Episode 83: Extravagaga

The Overthinkers tackle the Grammys, Dollhouse, agency and rights, knowledge-on-demand, and autotune.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Joshua McNeil to overthink the Grammys (a little bit), Dollhouse (a lot), agency and rights, knowledge-on-demand, and autotune.

This was our first experiment with livestreaming the podcast recording on Ustream (on the Overthinking It Podcast Page, where it will return next Sunday at 9:15pm ET/6:15pm PT). Though it was admittedly a little distracting and might have gotten in the way of a smooth opening, it seems to be a promising way of making the show more interactive and responsive to its audience.

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Download Episode 83 (MP3)

11 Comments on “Episode 83: Extravagaga”

  1. Shawn Pitre #

    WTB 10,000 word essay on the differences between a priori and a posteriori.


  2. Sillyweasel #

    You know I wasn’t listening to these because for some reason I convinced myself I’d have to DL them to hear it, or have something to do with Itunes,…. Apparently I’m retarded, I just figured out how to make it play without doing either.
    #83? Well there goes my whole night.


  3. Ryan Zisk #

    I’m a little torn on the use of auto-tune. The first antidote that always comes to mind is one about French musicians trying to ban synthesizers when they first came out (in the ’70s maybe?). See, they were worried that soon the instruments would get advanced enough to sound like just about any instrument and everyone would be out of jobs. Obliviously that didn’t happen and instead everyone just found a totally unique way to use this new technology to get sounds no one had ever heard before. I’ve always been curious if auto-tune could take the same route or if it’s already become to much a gimmick to ever be taken seriously.

    What’s always struck me as interesting about auto-tune is that it’s been used in music for years and years. More than likely the vast majority of listeners will never notice mostly because it’s mostly used to fix very small pitch mistakes. To me, that’s fine. Remember the months of tweeking it takes to make modern studio albums. To me it’s fine to bump a note up or down a note or two here or there.

    What seems to have pushed awareness in the technology is artists like T-Pain who used it to create inhuman sounding vocals. I think heavily processed vocals have a legitimate artistic use (look at Daft Punk’s “One More Time” [which I know is vocoder, not auto-tune but same idea]). The idea of using the instrument as another instrument that can be deconstructed, warped, processed or otherwise manipulated is still very very cool to me.

    The real problem is when you get to what I believe Mark brought up. What about the artists who are neither innovating the technology nor using it in a subtle way? While a future full of musicians who can’t sing a note and even have to rely on auto-tune even live is very scary to me, I don’t think it will ever happen. I still think that the artists who really care about their music will be the ones still willing to do the 30 tracks of recording it takes to get that perfect take. I think the plethora of auto-tune that seems to be the trend lately is just that: nothing but a trend. Like synths in the 80’s I sincerely think people will just get sick of hearing it in every pop song. Well, at least I sincerely hope that’s what will happen.


  4. callot #

    According to the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, any contract that results in slavery is illegal and unenforceable. This extends to employment that limits personal freedom, as in Bailey v Alabama (1911). You cannot, even voluntarily, commit yourself to slavery.


  5. Gab #

    Did I miss a memo about when the podcast would be streamed? Or was this just a test-run for you elites?

    Well, ACTUALLY, Fenzel… It’s pronounced “Active-ee-UH.” Rawr.

    I wouldn’t be able to definitively answer whether the TGIF shows actually were successful, but I’d *suggest* they were, if only because they all have been referenced so many times in other, later pop culture outlets- other shows, songs, movies, etc.

    I’d say the more contemporary theorists I’ve read would diverge on the issue of rights over oneself just as Fenzel said they used to. Conservatives would say yes, you can do whatever you want to yourself because it is YOUR self and, essentially, you are your own property- and so long as what you do with said property harms no one else, do whatever, because what’s yours is yours, etc. Liberals would say no, you can’t, because your self is still *A* self, and nothing you do should ever harm a self of any kind (and a really “hippie” or “commie” way to take it is everybody belongs to everybody else because we’re all part of some greater fellowship/family/global society/etc., and you can’t harm anyone else’s property). You could also get into the limits of positive and negative freedoms, and if those extend to harm inflicted on you BY you for each side, as well.


  6. callot #

    Also, my first instinct for pronouncing the name of this episode was “extra va-ga-ga,” as in additional vagina.


  7. Anonymous #

    I’m a relatively regular commenter, but I’m posting this one anonymously for reasons which should become apparent.

    The whole idea of agency, and the degree to which rights can be voluntarily surrendered, is a huge topic within the BDSM fetish community. And here I am talking about the actual community of people genuinely interested in this form of interaction, NOT about whatever is posted this week on collegeslutsinbondage.com. (Does that website actually exist? I don’t think I want to know.)

    One of the premises of this area of interaction is that there are people who enjoy surrendering control to someone else. The obvious way of doing so, (and the less interesting one for the present discussion) is bondage, but there are also many people who enjoy the idea of submission without physical coercion. Some submissives even go so far as to describe themselves as slaves to their dominant partner.

    This idea is hugely controversial even *within* the fetish community, let alone how it appears to those not involved in the lifestyle. What does it mean to be a slave? Can you really surrender your freedom to someone else? To what extent does that person have the right to make decisions that effect the broad sweep of your life? Do they decide if/when you get pregnant? (if you’re female) Do they control your bank account? Do they know your Facebook password? How much is voluntary involuntary servitude possible?

    Obviously, we have the aforementioned 13th amendment, so in the final analysis a submissive is always free to leave. But to what extent does that make dominant/submissive roleplay, especially in the long term, valid or not?

    This may seem a silly diversion, especially given the incredibly shallow way BDSM is portrayed in the media. (See, for example, the very clip in the Dollhouse article from a few days ago) But there are many people for whom these are important issues. I know quite a few submissives who would be very unhappy if they could not explore this side of their interactions with others (and remember, we’re NOT necessarily even talking about sex itself) and are very frustrated when people trivialize this aspect of their personality.


  8. Ryan Connelly #

    I hate for my first ever comment on a show to be one of those “Well, ACTUALLY” statements, but…

    Well, ACTUALLY Pavarotti was (and remains) one of the most consistent singers I have ever heard. As someone currently getting my Master’s in music right now, specifically in voice/opera, I have yet to hear a recording of him that was not almost flawless, and that is without the aid of splicing, which is one thing that a lot of opera singers like to do to make their recordings sound better. I had a teacher who was doing a small role in a production with Pavarotti and he solidified this for me when he described the event, saying that every time Pavarotti sang the role (Nemorino in L’Elisir D’Amore for those interested) it was exactly the same, each phrase perfectly executed, even the staging perfect and consistent. I would say that he is a much better fit along with the examples of the Beatles and Sinatra, in that he was a master of performance and did not need any sort of help making his recordings sound good. That, in all seriousness, is why he is one of he most notable (if not the most) singers ever to sing on the operatic stage.
    If you want a good example in the classical field of someone who manipulates technology to make themselves sound better, it is the same as in popular music: go to the newer generations. Singers like Kathleen Battle, Anna Netrebko, and Roberto Alagna are the types who will record all of an aria or role except the most difficult phrases, then wait for days until they are in good enough voice to knock out those particular parts. This is a little different than what was talked about on the show, but opera singers don’t really have the convenience of auto-tune. Generally the only way to artificially make a performance sound better is to rest the voice and go in to a recording session just to sing a few high notes, and even though you might not use the best technique you slam them and they sound, in the recording, good, and it doesn’t matter how tired you are afterward because you already recorded the rest. The trick here is that then you only sound good in recording, and you can’t get away with that on the stage! Not to mention that this is not a respected practice in the least.
    I realize I probably rambled there a bit, but I think I was just excited that I had something I really had an opinion about… Any other musicians feel free to chime in!


  9. lee OTI Staff #

    People keep apologizing for their “Well ACTUALLY’s.” Why is that? We love “Well ACTUALLY’s”! As we’ve said before, this is a safe place for pedantry.

    I didn’t weigh in a whole lot on the show re: Autotune, so let me ask this here: am I the only person who finds it painful to listen to poor executions of AutoTune, not of the T-Pain variety, but of the High School Musical variety?

    They’re not trying to make Zac Efron sound like a robot, but the resulting sound is extremely flat (not in a pitch-sense, more of a wave-form sense) and unnatural.


    The same goes for a lot of the music I hear on Glee. Perhaps that’s no accident, though.

    It’s gotten to the point that when I heard the Gaslight Anthem (a sort of neo-Springsteen band that Sheely introduced me to) I was shocked by how many pitch imperfections made it onto the final tracks. Listen to this and tell me you don’t hear the parts where the singer is off:


    Now, is that ’cause he’s singing poorly, or is it ’cause he doesn’t have Jonas Brothers-esque levels of Autotune applied to cover up all of the imperfections?


  10. Rob #

    @lee –

    Well, *actually*, the plural lacks an apostrophe: they are “Well, ACTUALLYs.”


  11. Lara #

    @Lee Thanks for the youtube link, I love that Gaslight Anthem song but didn’t know who did it.

    To answer your question, no I don’t notice the bits where the singer is off, but maybe I should point out that I have not had much in the way of formal music education.

    I assume that the way the song sounds in the recording is the way that they wanted it to sound, and not something that could be better that they’ve just thrown out there hoping that no-one would notice. To me it doesn’t need to be technically perfect to be a good song… In fact the sound of highly polished pop music sounds way too squeaky clean to me most of the time.


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