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Re: [ARSCLIST] Are we at the end of the road musically??
I too have been pondering this question and the following is my personal
opinion which should be
taken as nothing more:
I believe that one of the two main keys to creative invention in today's
world is technology. Much
like the electric guitar fueled rock and roll, and sampling technology
fueled hip hop, the new
"music" will be or currently is affected by the technology of it's time.
This thesis, opinion or not, is hopelessly flawed and will not stand up to
peer review. Charlie Christian not only had an electric guitar in 1941, he
was playing rock n' roll styled licks on it, as some Goodman outtakes from
the time establish. Yet it still took 14 more years for "Rock Around the
Clock" to reach the audience and spread the rock Gospel, and it was already
an old record by the time it peaked on the charts. Hip-hop existed a long
time before hip hoppers ever even used sampling, and sampling itself goes
back to the 'Fifties. Yet the two don't cross paths much before 1984.
Trends don't make themselves, and tools don't make trends. Musicians make
whatever they need to make, with whatever tools, and if the public follows
it, or chooses not to, that's up to them. Anyone who thinks they can strive
to predict trends based on who has fanciest toys is deluded.
My favorite two examples of this are the artwork of Mondrian and Pollock's.
Mondrian's later work, which almost everyone is familiar with is typically 3
colors and a few black
lines on a white canvas. It's Brilliant. But where did this thinking come
from? Mondrian himself
started painting as a Realist, then moved to Impressionism, then eventually
to Minimalism. It was a
life long span of continuing to obscure his painting a little bit further
The other example is Pollack. He developed his most well know style almost
by accident. By changing
the position of his canvas (lying it on the floor) he found a new way to
So what do this mean?
I'll tell you what it doesn't mean - just because you develop a music
program that's like a canvas two miles wide and two million colors to paint
with doesn't mean you will find two million Picassos to make masterworks
with it. Music isn't like a mousetrap; you can contrive to build a better
one and musicians still won't use it. Often musicians who get heavily into
one kind of technology or another become sucked into the marketing of
equipment or software and end up abandoning music making altogether. Making
music isn't like inventing a can opener or a kitchen magician - it is an
imperative that goes hand in hand with the business of being human, like
talking or other forms of communication.
As much as I love both acoustic and electronic music, I can't look to a
group of humans playing
fixed pitched instruments to give me anything beyond a retrospective
recombination of past styles,
for the following reasons.
1) Humans need money to live, and developing fringe music as a group doesn't
pay the bills.
2) All the notes have been used up. Mid-century avant gard and free jazz
addressed almost every
viable way to play, mis-play, combine, and destruct western music.
No, No and No, Don. Roughly, every 30-50-100 years since the time of
Aristotle someone has come along and said "All the notes have been used up."
And EVERY time they have been wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Within the past
week, I have heard things in fourteenth-century Polyphony and in 1920s music
by George Antheil that contained ideas and approaches I'd never heard
before. We haven't even exhausted the past, how can we have already
exhausted the future? The Western scale, stylistic developments, national
identities in folk music - these are not like fossil fuel or the ozone layer
in that "we only have so much" - that's ridiculous.
Just as well, I can't image a way that a computer by itself, even with
advanced AI, would be able to
repeatable produce something of value without a human involved.
That's charitable. Raymond Scott did invent, in 1967-70, a computer that,
when you turned it on, started composing music - and good music at that!
But it bored him, and ultimately he installed a hidden keyboard in a drawer
of the cabinet containing the computer just so he could play along with it.
Music making is an imperative human activity, and while there is commerce in
music that has its own agenda, we should not be looking to technology to
move music forward as an artform. Many of the best musicians are not even
technologically inclined, and better technology isn't going to help me sound
better, or experience a better sense of community, sitting around the
campfire singing with a church group, Girl Scout troop, friends, whatever. I
don't even have to have guitar to do that, and if I had one and played it
badly, I'd almost be better off without one.
Therefore, I look to humans exploiting cutting edge computer programs
(possibly combined with
traditional instruments) to provide the "next" musical revolution.
I look for the next musical revolution to come from someone who has ideas
and is results oriented, and could care less what they use in terms of
programs or instruments. But I'm also not desperate to find out where that
revolution is coming from, whereas I think that musical tech-heads might be,
as they want to be on top of it when it emerges, mainly for commercial
reasons. Sorry - no deal. Impressionism didn't come because someone invented
the French 6 chord - it had been there all along. It came because there was
Satie and Debussy, and the time was right for it. In any event, this list is
the wrong forum for this kind of discussion.
David N. Lewis
Assistant Classical Editor, All Music Guide
"Music expresses what one cannot say, but about which one cannot remain
silent." - Victor Hugo