So: everyone knows about the flow from early adopters to late adopters and if you haven’t read Gladwell’s The Cool Hunt from 1997 that details this whole progression just go read it, if anything for details about what was cool among NYC street kids in 1997. But here’s something I’ve been thinking about.
Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is, well let’s just say it’s my album of 2010 because it may have been the only album released in 2010 that I bought in 2010 (and I didn’t like The Suburbs). And there are all kinds of tracks that use auto-tune. And the auto-tune use is incredible. One track (I don’t know the names yet) ends with what sounds like this droning synth, changing notes every bar or so. But this sound is cut up with the distorted intake of breath. And yer like: Oh, that’s Yeezy just like humming while auto-tune is on. And putting the distortion on, proverbially, eleven.
It’s music made awesomer because of the presence of auto-tune. Not in spite of it. And remember (this may have just been me) when auto-tune was just a kind of cheat? I mean this is what it was invented to be: you can sing off key and it would correct you. And then T Pain did stuff with it that sounded … I don’t know just obvious and bad? I don’t know enough about the guy, but I remember hearing him on SNL and such and being turned off.
My point: auto-tune began as a tool to cheat that everyone hated, and then artists took this new tool and found ways to use it to make new sounds and cool effects in music.
Go to a conference of writers in the academy and take a shot every time someone sardonically disparages Twitter and you’ll be drunk by brunch. I’ve got AWP tomorrow. I’ll try to keep a tally, though I avoid the panels chiefly. At any rate, I was one of those anti-Twitter folk. Why, I wondered, would someone want to microblog their day? (Remember this term, friends?) What “substance” can be had in 140 characters? Really? Aren’t these end times?
Then I learned about how to use hashtags, and how this creates a new rhetorical situation that requires an associative leap or two in your head the way good poetry does. And then I found Patton Oswalt’s twitter feed, and now I’m all: Jesus what incredible awesomeness have I been missing?
“Haven’t had an erection since 9/11. Would your pussy be my Toby Keith? #worstpickuplines.”
“You make me want to make jizz fly out of where I pee from. #worstpickuplines”
“I am Norah Jones-ing for some Starbucks compilation CDs right now.”
“What is the saddest musical instrument to see in a pawn shop window? Bobby McFerrin.”
Maybe all this post shows is that Twitter is a great medium for jokes and one-liners. But those hashtags! The timing and ephemera.
Writers hate the idea of their words not lasting forever because writers get taught by writing that has lasted forever. But no writer will be around to enjoy his writing’s lasting forever. How can we teach the production of good ephemera in the academy? AWP, I beseech thee.