The Impact of Technology on Music

free essayThe interaction of music and technology has a long history. The existence of music of any epoch cannot be imagined without an active involvement of technical thought to make it perfect and create musical instruments, such as organ, piano, flute, saxophone, and so on, in their traditional and non-traditional forms. The main stimulus for technology involvement is the needs of art. The peak of technology use in the music industry was observed in the 20th century. Thus, technology largely determines the human existence and constantly changes the subject and means of creating the works of art. The formation of a new type of cultural space in the conditions of the rapid development of electronic technologies leads to obvious changes in creative musical activity such as compositional and performing.

Reasons for Introducing Technology in Music

Technology started to impact music at the end of 19th century when microphone and first recorders appeared. However, the largest change in music and technology happened in the middle of the 20th century. The emerging process of creating new tools, parallel to the enthusiasm for ‘technical images’ of the early 20th century, grew into ‘machine music’ in the post-war period (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Machine music meant that it was composed and performed with the help of new technologies (Hepworth-Sawyer & Hodgson, 2017). The most significant prerequisite for the reorganization of musical art, such as images as well as the creative process of composition and performance, appeared because of the discoveries in the field of electronics and magnetic recording. However, this process of transition to new ‘machine’ technologies cannot be explained only by purely musical needs (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Apparently, there were also social and psychological reasons such as, for example, the spiritual devastation of a man of the post-war period. Thus, the catastrophic war still continued its destruction through damaging the aesthetic foundations of art. The powerful achievements of scientific and technical thought seemed to be the most real support and protection of people and the result of social progress. Consequently, music development correlated with technology advances, and this trend was projected to persist. Technology approached art, thus making it easier for innovations to penetrate the music industry. The development of technology led to the creation of new educational opportunities such as Electronic Arts or Digital Arts. Therefore, the number of experts, trained specifically for art and the music industry, only grows.

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Technology and Instruments

Creating musical instruments with modifications became possible only because of the development of technology. The most significant was the creation of the organ that had a huge impact on church music by replacing all other instruments and involving chorus. The most recent new instruments are eigenharp, electric violin, tenori-on, samchillian, hapi drum, hydraulophone, drawdio, ocarina, and so on. These instruments are used in new music genres, and they can be made out of new synthetic materials and give a new sound. Then, technology has enabled the replacement of obsolete instruments, such as the pianissimo, by modified ones such as the piano (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Thus, acoustic instruments could sound louder and be more convenient in use by musicians. At the same time, the hidden impact of technology concerns the materials for music instruments. For example, technology could provide new wood processing techniques for guitars or new metal refinement methodology for brass instruments. For example, the instrument called hang uses special material – nitrided steel (Solida, 2015). The invention of hang was the result of a long research on the materials that could provide the best sound.

The fundamental differences between the modern electronic musical instruments and traditional, or natural, musical instruments are found in the presence of a huge, truly inexhaustible variety of timbres and their shades. Thus, electronic musical instruments are able to simulate artificial acoustic effects of different kinds of rooms, such as hall or room, by placing musical instruments in a variety of acoustically colored virtual rooms (Taylor, 2014). These instruments can put the musical text in the form of a sequence of musical events with the reproduction of the sound palette of timbral, metrorhythmic, dynamic, and other musical works (MIDI sequencing) (Taylor, 2014). Finally, they can quantify the rhythmic pattern of a musical text, consisting in the alignment of the rhythmic pattern of a melody or textured accompaniment (Taylor, 2014). At the same time, electronic musical instruments allow the conversion of MIDI sequencing into notation text in the form of a clavier or score (Taylor, 2014). Thus, technological features provide a broad spectrum of new opportunities in music.

At the same time, the essential difference of a modern user with musical technical and computer equipment from the activity of an academic musician-performer lies in a new approach to the creative process. This difference is explained by the need to create a sound image of a particular instrument by using accurate and not intuitive knowledge about the application of one or another method in a musical context, while in the case of using computer technology, music is programmed. Thus, one of the most important consequence of technology impact is the modernization and development of new instruments for music production.

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Changing the Way Music Sounds. Digital Technology

Technology has enabled the recording of music and storing it on digital carriers. This change has created an entire industry of selling music and music commerce. Musicians have started to mix styles, integrate compositions, and so on. The first attempts to synthesize music were made already in the 1950s (Holmes, 2012). Scientists tried to compose melodies by using artificial timbres. In the 1980s, the first special programs for new music appeared (Holmes, 2012). These programs already made it possible to play, save, and edit music. The use of computers has become ubiquitous in concert practice. In general, digital technology has had a huge impact on music (Hepworth-Sawyer & Hodgson, 2017). Thanks to the ‘digit’ aspect, the electronic culture had all conditions to flourish. New genres, such as drum ‘n’ Bass, chaos, easy, techno, chillout, that remain the leader in the field of extra-academic music nowadays emerged (Holmes, 2012). Now, electronic means are a powerful tool for the synthesis of any musical genre, including fusing classical academic music with modern styles. At the beginning of the 21st century, the most popular was the synthesis of rock and pop music, while changes also happened in dance music, ambient, gothic dark wave, and emo (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Electronics here, like in rock of the 1960s-1970s, gives the sound a psychedelic touch (Holmes, 2012). This occurs partly because of the predominance of noise effects merging with harmony or due to medium and slow tempos as well as funky rhythms. Thus, technology has caused the emergence of new genres of music, specifically electronic music.

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Inventions that Impacted the Music Industry

Numerous inventions have changed the music industry. The first of them are phonograph and microphone back from the 19th century. They were the first steps to music recording. Then, headphones were invented in 1910 and stereo systems in 1935 (Solida, 2015). Music was stored on the magnetic tape, invented in 1928, or on the LP (Solida, 2015). In 1935, first magnetic tape recorder appeared (Solida, 2015). Other inventions included transistor radio (1954), compact cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, the Walkman, compact disc (1982), first samplers, ProTools, the MP3, iPod, and others (Solida, 2015). Even the Internet has changed the music world by allowing many music services, for example, Soundcloud to exist and be popular among music fans. Thus, the inventions that have impacted music are multifarious but mostly connected with music recording and reproducing.

Computerization

Another aspect of technology is computer music programs. They have been in active use since the beginning of the 21st century. They are united in several groups, the main of which are as follows. Thus, audio editors enable the separation of sound into parts, using processing effects, and so on, while software synthesizers allow creating sounds of various characteristics (Holmes, 2012). There are programs of multichannel recording and sound editing (studio device) as well as utilities and drivers, designed to work with external devices and play CDs, MIDI files, and so on (Holmes, 2012). Sequencers (from the word ‘sequence’) are used for recording, editing, playing, arranging MIDI tracks; other programs for working with MIDI enable the analysis of the melody, the selection of accompaniment in the appropriate style, and so on (Holmes, 2012). Finally, electronics makes it possible to build the acoustics of the hall or to operate with a three-dimensional space, which the composers have not thought of before.

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The methods discovered in electro-acoustic music form a new compositional technique (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Modern professional requirements for the composer suggest their knowledge in the field of acoustics, electroacoustics, electronic arts, and sound recording. For future composers, it is important to study software, the methods of sound synthesis, and the language of sound programming. Artists should familiarize themselves with the methods of controlling individual parameters of sounds, modeling resonance, and creating textured layers. Computer technology also gives composers the opportunity to conduct technical work. These requirements might increase the complexity of becoming an expert in music, but everyone should be familiar with the newest advances in today’s globalized world.

Modern computers provide unlimited possibilities for musicians. Using a sound card for a computer, one can play back instrument banks from any synthesizer (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Special sequencers allow people to record any melody and play it as much as they need. Recently, software samplers have become accessible for many people. Hardware implementations of the synthesizer and samplers are much more expensive than software and the sound of the computer is a little inferior (Taylor, 2014). To date, computers are able to simulate the sounds of any musical instrument, which makes them an indispensable component of any recording studio. In sum, using computers is one of the most widespread and powerful tools in the music industry. Any person without a special music education can create and/or edit music at home.

Performance

When the Beatles appeared, guitars and drums were advanced technologies for that time. However, they are ubiquitous now. Venerable musicians of the level of Madonna or the group Massive Attack think about their own unique technologies making their music (Purcell & Randall, 2016). Musicians care of what song they write, how they sing, how to play it, and how to create best performance for the audience. Nowadays, it is quite difficult to surprise people and convey mood just by singing a song. Currently, a huge flow of visual and musical information is everywhere and every day, which can overwhelm some people. To surprise a listener and attract their attention, an artist’s work must reach combine audio with visual as well as other effects.

How It Works


New technologies have enabled music to merge with other arts. For example, visual arts and choreography are the result of these technologies. The art of digital performance and the functioning of music in it have become a relatively new problem field of contemporary art criticism. Digital performance is an audiovisual product, a multimedia project that functions as a commercial art, aimed at a mass audience, the so-called group consciousness. This positioning determines its most important musical properties. One of the most important conditions for compositional activity is sound experimentation, while its degree can depend on the artistic concept of the project, genre, script features, and technical equipment of the performance or installation (Purcell & Randall, 2016). The search for new ways to enhance the expressiveness of visual series actualizes the principle of design, sound modeling, associated with the creation of new (often synthesized) sounds, noises, and other sound effects. Finally, another aspect of how technology has affected music performance is stage construction that would enhance listener’s experience.

Conclusion

Over the past hundred years, humanity has made a giant leap forward, having covered numerous stages of technological progress. The rapid development of technology has played an important role in the development of musical creativity and various new directions. Currently, the development of modern musical instruments and tools is based on the mutual influence and interconnection of a wide range of possibilities of computer technologies and hardware with artistic processes in contemporary musical art. The new creative toolkit stimulates the integration of scientific methods into musicology, although those methods were previously considered as the prerogative of sciences such as math, signal processing, or electrical engineering. Thereby, this enables the transition of research into a higher level of knowledge of the musical work, when science becomes an instrument for the research of performing art and not just a system of knowledge about the technology of sound formation and its perception. Technology helps music to become a higher form of art and to erase borders between its different forms. In general, technology is quite beneficial for all music genres, commerce, and performance, while it even helps to preserve classical music by improving the recording and digitization of old recordings that possess a high value for artists and music experts.

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