One of the primary characteristics of music is that it is temporal. Once a piece begins it must end. That is definitive. The silence after the last note is the ‘fin’ to the work.
But then there is the fade out. What was once a period is now an ellipsis. The temporality of music is put into question. A song doesn’t end, it’s cut off. It suggests an indeterminable time of the song. It could’ve ended fifteen seconds after the fade or never at all.
What’s interesting here is that the fade out is a uniquely modern device. Even if a classical work demanded fading out there would still be a final note. That’s how live performances work. But now with recordings, where sound is altered, a fade out can blur the lines so that the very existence of the last note is in question.
If the temporality of music is gone, is it even music? Perhaps even less so?
The existential implications of this simple device are staggering. So much so that saying it came to exist so that songs could fit on radio slots seems to demean its power.
And yet at the same time it is the perfect cover.