When Technology Meets the Self-Centered Artist

By: Jacob Millay

I am a young person. As such, I am supposed to be up to date with all the interesting innovations and cultural movements that are occurring around us.

Honestly, that is a lot of work for me. However, I have kept up with one particular important phenomenon that has come about in the last ten years. The rise of streaming music has exploded recently.

Music on the internet is not necessarily a new thing, but as internet speeds and storage capabilities have increased in recent years, listening to music has gotten easier and easier. Now anyone with a smartphone has the majority of recorded music available to them in an instant. It only takes a few clicks, and then the free music starts pouring out. There was an additional Christmas gift for some as well this year, as The Beatles entire anthology of music was made available for streaming.

While I do not have any strong opinions on The Beatles, other musical artists have taken the opposite path of them recently. Taylor Swift, Adele, Prince, Radiohead, Coldplay, and The Black Keys have all withheld records from being streamed on various services, with the most popular one being Spotify. The main claim is that music streaming has reduced record sales and has hurt the artist where it hurts most: the pocketbook.

While Spotify is not clear on how much it pays artists for each play, it is clear that artists are not going to be raking in cash unless they are supremely popular. Artists who get hundreds of millions of listens will get a hefty paycheck from Spotify, while smaller artists will probably not get much.

Some artists took a different approach to the streaming “problem.” The Jay-Z headed streaming service, Tidal ,had the focus of providing adequate compensation for the artists who chose to use their service. However, with a large price tag for the premium service, Tidal has little impact on the streaming game at this time. People have stuck with the giant Spotify so far.

From my perspective, this whole streaming issue is, frankly, laughable. Some of the largest and most popular musical artists in the world, who sell out stadiums wherever they go, who sell t-shirts to every concert goer, who get radio play for every single that they release, and who sign huge record contracts with the largest record labels, are taking a stand for the integrity of the artists. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Probably the biggest proponent of moving away from streaming is the pop superstar Taylor Swift, who currently makes $80 million dollars a year, is complaining about Spotify. She said “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.” ( http://www.businessinsider.com/taylor-swift-explains-why-she-left-spotify-2014-11)

While placing value on art is an important goal, Swift seems unaware of the potential consequences of her actions. Rather than people going out and purchasing her album if it is unavailable on the convenient service that they already use, people are just as likely to find a shadier way to get the music. Additionally, Swift made this decision basically to push album sales. She was hoping that people would go out and buy her album since they cannot stream it. That is a pretty poor reason to make the decision to withhold music from people.

Let’s take a step away from the millionaires complaining about not being paid. Spotify has more benefits than just to make money for the artists. It provides a outlet for people to share music. I personally share playlists that I make on Spotify pretty frequently. It also provides for music discovery. If you like this artist, then you should try this one too. This means that more music is being discovered and listened to. Spotify has been incredibly instrumental in my own discovery of different music that I enjoy. And beyond just listening to the music, it also has also incited action on my part to go out and see those bands live, purchases merchandise, or buy the album themselves, all of which never would have happened if I had not first listened to their music on Spotify.

For the 1% of the music community to look at Spotify and say that it is “bad for music” is a ridiculous attempt at a cash-grab by those who already making more money than anyone else.

How, though, does this connect with English? Are you just rambling about music, Jacob? Well, yes. But it also connects with English. Think about the proliferation of E-Books that now exist. Kindle and Nooks and BOOX are now just as popular as other forms of reading. Just as in the music industry, some authors have railed against the proliferation of this technology. Ray Bradbury, Maurice Sendak, Jonathan Franzen, and Ursula K. Le Guin all have railed against E-books. Similarly to music, they say that it reduces the importance of what is read, it promotes piracy, and it will cause authors to make less off of their books.

These may be important points, but again it seems like people are afraid and unaware of how technology can be helpful. Environmentally, E-books are far less wasteful than normal books. The convenience factor outweighs the woes. And finally, power is returned to the people. Before, to get a book published an author had to go to one of the major publishing houses and hope for a deal, but now the author can connect with an audience just that much easier through an online marketplace. One more middle man has been removed. E-books just might be helping the industry as a whole.

And E-books have been around for almost a decade now and the printing industry continues onward. It did not have apocalyptic consequences like some imagined. Instead there are separate markets for different people to use and appreciate.

Perhaps we are all just scared of new technology and the impact that it might have on the status quo. But as we move forward, I think the negative consequences will fall to the wayside while the good rises to the top. So don’t be afraid. Buy all the new gadgets that you want.

(It should be noted that I was listening to music streamed on Spotify the whole time that I wrote this)

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

Recently Published in the The Cresset: A review of literature, the arts, and public affairs

The most recent issue of The Cresset featured two Whitworth names.

Associate Professor of English, Charles Andrews published a review of the recent movie version of Vera Brittain’s memoir Testament of Youth titled “Learning to Live with Ghosts” as part of his research of the British peace movement.

Testament-of-Youth

Also appearing in the same issue is a poem, titled “Losing His Religion” written by Whitworth alumnus Michael Schmidt (’13)
 

“Secrets” by Devon Clements (’18)

Enjoy this short story written by one of our contributing writers, Devon Clements. 

His discretion on this mission was of paramount importance. His superiors had stressed that repeatedly during his morning briefing, and as he now silently crept through the shadowed terrace which ran parallel to the exterior of the building on his left he reminded himself once more. He had been given this assignment just less than an hour ago allowing little time for proper mental preparation, leaving him now more than a little concerned over the task that lay ahead. As he continued his silent approach he came to a large wooden enclosure containing only one access point, a gate sitting on rusting and stagnant hinges of a black metal he didn’t recognize. He stopped, considering, and processed his options, “do I scale the fence? Or instead risk the noise of the gate?” which appeared to be unguarded. After much deliberation he decided the risk of being seen atop the barrier was equal if not greater to the known threat of the gate. As one slightly unsteady hand reached toward the latch he heard a rustling off to his right and immediately withdrew his outstretched arm and ducked behind the wooden enclosure. No sooner had he done this that a great roar erupted to his immediate right. The sound of some great and terrible beast echoed throughout the stillness, a cacophony of growls and snaps accompanied by the pawing of dirt. He sunk closer to the ground his heart racing, hoping beyond hope the beast wouldn’t draw attention to unseen enemies and that it would be contained on the opposite side of the adjacent wall. It was then that he noticed the rocks at his feet and with a quick decision he laid down the rough wooden stock of his rifle and scooping a handful of pebbles in his hand, flung the cluster as far as he could to his distant right, hoping to deter the animal. As the sediment clattered into the far side of the partition and the surrounding brush, he heard the great brute dart away towards this new intruder.

Disallowing time for the animal to return he reclaimed the hefty, yet comfortable weight of his firearm and proceeded to unlatch the gate and gently push it inward. It gave an eerie screech as it swung open, but the noise paled in comparison to the recently departed cries of the creature and without hesitation he slipped quietly inside the timber outskirts. He found himself in a large rectangular forested area, bordered on one side by an enormous structure covered in a vast array of windows and doors. The building vanished into the horizon above him and seemed to be constructed of a red stone which he was unfamiliar with. The other three sides of the region were restricted by the same expansive fence from which he had just passed through its tall wooden planks restricting light as well as his vision to the outside world. Standing in the middle of this compound was a strange structure he didn’t recognize, yet that seemed slightly familiar. It was comprised of a pointed apex roof on one end covered with a striped tarpaulin in bright shades of crimson and gold, adjacent to this was a long wooden rod from which dangled some foreign objects which he couldn’t recognize. These alien appendages consisted of long chains wrapped in some form of rubberized coating, dangling near the ground attached together by a board of hardened polymer plastic. He was astounded for he could make no sense of the structure which stood in front of him. He feared that it may be some contraption of imprisonment yet, at the same time he didn’t feel as if they were the tools of some nefarious action.

It was then that he heard them approaching from behind the far perimeter, he knew at once they were his enemies. He couldn’t see anything in the shadowy darkness but instinctively knew that the presence he felt was of a hostile and carnivorous nature. Without a moment’s hesitation he hit the ground with a thud and mechanically drew his weapon into a firing position and began to release rounds in the direction of these new manifestations. Sweat began to pool on the creases of his unblemished brow as he continually fired into the darkness hoping beyond hope that he could vanquish the enemy. He squinted into the darkness hoping to distinguish foliage from menace. His hands began to ache from the coarse, unfinished stock of his weapon which he gripped with his life. After what felt like hours he finally ceased his firing and peered into the darkness, sighing with relief at the lack of movement or sound.

Having overcome the unforeseen enemy he turned his eyes upward towards the open room just below the apex of the canvas covered roof, there his eyes lit upon his goal, the reason for his quest. He wasn’t certain exactly what lay above him just that its material possession was his only mission in life. Having found the object of his desire he stepped towards the structure, only now noticing the looming, jagged cliff wall which he would have to scale in order to reach the room above. The rock face was speckled by multi-colored sediment which stuck out in odd and unnatural angles, affording his small hands crevices which he could easily grip. He began the ascent not pausing to look down or contemplate the immense height he was gaining. Halfway up the rock face his footing failed him and he careened off to the right, as his rifle fell thousands of feet below him he managed to catch himself on a single outstretched shelf. He paused for a moment here, regaining his composure and dedication to the task at hand. He continued the rest of the way without incident his agile frame working his way quickly up the serrated fortification. He was on the cusp of the precipice and beginning to throw himself over the lip and into the connecting room when his eyes once more honed in on his goal. The vague shape of a dazzling cylinder began to appear from the darkness when a thunderous, maternal call echoed through his head and the surrounding environment.

Before he could move the world around him began to disintegrate, changing shape and color and becoming something all too familiar. His combat boots become small canvas tennis shoes, the cliff overhang shifted and began to shrink as did the rest of the infrastructure surrounding him. What at first was unintelligible noise took the form of human language as he heard from above and behind him, streaming from an open window on the now substantially smaller complex which he had noticed earlier, “Lunch Time!”. It was at this moment that the final ties to his world were cut loose and he stepped back, dropping to a grass covered floor. He turned towards the voice and began to walk, briefly stumbling on a long tree branch the bark of which had been rubbed down from excessive handling, which he realized he had dropped earlier. As the boy ran towards the now open door in front of him, eagerly awaiting his sustenance which would most likely come in the form of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he glanced back once more at the play house structure found in suburban backyards across the country, and for just a moment he glimpsed the last remains of the universe he had created.

 

Devon Clements. Class of 2018. English Philosophy major. Missouri. Soccer. Coffee. Historical Fiction. Edward Sharpe. Of Human Bondage. Travel. Moleskine. Pens. Vans. United Kingdom. Trees. Gym. Literature. Sour. Northwest. Theatre. Explore. Skateboard. Run. Cats. Blue. Finished.

You Don’t Have to Be An Actor

An inside look into the 2015 Fall Semester Reading in Action course. 

By Lauren Padilla
 
It was on the syllabus of course, but when we were reminded that they’d be acting out A Raisin In The Sun, the Reading In Action Class was still rather in denial. 
 
“Act? Live? In front of people of all things?”
 
Thankfully a general enthusiasm lived on (as our clip denotes), the number of missed entrances was minimal, and the performance passed us enjoyably—thanks to the acting and also the unreal amount of snacks.
 
Even though it was executed by amateurs, seeing the play firsthand revealed all kinds of nuances we may have missed when reading it through the first time:
 
Being able to hear a penny drop when Walter Lee discovers that Ruth is pregnant.
 
The vehemence in Lena’s reply when Beneath denounces God. 
 
These sensations can all be written perfectly well into a novel, but only real voices can achieve them. It was a reminder to us all as readers that literature is not static—in the case of a stage play, or otherwise. Of course, stage plays are the most physical and tangible form of this concept, but literature should always be an experience; in the hands of a good reader, a piece of literature is alive
 This project was part of Professor D’Amico’s EL115H Reading in Action Course. This freshman level honors course explores a variety of reading practices beginning with our initial love of literature, moving into advanced scholarly reading, and engaging in service-learning with reading communities in Spokane. Padilla was one of her freshman students.