“We leave our tracks in the sound.” Neil Young, The Painter.
Neil Young is the chameleon of Rock n’ Roll. He’s been everything from the sensitive folkie who charmed us with “Heart of Gold” to the cacaphonous Godfather of Grunge who kept us “Rockin’ In The Free World.” In between, he’s dabbled in Rockabilly, Blues, and even sampled techno pop with his infamous “Trans,” where, legend has it, his heavily processed vocals prompted mogul David Geffen to sue him for failing to deliver a genuine Neil Young record.
Neil Young’s genius is not confined to simply composing, playing and singing songs. He’s a model train buff who owns a stake in Lionel. He’s an inventor who holds several patents. He’s developed a hybrid car–a 1959 Lincoln convertible called LincVolt–that gets 100 miles a gallon. And now, he’s turning his restless energies to a problem that long has vexed him and other audiophiles–the sound quality of digital music.
For years, Neil and other purists have bemoaned the state of CDs and MP3’s that have replaced vinyl as the main source of music consumption. As Young writes on his website “Since the advent of the CD, listeners have been deprived of the full experience of listening. With the introduction of MP3s via online music services, listeners were further deprived.” According to Young, a typical MP3 download loses 95% of the data found on an analog recording master. To paraphrase Neil, that’s a lot of sound quality fading away. And to Neil Young, that just will not do. So he’s planning to change how we download music. Young reportedly met with Steve Jobs before his death to explore making studio-quality downloads available to everyone. And in a post on his website, Neil predicts that 2012 will be the year of High Resolution Audio to deliver “the spirituality and soul of music . . . music the way the artists and producers [heard it] when they created it in the studio.”
It’s not clear how far along Neil’s project has advanced. But he’s evidently making progress. Last year, Young applied for six Federal trademarks: IVANHOE, 21st CENTURY RECORD PLAYER, EARTH STORAGE, STORAGE SHED, THANKS FOR LISTENING, and SQS (Studio Quality Sound).
These trademark applications have cleared their first hurdles at the Trademark Office. But, as Young sings in “The Painter,” “It’s a long road behind me. It’s a long road ahead.” Competitors now have a short window to lodge objections to the applications. If no one objects, Young still must prove that he’s actually begun using these trademarks for the products and services mentioned in the applications; he’ll have up to three years to do that.
So for now, we’ll have to wait to see if Neil Young’s crusade to upgrade the MP3 listening experience is something we’ll be “finding out is real.” Those rooting for his success surely hope that Neil isn’t “just a dreamer,” and his quest not “just a dream.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” Plato