From Attali's "cold social silence" to Baudrillard's hallucinatory reality, reproduced music has long been the target of critical attack. In Bytes and Backbeats, however, Steve Savage deploys an innovative combination of designed recording projects, ethnographic studies of contemporary music practice, and critical analysis to challenge many of these traditional attitudes about the creation and reception of music. Savage adopts the notion of "repurposing" as central to understanding how every aspect of musical activity, from creation to reception, has been transformed, arguing that the tension within production between a naturalizing "art" and a self-conscious "artifice" reflects and feeds into our evolving notions of creativity, authenticity, and community.
At the core of the book are three original audio projects, drawing from rock & roll, jazz, and traditional African music, through which Savage is able to target areas of contemporary practice that are particularly significant in the cultural evolution of the musical experience. Each audio project includes a studio study providing context for the social and cultural analysis that follows. This work stems from Savage's experience as a professional recording engineer and record producer.
"Instead of focusing solely on legal aspects, as many authors have done, Savage takes the time to study not only how technologies have altered the way we make and consume music, but also how technology relates to culture. This balance between 'empirical' and 'critical' approaches is powerful."
—Serge Lacasse, Université Laval
"Savage sheds new light on concerns that have been around since the beginning of recorded music. His extraordinary insights into improvisation in recorded music add new dimensions to composition, performance, listening, and more."
—William D. Moylan, University of Massachusetts Lowell
"Steve Savage's book is a compelling argument for the recordist as musician. Firmly grounded in his own professional practice and illustrated with concrete examples, Bytes & Backbeats shows how technology has created new modes of working together and reshaped the basic concepts through which we think musically. Positioning the recordist at the heart of music and music at the heart of digital culture, Savage has whipped up an intellectual as well as a musical feast."
—Nicholas Cook, University of Cambridge
Cover photograph by Robert Johnson