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Evan Eisenberg On The Sci-Fi Future Of Music

More than 20 years ago, Evan Eisenberg looked at how recorded music had changed human society. His book, The Recording Angel, examined the idea of music as a commodity, and the evolution of how people make, buy and listen to it. But with recorded music going digital, Eisenberg felt it was time for an update. The book was recently republished with a new afterword, which projects the future of music in a science fiction fantasy.

Huge changes in recorded music and technology have occurred since Eisenberg first published his book. We've gone beyond LPs and CDs to MP3s, iPods and online music streaming.

"As music went digital, it was just a series of digits, of information. It was no longer really an object. The CD was just a container, but it was no longer the important thing," Eisenberg says. "The information could be held by anything or not held by anything, it could just stream. It could be part of the halo of music around the planet that we could just tap into, the sort of 'celestial jukebox' idea."

But even after technology fundamentally changes recorded music, live music will live on, Eisenberg says. "If anything, live music has become more important economically than it's been in years, because it's not at all clear how people will make money from recordings in the age of file-swapping and downloading."

Eisenberg says the future of live music will still be affected by technology. At Lincoln Center, various sci-fi innovations that Eisensberg described are already being anticipated. He says these technological innovations don't spell the end of unmediated live music altogether, but they will be hard to undo: "Technology does tend to get it's grubby paws on pretty much everything, and it's kind of hard to turn it back."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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