Auto-Tune and the cyborg embrace

I think the growing global popularity of more overt uses of Auto-Tune in music production is actually a good thing, at least to a point, in that it isn’t using the computerized pitch correction to create a perfect but still “real” version of a pop performance (as real as the women on the covers of glossy magazines); instead, it’s embracing the artificiality of the process to create something new. A few years back, I heard a great song by a British musician, whose name escapes me alas, who had trained his voice to mimic the Auto-Tune effect naturally. And why not? It sounded cool.

Vocal runs that would sound bizarre without Auto-Tune have become necessary to create some now-common effects. The plug-in facilitates something analogous to a human-machine duet. Raskin has recorded with countless major vocalists, including best-selling rapper Lil Wayne. He says that, ‘99 per cent of all pop music has corrective Auto-Tuning.’ But when artists flamboyantly foreground its use, they sing and simultaneously listen to themselves being processed. Lil Wayne records with Auto-Tune on – no untreated vocal version exists. In an era of powerful computers that allow one to audition all manner of effects on vocals after the recording session, recording direct with Auto-Tune means full commitment. There is no longer an original ‘naked’ version. This is a cyborg embrace. In Cyborg Manifesto (1991), Donna Haraway notes that ‘the relation between organism and machine has been a border war.’ Auto-Tune’s creative deployment is fully compatible with her ‘argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.’

from “Pitch Perfect,” by Jace Clayton, Frieze Magazine, May 2009 :: via Idea of the Day video via

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