(… somewhere in my mind is a quote whose origins I can’t quite seem to find … something about music reflecting the state of its society … if only I had written it down … but, …)
Is technology empowering or destroying music? Have we lost something on the ride into this electronic world? Or does the mechanical allow Man to actualize his potentials through newfound capacities?
Music and technology reflect and contribute to the mind. Music, as a language, and technology, as a tool, manifest the profound methods by which mankind continually transforms himself.
As pieces of music are captured by tape and computers, recordings gather a life and history of their own. The error that presents in thinking that a recording does no more than record is the same error of believing an observer does no more than observe.
We may lament a loss of sounds from the musicians of old – those we no longer hear who evolved only in the powerful media of live sound – those who lived in times not so connected as we are today by telegraph, radio, phones, television, and Internet – those whose societies were not so porous, where colonies of culture had time and support to gestate before birthing into the world at large.
Music, as such, is not being destroyed, it has long since been destroyed. Every moment consumes the last. But I believe it would be wrong to consider that the present shape of sounds is “better” or “worse” than moments of the past.
There is a fear expressed that somehow live music will eventually be squelched, and that, in this dystopian future, all heard will not be produced but be rather “re-produced” versions of past recordings. And, while I may hear the truth in the statement, “The nightingale’s song is delightful because the nightingale herself gives it forth,” I wonder why I have never heard one myself. The question of losing something in distancing from live music is also a question of losing touch with the natural world.
Music reflects our times. We have distanced ourselves from the forests, rivers, and a general connection to nature, especially those of us living in the city. Has a link to this primacy eroded? Are we seeing this reflection in music?
It may just be the manifestations of nature that are changing.
Music is a language – a channel of communication. Only if there is nothing left to say will there be no more words.
The accessibility of sound is nowhere and no time as strong as it is today. The individual can create and produce the sounds of the self into a file and onto the Internet within moments. Though the vibrant qualities of live performance are lost, the reach of many is gained.
“Natural” may be defined as a spectrum of that which is more pervasive in time and space. Direct talking is more natural than the telephone which in turn is more natural than instant messaging. But Communication, while held up by these ever shinier pedestals, is the most natural of them all. We still use the speech that has developed over the centuries; we still use the sounds and inflections that have developed over the millennia.
The question of the New Yorker article, though indirectly posed, is perhaps better phrased as, How does the artist and audience ride this peculiar wave? In a larger sense, how does man function in this world of technology? What do we lose and what do we gain as we progress through these increasingly turbulent societal waters of technology?
Rather than question is this path “right” or “wrong”, we can ask, What do we do with what is here?
A method of understanding can be obtained through a reconsideration of the object we are observing. Just as we can say something like a cell phone is less natural than the communication it enhances, we may gain something from a similar change of view here.
Why consider recordings as only images of a static musical entity? Music is a primal expression of a living person shared with others equally alive. Recordings are moments in time reflected upon by Artist and Audience alike and thereby influence their future presentations. Recordings become part of the evolutionary process – a part of the music itself – nodes of their quantum existence.
The medium of recording and live music are not separate. It is this combined media that demands and creates the art form. Art is not the imitation of life, but what provides for its recognition.
Though, there is unmistakably a certain magic no longer heard on the recorded, as live music includes and evokes emanations of sound created from unknown depths, occurring in the moments heard, as an interaction with audience, subtle, strong and profound, as the Artist and Audience joined in communication, I cannot and will not believe that we lose touch from each other.
The captured beasts of music may be different from the wild with the fear described of a world where man has destroyed the natural, where the musical beasts are now only found in zoos.
But, I cannot believe Nature as to be so weak as to ever truly be subjugated by Man.
Perhaps there are pieces overproduced, without soul, yet gorgeously adorned and written that permeate the societal consciousness in its forms of mass media. But buried beneath, bubbling in the unconscious elements of the Internet, the glistening music of many can be heard with a richness of life.