Column by Richard Lyne
Rock, country, rap and pop. For most of us, it feels like these genres have been around forever, but they’re all actually fairly recent innovations in music. All of them originated with black slaves.
Displaced from their tribal homelands, these people kept the spirit of their lifestyle alive with rousing songs that touched their very spirits. From these slaves, we inherited Southern Gospel music, which held the roots of blues in its accounts of suffering. Blues evolved into country and rock, both of which were founded on the idea of the common people’s struggles in everyday life. Finally, they led to today’s modern pop music, which combines the upbeat sounds of rock with a happier mood and our more optimistic modern culture.
But this isn’t the end of the story. As much as we’ve become used to our own time’s music, we also acknowledge the music of the past any time we listen to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bowling for Soup or any other artist from days gone by. Now, with the advances in information technology and communication offered by the Internet, music is leaping ahead into futuristic genres. Keeping in mind how far music has come, it might be wise to buckle up and keep an open mind as we go diving into unfamiliar territory.
Don’t worry though – we’re bringing the past along with us.
One type of emergent music in our own time is dubstep, house music, and other forms of electronica. At first glance, this seems obvious to those of us that have gotten used to hearing this type of music on a regular basis. But for the rest of music history, this is an unprecedented jump forward. Never before has music used electronics to actually generate sounds. Rock and roll was a huge advance because physical instruments could be amplified and distorted in enormously creative ways. But now, music can actually be created and performed by computers.
The Japanese artist Hatsune Miku is insanely popular both in her own country and around the world, performing for massive audiences. She’s also a holographic projection. Her “voice” is an alteration of a real human voice, and the hologram can be made to say just about anything through the use of variations in pitch, tempo, and prerecorded samples. Electronic music is completely challenging the nature and definition of what it means to play music and create content. Now, an artist can rise to fame through their use of technical skills and technology, never once needing to appear personally in public.
Electronica is just one example of how music is leaping ahead exponentially in our own time, so fast that we ourselves will soon have trouble keeping up with all of the new content being released and rising to fame. In fact, the use of autotuning software allows individuals at home the luxury of becoming “great” singers – before we know it, perhaps everyone truly will have 15 minutes of fame, through the rise of emergent music.