Medium of a Medium

For Marshall McLuhan, a medium’s content is another medium.

As he describes it in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, “[t]he content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph”.

This puts music in an interesting position as a medium.

Music has been and can be the content for mediums like radio (songs, interviews, promotional material), television (music videos, advertisements, concerts), and print (scores, analysis, articles, photos, advertisements).

Then the internet comes into the equation: television, print, and radio together become its content. That leaves music to be a part of an extended connection.

Music, for instance, is content for television which is content for the internet. Think of all the music related videos we watch on Youtube. Music is also the content for print which is content for the internet. Sites like Pitchfork are an example.

A unique conclusion arises.

As much as we stress its independent power, music needs to work within another medium to exist in the world, especially when that world is in of itself a medium (the web). That is not denigrating to music at all. What it admits, on the other hand, is that music is a vast network of relations.

We talk a lot about the framing of music. That is just the start. What of the places we put the framed music? What of the places that house the places we put the framed music? How do they all intermingle with each other and the music itself?

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