IASPM 2014: Pitch Perfect – Autotune or Out of Tune?

Pitch Perfect – Autotune or Out of Tune?

(Steven Williams, Kingston University)

[Steven is a practitioner and academic (pop producer with extensive sound work in film) and sites his work in this context. He intends to use ‘Actor Network Theory’ to discuss the agents and agencies in the processes under analysis.]

T-pain
T-Pain – ‘Robotic’ use of Autotune (deliberately dehumanised)

He begins with two auto-tune examples – firstly ‘Natural’ (a demo of his own song ‘The Beloved’) and constrasts it with ‘Robotic’ (giving examples from T Pain, Will.i.am and others). The two opposing opinions of pitch corrections are discussed (negative views are that AT is for people who can’t sing, takes away from expression, dehumanises etc) and he cites Adorno’s description of the ‘standardisation’ of popular music [possibly a theoretical stretch IMO but it’s a defensible viewpoint that if AT had been around in 1941 Adorno might well have discussed it]. On the positive side we hear Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’, where the plaintive grief in the lyric is arguably enhanced by AT.