The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World

The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World

by Damon Krukowski


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An NPR Best Book of the Year: “A pointedly passionate look at what’s been lost in the digital era.” —Los Angeles Times
A longtime musician and former member of the indie band Galaxie 500 who has also taught at Harvard, Damon Krukowski has watched cultural life lurch from analog to digital. And as an artist who has weathered that transition, he has challenging, urgent questions for both creators and consumers about what we have thrown away in the process: Are our devices leaving us lost in our own headspace even as they pinpoint our location? Does the long reach of digital communication come at the sacrifice of our ability to gauge social distance? Does streaming media discourage us from listening closely? Are we hearing each other fully in this new environment?
Rather than simply rejecting the digital disruption of cultural life, Krukowski uses the sound engineer’s distinction of signal and noise to reexamine what we have lost as a technological culture, looking carefully at what was valuable in the analog realm so we can hold on to it. Taking a set of experiences from the production and consumption of music that have changed since the analog era—the disorientation of headphones, flattening of the voice, silence of media, loudness of mastering, and manipulation of time—as a basis for a broader exploration of contemporary culture, Krukowski gives us a brilliant meditation and guide to keeping our heads amid the digital flux. Think of it as plugging in without tuning out.
“This is not a book about why vinyl sounds better; it’s way more interesting than that . . . [It] is full of things I didn’t know, like why people yell into cellphones . . . Ultimately, it’s about how we consume sound as a society—which is, increasingly, on an individual basis.” —NPR
“If you’re a devoted music fan who’s dubious about both rosy nostalgia and futuristic utopianism, Damon Krukowski’s The New Analog is for you.” —The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for The New Analog:

An NPR Best Book of 2017

"This is not a book about why vinyl sounds better; it's way more interesting than that . . . [it] is full of things I didn't know, like why people yell into cellphones . . . Ultimately, it's about how we consume sound as a society – which is, increasingly, on an individual basis."

"If you're a devoted music fan who's dubious about both rosy nostalgia and futuristic utopianism, Damon Krukowski's The New Analog is for you."
The New York Times Book Review

"A pointedly passionate look at what's been lost in the digital era."
Los Angeles Times

"Pink Floyd, meet Jane Jacobs. Elegantly written . . . The New Analog could also be put next to Susanne Langer's Philosophy in a New Key, Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget, Amiri Baraka's Jazz and the White Critic, and any number of other texts that try to bring the professionalized notions of 'data' and 'information' (and, by extension, 'signal') into balance with the sometimes undervalued notion of lived experience."
Ben Ratliff, 4Columns

"A wonderful new book, which uses the history of sound to explore the more personal side of our current technological rupture."

"Comfortably discusses both rarefied aesthetic theories and gritty rocker realities…Krukowski turns the basic dichotomy of audio engineering, the ratio of signal to noise, into a complex metaphor for the loss of history and ingenuity represented by the replacement of analog recording and culture with digital media."
Kirkus Reviews

"Damon Krukowski, who has a special gift for lucid explanation, shows how in favoring signal to the detriment of noise, we have sold our birthright for a handful of magic beans. His defense of noise is stirring, detailed, and above all useful. "
Luc Sante, author of Low Life and The Other Paris

"I learned something new on each page of Damon Krukowski's delightful book. At its core lies an original argument for how analog 'noise' can enhance our understanding of music—and each other—in this digital era. Clear prose, deep research (he finds all the good stories), and great illustrations combine to make The New Analog a smart, fun read."
Jace Clayton, aka DJ /rupture, author of Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture

"In the recording world we worry about signal to noise—we strive to capture performances where the messages are clear and failures of technology don't obscure the desired content. In The New Analog, Damon Krukowski observes that the real changes for the future of audio are not the traditional (and shortsighted) 'digital vs. analog' but changes in how we interact with signal and noise, which include how we find and enjoy music. It will never be the same."
Larry Crane, founder and editor of Tape Op Magazine

"Musician and poet Damon Krukowski offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of what has been lost as well as gained in the shift from analog to digital sound. Written for anyone who listens and thinks about what they hear, The New Analog eloquently argues for the significance of noise in a world perhaps too attuned to tuning it out."
Emily Thompson, professor of history, Princeton University, and author of The Soundscape of Modernity

"Millions of music-lovers have acquiesced to the shiny juggernaut of digital-age technology without asking its economic and cultural price. Damon Krukowski is an incisive, passionate, and, above all, rational critic of this new realm. No nostalgic conservative, he offers a radical defense of analog craft in the face of the digital hard sell."
Alex Ross, author of The Rest is Noise and Listen to This

"The New Analog is a delightfully intelligent and idiosyncratic book, one tuned into a mind-expanding frequency that emphasizes the wonders of noise, hiss, feedback, and distortion. In contrast to all the buzzword- and cliché-riddled writing about the digital revolution, Krukowski's accessible and engaging survey of our current media landscape provides a wholly original perspective rooted in the author's deep knowledge of, and love for, recorded music. The New Analog offers even the most tin-eared reader a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see the world anew through sound.”
Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform and director of Examined Life and Zizek!

Praise for Damon Krukowski's band Damon & Naomi:
"I feel pretty confident in saying that listening to Damon & Naomi gets you laid. I can think of no higher praise."

"Flawless. Whatever small world Damon & Naomi inhabit they have created and decorated it in such a beautiful, perfect manner that the listener feels honored to be invited."

"Heartbreakingly beautiful psychedelic folk-rock."
Chicago Sun-Times

Kirkus Reviews

Wry exploration of the social meanings behind vintage and modern audio technologies.Krukowski, a founding member of Galaxie 500 and recipient of fellowships from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation and Harvard University's Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, comfortably discusses both rarefied aesthetic theories and gritty rocker realities. Arguing that the promise of constant digital progress as represented by Moore's law has promoted acceptance of mediocrity, he notes, "you needn't be an audiophile snob to conclude that today's MP3 downloads, or their streaming counterparts, sound worse than 1965's LPs—MP3s are designed to sound worse." The book is less a study of older formats' current popularity and more a survey of the struggles between permanence and ephemera, as well as artists' visions and the consumer marketplace, playing out over decades of technological and industry changes. Krukowski turns the basic dichotomy of audio engineering, the ratio of signal to noise, into a complex metaphor for the loss of history and ingenuity represented by the replacement of analog recording and culture with digital media. He makes this argument via a discursive, in-depth structure in seven chapters labeled after phenomena obsessed over by audiophiles. In "Headspace," he links so-called headphone records like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (and our current plugged-in public lives) to the disdain initially directed toward stereo recording: "stereo limits the perfect place for listening to a space big enough for only one at a time." In "Proximity Effect," Krukowski considers the vanished world of POTS, or "plain old telephone service." By replacing a massive yet technologically simple network with smartphones, the nature of audible communication is changed, and "communicating distance itself becomes a challenge." Elsewhere, the author considers the unintended consequences of digital innovation, from the "loudness wars" in studio engineering to the controversies around downloading: "is music free? That simple question provoked by Napster still seems unanswered." Krukowski's writing is witty and generally accessible, though his detours into recording minutiae and avant-garde ideas about sound and art may lose some readers.


This could all make for dry reading, or be of little interest to a non-musician or non-sound engineer, but Krukowski's sprightly, clear, and above all, even-handed prose holds our attention.…Engaging, idiosyncratic, and highly enjoyable, The New Analog takes the changes since the analog era, and brilliantly uses them as a lens through which to examine the digital culture we all consume.

REVIEW 31, January 2018

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620971970
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Customer Reviews