Jul 192011
Authors: Dan Cope

Music has nowhere to go but backwards.

There, I said it. Much to the dismay and dismissal of many of my friends and family, I firmly believe that we’ve reached a game changing point of stagnation in the music industry. I also think it’s a good thing we’re finally here at the end.

Let us take a brief look back into the history of music. Way back when, some cavemen probably clapped their hands or banged two rocks together –– and while it probably wasn’t pretty –– the most basic concept of music was born. From there, the ideas of tonality, chords and musical structures were realized, and viola: music was born.

Somewhere along this timeline, acoustic musical instruments came to be.

From piccolos to tubas and accordions to xylophones, the creation of instruments was a groundbreaking and genre-creating piece of musical history.

Suddenly, we weren’t just limited to basic rhythms and vocal performance; we could arrange entire symphonies, collect trios of jazz musicians and anything in between. The creation of the original musical instruments single-handedly gave birth to almost every major genre we know today.

Then came the second revolution in music: the electric age. With the invention of the electric guitar and electric piano, we suddenly opened up a whole new range of possibilities not previously possible with just acoustic instruments –– most notably, rock and roll.

From here, music progressed to its third great era and our current age, the digital era. Again, this was signaled by the creation of a whole new segment of music with the advent of MP3 DJ’s and music programs like Ableton and Reason, which opened up every song of every era to our ear.

The next logical question is simple: Where do we go from here?

But here lies the roadblock: there is nowhere else to go. Sure, new technology will be invented that at first glance seems revolutionary. Recently, Imogen Heap gave a preview of a new pair of gloves that allow her to seemingly create (or heavily modify) an entire song just by waving her hands around like some witch from “Harry Potter.”

In the end, though, those “revolutionary” gloves are still ultimately bound by the devices and sounds of our modern digital era –– they still play through a computer.

That means the next big thing in music may not be that “big” after all. With the increasing reliance on technology in musical creation, there has been a buffer of sorts that allows arguably less talented musicians to create music.

Look at most of the modern use of auto-tune. It’s not done to correct minor mistakes; it’s done, quite simply, because almost everyone using it can’t sing.

So here’s what I think should be the next popular thing in the music industry: bring back the “old school” musician.

These are the musicians that innately know when and how to use inflection. They know that their snare hit or their cymbal crash may not be exactly the same every time, but they also know that it’s those subtle differences that can make or break a song.

Our reliance on post processing and “finishing” of a song has made us believe that every band is perfect, when in reality, what made the times of P-Funk, acid rock, bebop, the blues and eras before them so great was the subtle imperfections of the musicians.

It seems that the general music industry is starting to agree as well. And a band who has recently become mainstream, Mumford and Sons, is a perfect example of this.

At their show in Denver last month, they played an all-acoustic version of one of their songs in front of a silent, packed Fillmore Auditorium … and they played it well.

They are a very mainstream band that is progressing our modern music back toward its roots and the times where being a musician meant you actually had to, well, be a musician.

So cheers to the future and all the not-quite-perfect-music it can throw at us. Our world is more than ready.

Dan Cope is a senior economics major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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