If you want to get a glimpse of the future look to the thrift stores. People are giving away pianos and organs right next to that 1998 big screen tv. In fact, secondhand stores are turning away pianos and old electronics more and more because they have no value. Imagine that – a family piano – decades of memories filtered through thousands of songs played on worn yellowed keys – treated as a nuisance to be rid of as soon as possible. The sentimentality is not lost despite my willingness to move on. I’m a stoic. I have no choice.
Music is weird. Everyone dedicated to understanding it comes to know its esoteric nature. It’s physical and yet not material. An enchanted substance! Our callouses and tiny muscles so adept at playing with mood and time. Such an incredible bond is created with our instruments. To think of life without them is like choosing to sever a limb. And yet our tech demands more and more of us to imagine ourselves as brains and faithful hands stroking 1’s and 0’s in the digital abyss. Trading in my fortissimo for a midi velocity of 127.
If The Beatles were to exist today you think they’d be the mop-topped guitar slinging 4 part harmony quartet we know them to be? No. Absolutely not. The Beatles would be no more than 2 guys with some laptops and maybe a guitar and a keyboard. They’d be playing to backing tracks and rapping. This isn’t a hot-take I assure you. Let’s just run the logical comparisons. The Beatles, in their beginning, were mainly playing r&b and rock ‘n’ roll covers – 2 Black American cultural exports. They played with the instruments of their time. They were absolutely within their zeitgeist.
As they evolved, they used the most modern recording equipment and were always into new music gadgetry like the mellotron and tape loops.
The fight to retain the way music was once made is an illusion. It’s you in the ring with yourself. No one else cares because art doesn’t demand to be understood technically to be able to enjoy it. Hate me if you want for spelling it all out, but they weren’t making the music of the past then. If they had the chance to use Pro-Tools back in 1964 they would have. Similarly, in every field.
Andy Warhol really did a genius thing that echoes through the memes coming and going from our news feeds. To repurpose an image, to have someone else repurpose an image, and finally to make art a factory job. Look at us now. Art is now content you have to push in every avenue available to you and it’s gotta be quick and quantitative. No time to attribute the artists credit. We must copy and paste and consider our tastes to be our genius rather than our work. This has been a looooong time coming.
It’s in our DNA. First we express. Verbal language is born and our symbols for our language begins to emerge. Written language speeds up communication. Enter the printing press … we want to communicate fast!! We are being guided by our DNA and through culture to communicate and to build faster. Only your own hypocrisy acts as your final weapon in this battle. I’d love to hear you disagree with me through carrier pigeon.
Music is no different. It’s an extremely powerful tool of communication. Who we are and who we are becoming as a society is directly reflected in our art. Maybe we have to lose some of our old communal rituals as musicians and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we used to lose a lot of time working with people who weren’t as serious, or perhaps we live in the middle of nowhere and if we had to depend on people to make music with, we wouldn’t be able to because they weren’t around. The tech says this … no excuses.
Sure, it’s a pain in the ass. The constant humming of electronic expectations can be overwhelming. It’s never been harder to stay focused with literally, streams of distractions. The tools are ever-improving and you are tasked with the updates and bugs. You take on new frustrations and develop new skills for problem solving. Boo-hoo. “You get to,” as my dear friend Eric Sweet used to say when he would hear complaints. A true stoic, he was always reminding you to appreciate life itself.
Yes it’s unfortunate at a certain level that master violinist Joshua Bell was ignored in Union Station while busking, but we’re spoiled. We consume the most insanely visceral levels of art on an afternoon binge and like some incestuous 17th cent. bourgeoisie prince we yawn and ask what’s next on the menu. Of course our cultural exports like music are suffering. We live in a multi-view reality and are deriving our spiritual powers through many changing mediums. Before, we lived for our heroes musings because the media made the wisdom and entertainment pool seem as if it was shallow. It is in fact much deeper than we had thought. These stars acted as our spiritual guides and were able to keep up much of the façade of mystical enlightened angels but no more. Social media is an exposing agent. The holes and flaws in our character will show eventually.
This is the tech doing its thing or rather, this is who we really are; impulsive vulnerable creatures vying to be heard in order to guide the world in a favorable direction towards our subjective desires. Our motivations, both egoistic and altruistic, in perpetual contention with our ethos and accountability. Prove me wrong.