30 Minutes With T Bone Burnett Page 2


What do you think of downloading music? I'm in favor of downloading. I think we'd be in trouble if people weren't listening to music on their computers, you know? But I'm also in favor of higher-quality reproductions than we now have in the download world. I push for that.

Digital copies don't feel incredibly valuable to me. The more facile we become at mechanical reproduction, the less valuable each reproduction becomes - and the more valuable the live experience becomes.

If CDs eventually go the way of the dinosaur, what's next? I wouldn't take the disappearance of the CD as a bad sign. I doubt that we'll carry anything physical at all. Everything will be on servers. All you'll need is an IP address and a search engine. You won't even have a hard drive. There will be fewer cables. Broadband will be used much more for accessing servers, and downloading and streaming intellectual property or whatever you want. All of it will be in play: home theater, 5.1, every kind of media - every bit of it. That'll be a great thing. You'll be able to listen to music any way you want to.

What's in it for those of us who are hopelessly materialistic and love the feel of physically opening and handling an album or CD? I don't know. I think vinyl will make a comeback. There are stores like Amoeba here in L.A. that still stock old vinyl and 78s. People who are interested in sound will still listen to music that way.

What we call albums have always been governed by the technology of the time. Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours [1954] was a complete piece with 16 songs because it ran as many minutes as would fit on a vinyl record. That version of what an "album" was held sway for 40-50 years. Then, with the CD, people started making longer records, but they weren't necessarily better, because 70-80 minutes is too much time.

I think digital has come a long way, but the CD is a transitory medium. The transfers we've had since the 1980s are all going to have to be redone. They're mostly pretty bad - low bit rates, low sampling rates. You know, the Library of Congress is going back to magnetic tape to store all of their music, which is a much more stable medium than digital at the moment.

How do you prefer to listen to music? Vinyl sounds the best. I listen to vinyl most of the time. I enjoy it the most. There's a laser turntable now, so there's no friction on the vinyl, and you don't get scratches and pops, the stuff people always complained about with vinyl.