Spellbound in the White Citadel

As a darksider (Windows user) in the content provision field (web dev, audio production, and a bit of video), I am in a position to watch the travails of my iBrothers and iSisters who work the white side as they struggle to keep their systems — often heavily dependent on a broad mix of software from Apple and a number of third parties — updated — if they haven’t already decided to “lock down” their current, working system so that Apple’s numerous, non-backward-compatible updates and system changes don’t upset the precarious ecology of those systems.

I understand the basic thinking — as well as the economy of scale and development structure (Apple often shifts key dev teams from one task to another in such a way that problems in one sector ripple into delays in addressing another)  — which seems to steer Apple through these continuing dramas.

What I don’t always understand is the at-times Eloi-like docility of frequently vexed high end users as they contort themselves, their practices, and even their business planning around the latest Apple issues.

To be sure, on occasion, there is a widespread revolt, as there was over the extraordinary dumbing down of Final Cut Pro to what many professional video editors — dependent on the previous FCP versions’ broad and flexible support for Apple and third party productivity and collaborative work flow enhancements that made FCP a staple in many multi-seat video editing facilities — derisively now call iMovie Pro.” And, even in the audio world, which once sneered at Windows as a platform for serious audio production work (sometimes foolishly in the view of someone who has been carefully observing that tech milieu since the mid-90s and who was impressed when Win XP ended up being a stable, efficient platform for heavy duty audio production that typically outperformed OS X on equivalent hardware) there has been a real sea change in the attitude of many.

Of course, fears that Apple will abandon the more extensible, if quite pricey, MacPro — fears that look increasingly realistic — and that Apple will follow their own  lead on Final Cut Pro X and turn their audio production flagship, Logic, into “GarageBand Pro” play heavily into grumbling, open discontent and platform-jumping.

And, of course, the availability of cross-platform tools whose Windows versions appear in many/most cases to outperform the OS X versions is also a big factor in that growing discontent. Whether the creative communities’ restlessness and frustration will spread to the consumers that the now not-so New Apple increasingly focuses on is anyone’s guess.

But as a long time observer,I have found much that perplexes and bemuses me in the odd thrall in which Apple holds many of its customers.

[posted earlier today as a comment in this PC Magazine blog article‘s comment thread.]

Hunting musical prey in the jungle of the multimedia marketplace…

Elsewhere, someone fretted that the rise of video wedded to music has both distracted from and actually devalued the music to which its attached, and debilitated potential music listeners. After agreeing that most videos are, indeed, the bunk, this writer allowed that, nonetheless, the modern musician may be missing a bet by not exploiting video and other multimedia extensions to their music…

We humans are multi-modal creatures. And, in today’s world — and probably not unlike previous versions of same, when you get right down to it — much of our sensory perception is oriented to threat detection. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve suggested a number of times in the past that the roots of musical perception/appreciation almost certainly are in these perceptual subsystems. Our primordial, forest-dwelling ancestors would have had a world of potential dangers to sort out.

There are the rhythms of the wind, the rain, the tides… but there are also animal rhythms: the unmistakable rhythmic cadences of animals of various sorts moving and interacting with their environment; the ability to sort out ‘dangerous’ rhythms (the heavy footfalls of a predator, the quick, furtive movements of potential game) would likely be key — and tied quite directly to the endocrine system, bypassing the upper brain to provide the fastest, most sure response to possible threats — as well as the (hopefully) inevitable release of tension when the potential threat was either recognized as benign or had passed. We see these same patterns of tension and release in our music.

But… back to that multi-modality… in today’s virtual forest — the everyday environment, 3DW or virtual, a place of delights and threats intermingled, much like the primordial jungle — we clever hunters — those of us looking to ensnare new listeners to our music — may be missing valuable opportunities to use our prey’s very animality to bring it into our grasp if we ignore the attention-grabbing potential of different media extensions for our music. Like hunting animals that use various forms of decoy and distraction, we can use video and other such multi-modal extensions of our music to further our goal of (musical) survival and thrivance.