Neil goes digital: tipping point, or harbinger of impending apocalypse?

Better to burn out?

Neil Young has long been a standard-bearer in the anti-digital music brigades. So it’s truly remarkable to see how enthusiastically he has embraced Blu-ray technology, going so far as to take part in one of those fancy digital wonderland presentations (scroll down for video).

A few notable elements of this video:

* Although highly critical of the sound quality of CDs (as he is in the clip), he offers an unqualified endorsement of Blu-ray’s range. Neil’s fans understand how deeply he feels the dynamics of electrified sound (the biography Shakey relates an anecdote where Neil was able to detect transient fluctuations in a studio electrical system just by sound variations that nobody else was noticing), so this really is something.

* The format allows Neil’s vast catalog and stores of unreleased materials to be released in a breadth and depth that would previously have been impossible. The music will be paired with images, video and textual artifacts. The video features a pretty snazzy demo.

* The release of this Archives project has been rumoured since his greatest hits collection Decade was released more than 30 years ago. There have been numerous near-releases, but each time the project has made progress Neil has shelved it for various reasons, most likely because the product did not live up to Neil’s vision. I suspect the ability for the discs to be updated via Java after they’ve been released and purchased was a big reason why he finally feels comfortable with releasing the archives.

It’ll be interesting to see how the collection is received, how it evolves, and how the pirates will respond.

And yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing some music.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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3 Responses to Neil goes digital: tipping point, or harbinger of impending apocalypse?

  1. Marc Lee says:

    Of course, there is famous quote from the making of the Northern Lights (almost wanted to say Northern Voice there) “Tears are not enough” video. The studio tech guys call to him, “Sounds a bit flat, Neil”, to which he replies “That’s my sound, man.”

  2. Keira says:

    That’s the only part of that video I remember Marc, and I do love that line too. I’m about to jump on a plane back to the heartland of Neil worship: Ontario cottage country on May two-four weekend for my old friend Patrick’s wedding.

    He will be played in formats he doesn’t approve of, as well as in very lame, late night jam sessions that I like to think he’d bless.

  3. Grant says:

    I see a copy of Trans tucked under your covers in the top right hand corner – this was a very ‘digitalesque’ record that baffled many fans. Neil Young wrapped in a vocoder. It may not have been recorded to DAT, but it sure sounded like it…808 drum tracks and all. It was interesting how he related his intentions with the Trans album in Shakey as rising out of his personal struggles communicating with his non-aural son and how he envisioned machines giving voice to those unable to speak. Neil may have risen out of the analog era and carved a both beautiful and wild sound out of its tubes, but he has flirted with the promise of digital for some time. Looking forward to his archives – I’m a long time fan and a hard to find Trans fan!

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