Autotune software was created originally by a guy named Dr. Andy Hildebrand, a classically trained flautist and geophysicist. He serendipitously discovered that he could use the same digital signal processing software he used to help oil companies locate drilling spots as a way of looping music samples and correcting pitch in recordings. (For a complete history of auto tune, see this article.)
I have been thinking a lot about autotune recently, especially as a potential metaphor for artistic, performative, and literary production in the 21st century. Many detractors of autotune worry that the near-ubiquitous "pitch-perfect" vocals of contemporary music will train our ears to only appreciate in-tune music.
|Lightnin Hopkins, blues musician and complete badass. "You know the blues is jus' a funny feelin-- people call it a mighty bad disease."|
Autotune's detractors have raised what I believe to be a very important consideration, indeed. Not least of all because I believe the blues to be one of the major cultural contributions this country has made to the world-- a genre of music that resists classical pitch formalism in favor of the emotional outpouring through the voice of the human experience. Another example is Brazilian bossa nova, whose flagship aesthetic message was encapsulated in the song "Desafinado" ("out of tune"). What a terrible tragedy it would be to lose an appreciation for this music because of the obsession with perfect (inhuman) pitch.
But autotune is also used by artists trying to create a new aesthetic, and I want to appreciate this new sound, too. As I think more and more about the adjustments and innovations of autotune in music, I can't help but wonder if a parallel phenomena is creeping into performance and literature.
In particular, I'm curious about all the movie adaptations of classic literature and folk tales that has recently swept Hollywood. From Jack and the Beanstalk to the Great Gatsby, the beloved tales of literature are being transformed one by one into two hour CGI thrill rides.
|Image from "Jack the Giant Slayer," a movie adaptation of the English fairytale "Jack and the Beanstalk"|
|Image from the movie "Snow White and the Huntsman," adapted from the German fairytale "Schneewittchen"|
The moralized, bleached endings manipulate the ability of the story to edify: a dark and sinister conclusion is erased and the moralized versions only permit viewers (readers) to be temporarily entertained, while still be comforted by the imminent return to status quo. That is, what we are left with is temporary entertainment and permanently altered imagination (in the form of CGI). Or am I being to touchy??
And, like I said, Hollywood is not simply making-over fairytales. They are using the latest graphic imaging technology to bring to life Jane Austin, J.R.R. Tolkien, F. Scott Fitzgerald novels... the best screenplays, it seems, comes from the tried and true stories that gild literary canons.
|Image from film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma|
|Image from film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit|
|Image from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby|
On a final note, I'd like to add that fairytales were originally part of an oral tradition; this orality seems to place fairytales' origins in a middle ground-- neither literature nor movies-- that makes for an even more interesting angle to the question. ...
Do you think that movies are autotuning our imaginations? What do you think about Hollywood's adaptations of literature? I for one cannot WAIT for the next installation of The Hobbit...and that's ok, right!?
...but what do you, my fair petticoat rustlers, think?
Until next time-- keep rustling!