In the absence of technology, there was only the musician and his or her instrument – violin, piano, lute, tube, and others. There was also the human voice that reproduced the sounds in the same melodious and sweet manner. In the audience, there was a listener who reveled in the enigmatic world of music. Today, between the listener and the performer, there are all kinds of technical intermediaries, including cassette players, CD players, music stations, and computer technologies (Wikipedia, 2006).
Music has migrated from rolls to cassettes to CDs and now is increasingly acquiring bodiless MP3 format and others that will be transferable between all kinds of devices. This dramatic development has surely affected the way I create, listen, record and think about music. In the same way, many representatives of my generation will be impacted by the same trends. As a result, technology is exerting an ongoing dramatic influence on the music industry that is shaping the industry, for better or worse. My own first impression with music recordings were connected with magnetic tapes that my father brought home as he was an avid music fan.
At home, he would put it on the tape recorder that would play them for hours, or so it seemed. I remember my fascination with the rolls of tape rotating on the recorder. In the childhood, I remember, I believed that the recorder was the only real source of music: musicians and singers somehow did not appear in my mind. I believe that this is one of the major impacts technology has had on our perception of music, taking precedence before real performers. Music has become either an album on CD, or a collection of songs on tape, instead of a random selection the author will play in a concert or a private performance.
We parcel music as much as technology allows us, and in this sense we take it cut and separated into technological units, not those that are artistically defined. A few months ago, a girl in my office bought a Motorola cell phone that allowed her to store short MP3 fragments as signals. Each time she got a call on her cell, we would listen to the same excerpt of the song she liked best. Needless to say, by the end of the first week, we were all so tired of this song that it surely stopped being our favourite.
After all, it is frustrating to listen to only a small part all the time. This shows how technology parcels and bundles music in new, unexpected ways. It is also interesting to note how the quality of technology has affected the quality of our music experience. Today, few musicians can hope to impress their audiences if their shows are not supported with strong sound systems and high-quality microphones. The technological proficiency of specialists and high level of equipment are also important in making recorded output.
This means that people who perceive their music will be interested not only in the level of their artistic ability and creative potential, but also in the technological soundness of their produce. A talented artist with a muffled, low-quality record can fail to impress the producer for whose consideration this record was submitted. This means that technology has become an important factor that affects the quality of music. Similarly, a techno fan may find it more enjoyable to listen to an average piece of music on a state-of-the-art equipment instead of listening to an excellent production with an old, shabby, outdated player.
Musical output has become a function of both art and technology. Music is surely still an art, not a science; but the component of science in it has increased dramatically. A modern musician does not only have to know the musical notation and composition methods; today, they have to share to a certain degree technical knowledge present in those who produce musical equipment, just as technicians are bound to increase their understanding of music. The professions of the sound engineer and composer have begun to overlap, and even merge to a certain degree.
When I listen to electronic music, for example, I cannot get rid of the feeling that is inferior to the works of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart not because of the author’s inferior talent, but because I am sold on to something called music, which was in fact made by the machine. In other words, no matter how talented these new composers can be, they can never produce something to rival their great colleagues of the past because their reliance on technology stifles their individual role in music composition. My personal attempts to compose and record music have also left me with a sense of technological problems.
In my first contact with the music equipment, these problems seemed almost insurmountable. No matter how nice my music sounded live, the recording, I felt, inevitably left something important out, some subjective part of my feelings, emotions, and ideas. True, as we got better hold of the equipment, this miraculous something began to come back little by little, but still it was never as fully present as during a live performance. That is why I believe that live performances are always superior to recorded music.
At the same time, I believe that improvements in technology will permit continuously closer approach to the real-life fascination of music. Technology is an assistant for the creator, but it is also an intermediary between the creator and listener, and as every intermediary, it comes with potential pitfalls. An intermediary charges money, and this is exactly what music equipment industry does. A consumer is forced to pay money to upgrade the audio recording equipment, and the musician is forced to spend money on updating his part.
Besides, an intermediary unavoidably distorts the message, delivering it in a sometimes imperceptibly changed way. This intermediary role most closely corresponds to the way I perceive relationship between music and technology. My understanding of technology will be incomplete if I do not say that in some cases, albeit rare ones, an intermediary can even enhance the product, as a talented translator, for instance, can improve the literary work he or she is rendering in the other language.
Any discussion of music and technology will be incomplete without appreciation of the revolutionizing role of the Internet downloads. I believe that this is a great way to turn over a new leaf in the accessibility of good music. This can be unfair from the commercial point of view, but the availability of large volumes of music recordings placed in the most democratic medium of the world will open doors for free enjoyment for millions of individuals.
Whatever critics say, this may open the way to millions of people in developing nations who would otherwise be hard-pressed to purchase a good CD. In this way, technology is acting as an intermediary in the distribution of music, facilitating the process. With free Internet downloads, enjoyment of musical pieces will be determined only by one’s taste, not the size of the wallet, and people will have more options to form and refine their tastes by having access to large musical libraries.
Opponents of this process try to combat it with legal means; however, they will not be able to resist it for very long. Quite soon, MP3 files or other formats may become available all over the world to those who have reliable Internet connection. Overall, I think technology has more benefits than downsides for the development of music industry. It popularizes music to many people, helping them to hear about performers, music styles, and other things they may never have found out but for technology. It broadens people’s scope in this way.
In addition, it makes distribution of music much easier. Technology is also a serious help to musicians, having contributed to the creation of new styles like electronic music. In the future, the role of technology will be instrumental in helping music break barriers between nations and groups of people, spreading all over the globe in high-quality files that will be available from Internet or other communication networks.
Wikipedia. (2006). History of sound recording. Retrieved May 22, 2006, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/History_of_sound_recording