The Future of Music With Technology

  imgres Music has been enhanced with every new technological invention and is a marker of the technological capabilities of that time.  With this realization I would like to explore, by researching, the newest innovations in music technology today and analyze their potential impact on the future of music.  New innovations in music equipment allow artists to have expanded possibilities of creation musically, sonically and production.  The innovations in music technology has had impacts on two aspects of society, the professional artist and the average person who plays and produces their own music.  The effects on the artists are expanded capabilities in aspects of production and sound possibilities, while the effects of the mass consumption of music are the ease of recording and producing to allow the average person to create decent music, affordably.  It is my goal to research the effect of current music technology is on both of these routes and seeks to answer the question, what will the impact on music in the future of the newest technological innovations in the music production field be? The mass consumption of music is primarily through midi controllers due to their ease of use, portability and convenience.  The emerging music technology that will be geared toward the consumer market is the Artiphon.  1)Artiphon is a newly kickstarter funded midi controller that promises anyone will be able to make music with their device.  A midi device is a controller of some sort but, doesn’t contain any actual sounds programmed to play but, can connect to another device that has sounds such as a laptop music program and play those sounds.  This device hooks up to a laptop or computer through USB connection to play sounds from a music software program.  It holds 5 customizable banks of sounds that can be switched with a knob for ease to transition from playing one sound bank, like an instrument, to the next.  The touch pads, what you hit to trigger a sound to be played, on the surface of the remote shaped object are grooved with guitar frets and string lines, for a more precise playing experience of those instruments, in addition to the middle, smooth flat pads for playing piano and percussion instruments.  A quite sophisticated USB remote, with an all in one functionality promises users to be able to play and learn how to play instruments on their device.  This has the potential to be a game changer by promoting people to play music using their device as a hobby and spreading the love for playing music.  The idea is tested and proven by the (2)1.4 million dollar they raised on a kickstarter campaign and now a developed brand with demands exceeding their supply on their website on back order.  Although the Artiphon will spread interest in playing and creating music that can only be good for music in the education it provides in a convenient shape and size, but this is really not an innovation in anyway.  I will be a consumer of the Artiphone but, it is simply a midi technology controller with a different shape. The technology that has the potential to affect music production for artists in the future is Soundtrap.  This website/software is making a breakthrough in the area of connectivity and collaboration for artists at two different places simultaneously.  Collaborations between artists are at an all time high, especially in the EDM and rap/hip-hop genres where so many DJ’s are remixing other DJ’s songs and collaborations between rappers on tracks has been happening for decades.  The site (3)Soundtrap, with their software, is trying to change music collaborations by allowing artists to simultaneously collaborate with each other remotely.  Currently the process for collaborations is one artist creating a part or something then if they wanted to collaborate with another artist they would send this work in progress to the artist to have him add their take on it then send it back when done with his additions and revisions.  Real, in person collaborations, rarely happen anymore due to the hectic schedules of artists that work on the go or that live in different cities.  This current model leaves a lag and disconnect between the artists because it’s just one artist sending music with their view and then the other person takes it and puts his view on it and it’s not a real collaboration effort.  What Soundtrap is trying to do is allow artists a platform to create together simultaneously from different places.  I believe it adds something being able to collaborate in real time between two artists so they can bounce ideas off each other or make changes together.  While this technology is not currently perfect, it has a great idea and the potential to add another dimension of collaborating with artists and shows what technology brings to music production technological advancements.  The idea of collaboration between artists through technological mediums isn’t new, for example electronic artist/producer, deadmau5(4), live streams his studio sessions with his fans, looking for input and sending out ideas on platforms such as soundcloud, a free music uploading community.  This transparency and insight from everyone is a great idea for a next step into music by allowing small, unknown artists like Chris James a platform to be one the top singal’s on deadmau5’s record The Veldt.  The collaboration is discontinuous though in uploading and downloading files in the sense of not really collaborating but revising.  While the idea of collaborating through technological mediums isn’t new the way Soundtrap is developing the technology to push a new advancement. The impact I believe these technologies will have on the future of music is to continue the move toward solo artists/DJ’s who will create and produce their own music and collaborate with other solo artists.  Jim Morrison, the now deceased lead singer of The Doors, in a 1970 interview shared his prediction for the future of music stating, “I can see a future where a single artist will use tapes and sounds to create music”(5), which turned out to be a very accurate forecast of what has become the current model of music.  These solo efforts came with the progression and innovations in technology at that time that had music implications.  This thought of collaboration through technological mediums reminds me of Always On(6), a chapter from the sherry turkle selection we read for class.  One of the ideas of the chapter is that machines are inventing social life by creating groups online where these groups can collaborate to play games and communicate with each other.  It relates in that these artists are collaborating with the technology to produce the sounds they need, in some senses a cyborg.  The trends with new innovations in technology has led to a disconnect in the world of human to human interaction and human to technology device/app and an isolation of society behind tv’s and computer screens.  This is resulting in artists being enhanced by mechanical or technological devices to create(7), a cyborg.  The advancement and affordability in recording and production technology along with the commercialization of these technologies is promoting this sense of cyborgism to be what we call artists.  But as great as these new technologies may be is this too much of a good thing, turning artists to be dependent on technology for creation?  Or is it that technology is creating a sophisticated and intelligent musician by taking their knowledge of technology and applying that to music making.  This movement toward isolation draws a direct parallel from The Machine Stops.  In that society people lived by themselves connected to the world from their intelligent “home” machine.  They became so dependent on the machine that when the machine started malfunctioning, the residents were helpless on their own(8).  This would translate into an extreme case in the music world if all technology just ceased to be but raises the point that the future musician may be more of a programmer or someone with knowledge of electronics and how to make sounds rather than a musician who is trained to compose music and learn how to use the accompanying technology.  This relates to past trends in music innovation where developments came from people like Bob Moog, a electrical engineer who invented the synthesizer, people outside of the music field but in the technology and engineering fields. After further analysis however, I’ve actually learned that i’m disappointed in the current music technology selection and capabilities.  There are a lot more startups like the artiphone, that function more for convenience and are geared toward hobbying musicians. and a lack of innovative technologies that harbor usefulness and ingenuity.  Maybe this is the shift of music, more musicians are gearing toward convenient playing than the next advancement in technology.  However, I still wanted to continue with an analysis of Soundtrap because I believe it is paving the way a future way of collaborating.  If i had to predict the result of a lack of innovations in the market today it would spark ingenuity in artists to create more with what they had and refine it even more.  Either that or music would start to sound stagnant and you wouldn’t hear progressions of artists and music. I believe that there will be an emerging technology that will have an impact on the future of music production but it will be a technological or software developed with applications to music.  That is where society is at this digital time and it will be interesting to see the influence these advancements will have on music production.  Though the Artiphon won’t have much of an impact on changing the future of production methods, it’s design and application will have an impact on the spread of knowledge of music as a hobby.  Through analysis of the emerging technologies and drawing parallels with past music innovation trends and themes, the technology Soundtrap aligns itself with these trends and themes and I will predict that it will have an effect on the future of how music production happens.    

  1. http://www.artiphon.com/
  2. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/artiphon/introducing-the-artiphon-instrument-1
  3. https://medium.com/@pavelc/future-of-music-production-and-creative-collaborations-e0ecea44169c
  4. https://medium.com/@pavelc/future-of-music-production-and-creative-collaborations-e0ecea44169c
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWmMVmiGJD0
  6. Sherry Turkle. Alone Together. page 153.
  7. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cyborg
  8. Forster. The Machine Stops.  1909