Music & Technology

by Nikolozi Meladze

Frederic Rzewski:

Everything from instrument design and construction to the machines used for recording and transmission has affected the art itself. So yes, Western music is very much technology.

Technology has shaped music, but that doesn't mean music is technology.

The explosive expansion of technological resources has led, paradoxically, to an impoverishment of the language of music. This process — consisting in a return to basic tonality, harmonic simplification, disappearance of counterpoint, replacement of developmental variation by hypnotic repetition, mindless re-juggling (sampling) of pre-existing historical models rather than genuine innovation, general dumbing-down of the vocabulary — corresponds historically with what has been called the “Great Regression” (1980 to the present): a period characterized by the crumbling of the great guiding models of the past (without any viable new ones), and an ensuing cultural, economic, and political stagnation.

The process of music creation may have changed, but I wouldn't call it the "Great Regression". It's just where things are at right now. These days you can synthesize very interesting sounds that wasn't possible a century ago and that's awesome. No one is stopping anyone to create pieces with counterpoint or complex harmonies. If that's your thing then do it. However music is created is irrelevant, what matters is how good it sounds.

Technology has no doubt conditioned art from its very beginnings. But for most of its history art has nonetheless been master of the relation. In the course of the 20th century a subtle reversal has taken place. Art has become a tool of the machine it has helped to create. The art which half a century ago set out to change the world has become a passive instrument of that world’s malfunction.

That's a bit dramatic. Overall, it's a great article to read even if you disagree with it, like I did.