From downloading to cloud-roaming: mobile music

January 22, 2018

Since the MP3’s introduction in the mid-1990s music has become more mobile than ever. While before it would only be playable either live or through a material format of some sort (LP, CD, etc.), music now weighs nothing anymore: it simply is a bunch of ones and zeroes clustered in an audio file. 



The portable cassette and CD player (commonly known as the Walk- and Discman) have gone a long way giving us music on the go, but music miniaturised even further to the extent where it is no longer tactile. Hence with the right software it becomes possible to carry nearly unlimited amounts of music in our pocket.


Music’s metamorphosis into full digitality moreover means that music is often not stored on personal devices like smartphones anymore, but rather resides in “the cloud.” That is, streaming services offer a vast collection of music accessible only online, possibly to be downloaded to play offline. Ultimately the cloud resides in servers of some kind, but its everywhereness makes it possible to play our music anytime & anywhere as long as we are connected to the cloud.


The actualisation of music from the cloud - i.e. its resurrection from virtuality into sound - depends on several matters: a proper internet connection, running servers, constant power supply, adequate hardware and of course the right software. The journey of an audio file starts in a server farm that can be located in another continent, via cables and satellites to our computer and through speakers it becomes sound again. A song thus reshapes multiple times and travels thousands of kilometres before it reaches our ears.

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