Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hacking Music: Minutiae

(Picture from here.)

A couple of people have asked why I'm so excited by what is happening in Japanese music. After all, I'm talking about changes in rhythm, use of technique-- small changes not big ones. After all, if one song is combining 3/4 and 4/4 time what difference does it make? It's a slight change in rhythm.

Good question.

We Americans like to think of revolutions as big, noisy things full of vim and vigor, sound and fury. Maybe that's an American thing since our own private little revolution took place in a war.

But the causes of revolutions are often small, unsung and unnoticed things. The PC revolution didn't start with the Apple or the IBM PC. The Altair 8800 was released in 1975. We think of the PC as the beginning of the end for large monolithic computers-- at least Apple's famous superbowl ad would have us think so. But the end of the big machines was written in the sand by the minicomputers developed in the sixties. More probably the revolution really started in 1959 with the development of the integrated circuit. That technology enabled everything else. The ubiquity of the computer could not have been predicted by the first IC-- though there was some rumblings in the SF community. But who listens to those kooks?

Similarly, while we can look back and see the roots of Baroque music in the tail end of the Renaissance the people at the time had no idea Baroque music was coming. While we can see elements of Bach in Mozart and Mozart in Beethoven, Bach could not have predicted Mozart nor Mozart, Beethoven.

It is very clear we're on the brink of interesting musical times-- have been for some time. The technology has completely exploded. Creation of music is at hand for both the amateur and professional musician-- blurring the boundary. Distribution of music is as easy as making a youtube video.

So I look for tiny clues. More polyphony. Crowdsourcing creativity. Unusual blending of rhythms. Use of enabling technology.

I'm looking for the wave front.

I might be disappointed. I don't mind. I've been there before. I can take it.

But it's always a heck of a ride.

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