The music CD as a database.

I feel as though a perfect example of the “database” form of media would be the music CD. At it’s most basic form, it’s a collection of separate songs which are each their own piece of media. You can individually select the song, put them on a random order “shuffle” playlist, or even extract them onto your computer and delete or edit any of them. While it is true that all the songs are separate, many Cds attempt to tell stories with their songs, having the lyrics all relating to a main topic. This sort of story telling is entirely up to the listener to interpret though, and many users will just listen to the songs on the CD individually. Another way they can tell a story, which is also up to the interpretation of the listener is through the use of a “mixtape”. Anyone can take selections of songs from various different locations and put them into a single location, in a specific order, which can have specific meaning and tell a certain story to the person who created the mixtape. In this way, Cds are a perfect example of the database, as the listener gives them the story through interpretation.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with you that the CD is indeed a very relevant example of a database. As you indicated, though a music CD holds the files to various songs that are separate in nature, these different files are stored in one collection brought together by this database form. It was also interesting how you introduced the idea of the songs having the potential to tell stories, for I was able to relate that back to the cultural understanding of databases. From a cultural perspective, the database was described as serving as a representation of the world. In your explanation of how the songs deliver different meanings, or can be chosen for the compilation of a mixtape, it effectively reflected the idea of a database representing someone’s particular world.

    In an expansion, the music CD is such an excellent example because it also demonstrates the paradigmatic structure of databases. The songs are grouped together by common elements that relate them to one another. Some of these elements may be if they are by the same artist or band, from the same era, or perhaps the soundtrack to a movie. Therefore, as a relationship is determined between the songs the associative nature that is characteristic of the database is also highlighted and understood.

  2. The music industry is also a good example of a medium that’s had to adapt to the transition from narrative to database. Originally, you had the record album, which had to be listened to in a specific order. That order made it ideal for portraying a music narrative. Then there’s the cassette tape (we’ll skip the 8 track), and the listener could now manually change from one song to the next. Then the CD player, which allowed discrete skipping from one song to another and randomized listening. Finally, there’s iTunes, which allows for the album, but really favors the individual song placed in a much larger collection, in terms of both the store that sells songs individually, and the database which favors cataloging and randomizing. And artists and companies have to adapt by writing for the single song as well as the album.
    (Granted, this always been the case to some extent, as the music form of the radio single developed alongside the technologies I listed above. But it’s now, in digital form, that the individual song is really pushed into prominence.)
    —Michael Hancock


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