs is anything but inseparable. The two things come apart quite easily, making the value of the delivery object fairly questionable.

So when music as a product, as a consumable object, is subverted and undermined by technology and by its own success, then maybe we have come full circle. Maybe if music is no longer seen as an object, but as pure information, data, sound waves, then the object becomes at best a mere delivery device, and we’re back to viewing music as an experience, albeit still one that other people produce.

What then becomes valuable in many cases is what music means to people — beyond the actual recording. Part of this meaning is in the song (or whatever) — and not necessarily in the specific recording of it. What it expresses, how it moves people, the worldview and ethos it embodies. Many of these qualities can be in the composition and exist apart from the recording and interpretation of that composition. People like “The Rite Of Spring” but are not everyone is super fussy about which recording they are hearing. Well, some are, but you get my point.

The other part of what music means is embodied in the singer, the band or the composer. It’s not even in the music and can’t be recorded, at some of it can’t. For some of this music the actual musical and lyrical content is almost irrelevant. For some pieces of music what it’s about is the relationship, the connection to, the singer, with their style, attitude, behavior, beliefs and looks more so than with the music, which is more or less relegated in this case to being the soundtrack to the lifestyle and philosophy. At best the music and everything else surrounding it — the videos, the gossip, the reputation, present a common front, a gesamtkunstwerk type piece that embodies what matters to a person.