Technology is all around us. As a result, it is unsurprising that it has had a significant impact on 20th-century music. It has influenced how music is conveyed, maintained, heard, played and how our favourite music is composed.
We hear less and less musical sound that has not been influenced by technology used for entertainment in the form of concert hall reinforcement, music recording and broadcasting, and musical instrument design and manufacturing.
Many church organs, for example, now use synthesised or sampled sounds rather than actual pipes; instruments that look like piano keyboards and produce piano timbres but are dedicated digital synthesisers; and virtuoso performers whose instrument is the turntable, are now part of not only the disco but also the concert music worlds.
Although many musicians are unaware of the depth of technology’s influence, it is transforming the core of music.
We exclusively listen to unadulterated music now, thanks to electronic technology. The sounds we hear have been interpreted by audio engineers who have improved the acoustics of concert halls, spliced together note-perfect recorded performances, created artificially reverberant performance spaces, broadcasted sounds around the world via satellite, greatly amplified rock concerts, and created temporal continuities that have never been heard before.
The audio engineer is virtually as well-trained as a concert musician, and he or she can be just as sensitive.
From the instruments to the recording process, music production has never been more outstanding. Over the last two centuries, new musical instruments have improved and emerged, capturing the attention of anybody with a keen ear for music.
The Electric Guitar, for example, became one of the most famous musical instruments in popular culture throughout the 1920s. The Electric Guitar results from a collaborative effort between a group of inventors and musicians who wanted to use electricity to create stronger string tones.
The development of recording technology has caused us to rethink what constitutes a piece of music. It is illogical to assert that the printed score accurately depicts musical sounds. In most cases, the score does not guide how the audio engineer should alter his or her variables. Two recordings of the same performance mixed, equalised and re-mastered differently, can contrast as much as two distinct renditions of the same work.
It’s not only the music itself that has changed. The way we listen and access music has also changed thanks to technology. It’s no longer required to log into a computer to sync the latest release to your playlist or to spend an evening labelling your CD sleeves.
Consumers now have a wealth of music at their fingertips with the emergence of music streaming websites like Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. Fans no longer have to wait for a chart show to exclusively release a song for the first time on broadcast to hear an artist’s current tune.
Artists promoting their new music would appear on programmes like Top of the Pops, chart programmes, and even magazines and newspapers in the early 2000s. Through viral videos and social media posts, musicians have emerged on consumer playlists thanks to the arrival of social media, digital marketing and YouTube.
Fans may get up close and personal with their favourite celebrities thanks to social media. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram give fans a behind-the-scenes view of the lives of musicians and celebrities, such as studio recordings, sneak thoughts of future tracks and tour updates. Artists now have more influence over when and how their music is released and how their material is distributed to audiences.
Although the way we discover and consume music has launched the music industry into the modern world, the significant presence of technology in the music industry has also introduced a negative element. The loss of millions of dollars in revenue by artists and businesses due to piracy is a typical example.
Music has always been an essential part of human life. There is no culture on the planet today that does not dance to a particular flavour of music. Music is rightfully regarded as one of humankind’s most refined and ever-present companions. Music has the remarkable power to speak to people in a way that resonates with their deepest emotions, whether it is joy, pain, grief, love or hate. Music has withstood the test of time due to its strong influence. Music has adapted and altered over time, just as humans have.
Over the last two centuries, technology has advanced in ways that were previously unimaginable. These have had a beneficial and detrimental impact on how music is made, delivered and accessed.
Since the 18th century, numerous technological advances in music have occurred, but the most impactful technology that has taken the music industry by storm is the digitisation of music. The dynamics and economics of the music industry have changed dramatically since music became readable by computers.