Can the Internet Save Music?
David Gray is an English singer-songwriter. His most recent album is Draw the Line. Although he released his first studio album in 1993, he did not receive worldwide attention until the release of White Ladder six years later. It was the first of three UK chart-toppers in six years for Gray, the latter two of which also made the Top 20 in the U.S.
Question: What is the impact of younger artists like Lily Allen finding fame via social networking sites?
David Gray: I'm clearly not of that generation. So I really wouldn’t know. I mean, it's just this is how people glue themselves together now. The world is ludicrously fast and this is one way of letting everybody know. So unsurprisingly, the next generation utilize it as a means [publicity] and then it's perceived by lots of older, middle-aged, middle class journalists as being cool and somehow exciting. Everyone is desperate for something new to write about so it gains attention, but really it's pretty unremarkable, isn't it? People just put words down or send a photo in for something, I don't even know how all of these things work. Just the idea of communicating more than I currently do is just not really on my radar. I'm looking for a world where there's less communication.
Question: Are venues like MySpace and iTunes a positive step towards empowering independent artists?
David Gray: I’m just not sure how far the empowerment goes. It’s still about attracting attention albeit in a different way. And those people with the greatest influence will get the most attention. And the odd story will crop up– there’s the new thing, something new that no one’s heard of before that they pass around, like really fast. That’s what happened with White Ladder. It was something new and it got passed about. See, that will happen to the odd thing. But I don’t see [the Internet] as a radical new way of selling music that favors the smaller producer. People like iTunes are desperately are trying to keep their page free from just being bought out, period, by all of the interested parties. So I things take place in a slightly more sort of convoluted way. You give them loads of free stuff and hours and hours of your time and they’ll semi-guarantee that you’ll get some good coverage or something on their front page. That’s how it works. It’s gifting, rather than just naked financial ruthless power. Seizing their front page with – here’s loads of money; we want this artist on the front for a month just so everyone will know every time they click on. Bang! Oh, they’ve got a new record out. This stuff will eventually prevail, I dare say.
Question: Are you unhappy with the commercial record industry?
David Gray: To say I’m not a fan of the music industry, is like – I spent enough money with it, and enough time persevering with it. It’s obviously been born of [greed]; it’s basically a history of ripping people off, [which] is how it made so much money, and then they developed the CD and they went, “Hey, hey, this is good.” We can sell of the same music again. In a different format and they thought, this is the future. And at that point, they dropped the ball completely and utterly. They started to give things away on promotion—the gross of incompetence of the whole thing. It’s laughable really. This is a very cold-hearted digital world that doesn’t seem to care much for music, or sort of nurturing it because this infinitesimal reward for zillions of hits on U-Tube or whatever. So, it just doesn’t work as a formula. Music doesn’t come for free. Strangely enough, people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds and many years producing things. It’s like that’s why it sounds good.
Recorded on: September 21, 2009
This is a very cold-hearted digital world that doesn’t seem to care much for music.
What do we see from watching birds move across the country?
- A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
- The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
- Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?
While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.
"In the spring," the lead author Adriaan Dokter noted, "3.5 billion birds cross back into the U.S. from points south, and 2.6 billion birds return to Canada across the northern U.S. border."
In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?
Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."
The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.
What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.
Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
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