Watershed

Seminar 4: Paul Morley in Conversation

Video Details

Music has changed; the way it sounds, how we listen to it, how we make it, how we buy it, and the format it arrives in have all been transformed by technology. In this talk, music journalist Paul Morley and Simon Poulter discuss how technology is changing music in the context of Marshall McLuhan's theories.

6 Oct 2011

Duration: 1hour 5mins 39secs

The folk and ritual musics of oral cultures are a distant memory, and we are now deeply embedded in the digital age. One of the results of our digital world is that music is everywhere; on streets, in shops, on television, in trains, on headphones, even on your phone. Music has become portable, and technology has transformed the sleepy vistas of the acoustic age into a pulsing, voltaic soundscape of electronically-enhanced, auto-tuned voices, synthetic rhythms, and oscillating harmonies. More than this, technology has had a massive impact not only on the way music is conceived and recorded by musicians, but also the way in which it is received and consumed by audiences. It has narrowed the gap between composer, performer, producer, and audience, blurred genre distinctions, and even removed music from the physical realm.

In 1965, Marshall McLuhan stated that 'The medium is the message', which was his characteristically enigmatic way of saying that the means by which we communicate our ideas have an impact on what we actually say. One need only look to music to see how accurate McLuhan was in this judgement; we have witnessed the transformation of a perfomance-based medium to an electronic one, the metamorphoses of a tactile, physical medium, to intangible, digital ephemera.

In this talk, music journalist Paul Morley and Simon Poulter discuss the rapidly evolving musical landscape in the context of McLuhan's theories, addressing the demise of record shops and the physical medium, the effect the internet has had on its commercial consumption, and the emergence of hybrid forms in the face of dissolving genre distinctions.

Paul Morley is a journalist, author, and musician, who has written for publications including NME, The Observer, The Financial Times and Arena Homme Plus. He is a regular contributor to BBC 2's Review Show, and writes and presents documentaries for BBC4, BBC Radio 2, and BBC Radio 4. His books include a meditation on suicide (Nothing), and a biography of the group Joy Division (Joy Division: Piece by Piece: Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007)

In conversation with Simon Poulter, an artist and curator based in London. Simon develops programmes and commissions for a variety of organisations including MAC, Metal and the AND festival. He has recently become Head of Programme at Metal, developing projects in Liverpool and Southend. 

McLuhan's Message is a Watershed Project in partnership with the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of West of England. Curated by Simon Poulter.