A Reflection and an Impression: New Arrivals in the Fine Arts and Music Department

Reviews of new books that explore “noise” and knitting by Eben Dennis, Fine Arts and Music Librarian

Damon Krukowski’s The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World focuses on the overlooked cost of progress.  The former Galaxie 500 band member uses the word “noise” to describe what the flood of advancements in the digital era has washed away, leaving happy smartphone users, with cheap and  instantaneous access to a voluminous library of music in its wake. But what exactly is noise to Krukowski? Noise is not just the whirring hum of the air conditioner captured along with the final chord of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, but it is the liner notes, the experience of the trip to the record store, it is the shelf of albums browsed and dismissed. It is the peripheral sound competing with the music for the ear’s attention, now plugged and muted with earbuds. Ultimately noise is also the groan of an economic engine shifting massive amounts of money from musicians, labels, and and brick and mortar stores, to Apple and social media platforms.

More than an audiophile’s treatise on digital file compression, or a sentimental  “old vs. new mediums” take, Krokowski focuses on the cultural implications of technological advancements and how these change our habits and behavior. Digital music has been stripped of noise the same way the context of the transaction has been stripped of human experience, leaving us all alone in our individually customized worlds. Has the cost of accessing music quicker and cheaper than before come at the cost paid by a piece our humanity? If noise and signal exist as complementary forces, each giving the other context, what exactly remains? In an age where our means of communication have become commodified and efficiently reduced to pure signal, this book serves as a helpful reminder that humans make inefficient machines. So allow me to help you cultivate this inefficiency by recommending it as some quality content to fill your summer leisure.

A passing glance at Field Guide to Knitted Birds by Arne Nerjordet gives the impression that its intended knitting audience would lean closer to Portlandia fans than amateur ornithologists. I mean, there is a picture of a bird with glasses and a perm on the cover. Upon closer inspection this isn’t completely accurate. Originally published in Norway, the unfamiliar species in this book actually populate Eurasia not Narnia as I originally suspected (though this doesn’t explain the little passerine with the spectacles or the section entitled “Birds in Traditional Sweaters”). Additionally, the chapter devoted to various species of birds-of-paradise seems to have been designed with an enthusiast’s eye.  That being said, if you are not an absolute purist about bird plumage, and want to know the basic materials, patterns, and methods for knitting a unique bird from scratch, I would highly recommend this book. It is also insanely cute. You can even come by our Sit ‘n’ Stitch every third Tuesday in the Fine Arts Department to take a look and get some guidance from an expert!