‘We’re in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we’ve ever had,’ Young tells MTV News at Sundance Film Festival.
By Josh Wigler, with reporting by Josh Horowitz
PARK CITY, Utah — It’s hard to argue about the digital age of music in terms of efficiency and portability. When it comes down to cycling through shelves upon shelves of old CDs versus taking one’s entire library of music on the go in a single handheld device, the choice seems rather clear.
But convenience aside, there is something missing in the digital translation of tunes — at least there is according to legendary folk rocker Neil Young, who spoke with MTV News in Park City (where he’s promoting the Slamdance release of his new Jonathan Demme-helmed documentary “Neil Young Journeys”) and expressed his concerns over the current state of “the sound of music.”
“I’m finding that I have a little bit of trouble with the quality of the sound of music today,” Young said. “I don’t like it. It just makes me angry. Not the quality of the music, but we’re in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we’ve ever had. It’s worse than a 78 [rpm record]. Where are our geniuses? What happened?” Young argued that MP3s feature only 5 percent of the data from an original master file, which he sees as a major problem.
“If you’re an artist and you created something and you knew the master was 100 percent great, but the consumer got 5 percent, would you be feeling good?” he asked. “I like to point that out to artists. That’s why people listen to music differently today. It’s all about the bottom and the beat driving everything, and that’s because in the resolution of the music, there’s nothing else you can really hear. The warmth and the depth at the high end is gone.”
The singer-songwriter likened the current state of music to an equally present political movement: “It’s like Occupy Music — the 5 percent, that’s who we are now. We used to be the hundred percent!” Young isn’t unilaterally dissatisfied with the modern era of music, however. He said he’s pleased by the returning popularity of the folk genre, for instance, particularly in the hands of capable musicians like Mumford and Sons and My Morning Jacket.
“Mumford and Sons and My Morning Jacket are great bands,” Young said. “I love them both and I know them well. I feel good about saying that.”
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival is officially under way, and the MTV Movies team is on the ground reporting on the hottest stars and the movies everyone will be talking about in the year to come. Keep it locked with MTV Movies for everything there is to know about Sundance.