Digital memory, circa 1960s NASA, would be unrecognizable to us today. But it is digital. Photo contrasts an Apollo memory core (back) with modern avionics circuitry. Photo (CC-BY) Steve Jurvetson.

The always-thoughtful Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet picks up on my tongue-in-cheek comment, in which I question my own wisdom in dubbing this site “Create Digital Music.” It’s worth reading the whole piece, as he reflects on what’s in a name, the name of this site, the name of media outlets and blogs in general, and how we label music. This line I think sums it up:

Technology and aesthetics each engender various types of practice, but they are not inherently mappable to each other in any specific one-to-one manner.

As it happens, the name “Create Digital Music” was the one I had assigned to the book project that Peachpit Press renamed Real World Digital Audio. When I started CDM, I never intended to make it an ongoing project, only a companion for the book. I hated Peachpit’s book title, in fact.

I’ll defend the title of the site. I actually take the constant references to it in comments and complaints as a sort of confirmation that it was a good choice. I like that it’s a call to action. Anyway, I’m long past the point of thinking about it. But I think it is relevant to appreciate the notion of “digital,” partly because of its broad meaning. Aside from literally deriving from the Latin for fingers – a reference to counting on your fingers – “digital” simply means something with discrete values. Over the weekend, I was watching a documentary on my DVR on the Moon missions. When the tape storage memory of the time proved too unreliable, the MIT team building Apollo’s guidance systems turned to something called core rope memory. Leagues of women literally wove values into arrays of memory, each zero or one, one at a time. You can see the pictures from the Raytheon archives. It’s a reminder that “digital” is in no way “virtual”: all of our machines are, despite outward appearances, still assemblages of matter and electricity, subject to laws of physics, and at some point the work of human minds, hands, and digits.

I also agree with what Marc says about electronica; I’d like to revive the term.

The word “electronica” in particular seems to have long since fallen from any particular favor, but to my mind, that allows for it to take on new meaning; I like to think of it as being like “Americana,” the varied ephemera of a particular territory.


Tangential to that discussion, I want to share this morning’s listening. ISO50, aka Scott Hansen, aka Tycho, has a new free mix up for streaming.

ISO50 Playlist 9

What I love about Scott is his pitch-perfect sense of taste and aesthetic. The music here, like his photos, crosses genres but seems sonically to have the kind of warm, saturated color and vingetted edges that mark his design. Tycho’s own music, of course, tends to crackling, wonderful ambiences, whereas here we’re treated to some dreamy rock. The collage, just as his digital designs, all works for me. Perhaps it’s not entirely unrelated to the topic above. Enjoy listening.