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Aerosolized Music

from WIRED

Streaming Music Doesn’t Flow, It Evaporates

Listening to streamed tunes through a smart speaker squeezes the ecstasy out of the experience. There are ways to get it back.



ALEXA HAS NO knack for pianissimo. Here’s how to tell. Set her to living-room volume and ask her to play Berlioz’s rapturous epic of sex and opioids:  Symphonie Fantastique. The opening passages should be erotic and feather-light, but on the Echo the massive orchestra comes through as smothered whooshes, the exhalations of a pint-sized table fan caked in dust.

Is this thing on? The first movement is meant to conjure the fantasies of an artist in thrall to a woman of infinite allure; in the sway of the opening strings, she grazes his mind in her gentle, precoital theme, which becomes insistent, demanding, and then maddening. (“So many musical ideas are seething within me,” Berlioz wrote at the time. “Must my destiny be engulfed by this overwhelming passion?”) This is how Berlioz introduced the piece in Paris in 1830: “A young artist of morbidly sensitive temperament and fiery imagination poisons himself with opium in a fit of lovesick despair.”

That’s amore. But by the time the fantasia is performed, recorded, engineered, and mastered, and then internetted via Amazon‘s all-knowing cloud through the Echo’s admittedly paltry tweeter-woofer combo, the piece has lost the volatility that makes it a masterpiece of sexual obsession. Forget about pianissimo’s complexity; only at Alexa’s top volume can the notes even be heard. Then, when the protagonist’s fever intensifies to forte and fortissimo, the music coming from Alexa again turns to nonsense—although this time it’s deafening.

[ click to continue reading at WIRED ]

Posted on March 10, 2020 by Editor

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