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Digital vs Analog: Lessons from Daft Punk

“We never want to do something twice… but at the same time, we’ve never done anything twice, so if we did do something twice, that might be cool.” -Thomas Bangalter

Are you excited about the new Daft Punk album Random Access Memory coming out on May 21, 2013? I sure am. Let’s dissect a few things and relate it to what we talk about on Shoegnome. Specifically let’s see what Daft Punk has to teach us about the whole digital vs analog debate.

Daft Punk have done some amazing electronic music. If you need proof, check out their song Technologic. Now take a moment and list to a bit of Get Lucky, the first single off of Random Access Memory. Same artists. On their new album Daft Punk eschews digital and only uses live musicians. Beyond that they even recorded on analog tape-pretty much unheard of these days in the music industry. I think that’s pretty interesting. And ballsy for a duo built on 1s and 0s. I highly commend them.

Their latest endeavor is about evolution and pushing barriers they had previously defined. Daft Punk is clearly not afraid to Jump the Shark. Nor (in my opinion) are they stating the superiority of one method over another. They are just using more and different tools to search for the deeper meaning all artists seek.

Now watch this video introducing the new album.

Notice how long it takes them to start those 15 seconds of the song. Sure this is staged. Sure it’s intentionally grandiose and theatrical. But imagine doing something similar with a digital recording. Place CD in CD player. Press the play button. Open iTunes, double-click on the song title. Or how about your experience with watching that video? It was just a click of the mouse. If you are on a mobile device? It’s just a tap of the finger. One finger. Now imagine you’re using Siri, Google Glass, or some other voice automated computer or service (which will only get more ubiquitous in the coming years). You’re not TOUCHING anything. You’re just saying “Siri, play Daft Punk.”

That is Awesome. And Powerful. And Scary. And therefore full of potential for greatness, and equally open to the de-humanizing loss of personal connection that we once had with older tech-like cars you needed to crank or manually shift, phones you had to dial with a rotary, or pencils you had to sharp with manual effort. As with many of my posts this is just a clue towards something bigger. Something much deeper, and at the root of the worldview of many architects. Here is the key to recapturing what so many people in our industry feel we have lost. More soon. I promise.

“Technology has made music accessible in a philosophically interesting way, which is great. But on the other hand, when everybody has the ability to make magic, it’s like there’s no more magic.” -Thomas Bangalter

What on Earth am I hinting at? Follow Shoegnome on Facebook and Twitter so that you don’t miss out. And while you’re at it, the RSS feed is lonely and could use more subscribers.


  • May 15, 2013

    Peter C

    Excellent! – another ArchiCAD-using Daft Punk fan! 😉

    I wonder if their wealth had any influence with their choice to record to analog using real musicians? It certainly isn’t a cheap or quick process! And compared to their previous releases it isn’t significantly better or worse; just different.

    Perhaps skill and artistry shines through regardless of how something is made.

    (PS it’s a superb album btw!)

  • May 20, 2013

    Jay Zallan

    Everything is both digital and analog. DNA is or are digital analogs of itself… Medium is what I hear you speaking about and the points you make are valid. Talent is talent and cannot nor will not be supplanted by medium. It unfortunately appears that this carries a dumbing down aspect too… digital music (on the interwebs especially) hold less dynamic range than old analog…less bass, colder, etc. i say unfortunately since people don’t even know or care that there are sacrifices with either an analog or digital representation of attempts at creative discourse are endeavored. Perhaps thats why the polarizing “mine is better” is held in regards to paper vs computer, AC vs RVT, etc. When we realize…no embrace -that we are all the same race (yes, biology has only one Human Race…look into DNA research if you disagree) we will then be much more apt to grow exponentially as creators, as opposed to now, when so many can be positional… This coming from one who has been known to be positional and is trying to get past it 😀
    Keep it up!

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