Dating back as far as human history takes us, music has consisted of strings, percussion, and wind.
With the advent of electricity, we recorded music, but really didn’t nail the electricity/music combination until the electric guitar hit mainstream around the 1970s.
All of a sudden, we heard a different sound.
Are you a Led Zeppelin fan? Maybe Metallica? Personally I’m not, but how cool must that have been to hear Slash rip a solo on stage for the first time. What did “rock and roll” sound like to an 80 year old who grew up on vaudeville? Electric guitar was a brand new sound to human ears – an rare accomplishment in the history of music.
On a grander scale, that’s what’s happening right now.
My ear dances toward Electronic Dance Music – music created using only your MacBook Pro. For the first time in the history of music, we are creating sounds without the use of wind, strings, or a drum equivalent.
For the first time in recordable history, “instrument-less” music doesn’t just exist, but is arguably the most popular music in arguably the world’s most important country. For the first time ever, a computer is the instrument, introducing us to sounds literally unimaginable to someone 50 years ago.
Take a ride in my time machine back 60 years. Play them any song off Skrillex’s album Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.
Since the beginning, we have invented new instruments, but they have always been a variation of strings, percussion, or wind. Can you name an instrument as unique as the computer?
Is this the 40-year window where music changed forever?
Where will music be in 50 years? Electricity is not going away, nor is the idea we can make music from it. In 50 years we may have original sounds, but electricity will (probably) be the basis of its creation.
Take a ride in my time machine to the year 3013. I’m assuming music will always exist, and let’s more safely assume they still have Ryan Seacrest’s Top 40. Do you think electricity will play at least a small role in their popular music? Until maybe 100 years ago, electricity played zero role in any music ever composed. While I can’t predict the future, I can’t imagine how electricity or a futuristic equivalent could play zero role in day-to-day life.
I think for the next hundreds, maybe thousands of years, people will reflect on our lifetime as the period of greatest significance in recordable history – when the computer joined the Strings, Percussion, and Wind fraternity.