One of the most heavily regulated creative industries, the music industry revolves around an intensely abstract and creative medium — sound. As digital technology rapidly evolved throughout the last twenty years, the responsibilities of record labels shifted from a focus on distribution and production to a venture capital structure. Today, labels focus on amplifying and funneling artists’ works by maximizing outreach to listeners – increasing streams on Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs) while engaging and growing social media presence. Both DSPs and record labels rely on maximizing listens to increase their bottom line of profitability. DSPs continually strive to serve music to users, providing a better user experience, while labels and corporations may hope to generate music that garners maximal listens. We are no longer simply listeners within this corporate cycle, but we are instead music consumers. Moreover, as music consumers, we are platformed users, succumbing to the same data-driven predatory tactics that many technology corporations employ – harvesting personal data for “clicks” or a higher level of engagement. Music is now just another piece of the data economy, akin to oil in a profit-obsessed economic race for increasing shareholder value.
Synesthetic Liberation pushes against a growing dissociative relationship with music. This project moves to liberate sound from its digital form, allowing people to touch and feel a spectrogram depiction of their music taste. In turn, Synesthetic Liberation advocates for a new form of notation. As typically seen in language, notation bridges the spoken word with the written. Musical notation, furthermore, aims to create symbols around how music should be played, produced, and reproduced. Unlike sheet music, the spectrogram codifies sound within the digital world. In an economic system that interprets culture as capital, we should redefine the spectrogram from an object of control to one of liberatory language. The spectrogram allows the promotion of a new and dynamic notational system, bringing us closer to the shrouded and complex systems that define our digital personas.