|Persona Digital |
New Music Century 21
New Age music that emerged in the 1970's was often peaceful, dreamy and unstructured sounds played on synthesizers and quiet instruments. The idea was to feel calm if not blissful. Chanting merged with synthesizer pads and flute obligatos. I especially recall Paul Winter's Missa Gaia, a world mass that celebrated the wolf and whale.
The idea of "new" has to be updated continuously. You could argue that if it happened yesterday, it is already old. I often read people who are educated in art history and architecture who describe things happening now as "postmodern". Someone many years ago decided that modern had ended. But the term modern, like new, properly used, describes a continuously advancing wave of events that must be updated continuously. There really is no "postmodern" or "postnew."
In the history of music, each musical "genius" added his own innovations so that the ideas that drove musical composition progressed, despite the resistance of patrons and audiences. There has always been a battle between audiences who want more of the same and composers who were innovative. Many creative composers suffered repeated rejection and penury. In the 20th century tradition and innovation continued to compete.
"New" eventually acquired value as a marketing claim, but audiences paid increasing sums to attend concerts with expectation they would hear repetitions of old and familiar tunes. When the term "new music" is used to describe more repetitions of existing musical styles, music that is truly innovative is neglected. You might notice that these new releases are often covers of old tunes or variations, interpretations, and imitations. Or, music is replaced by talking or shouting mixed with somewhat rhythmic noise. The tendency toward noise, moving away from music is apparent in popular music intended for teen-agers and young adults who tend to be rebellious, sometimes angry and tolerate noise better than older adults. Intoxication with drugs can be added to the mix to assure that the participants are totally disconnected from any “reality” that more sober and reasonable citizens value.
Human societies follow a dialectic path with advances and regressions, sometimes occurring together in a confusing contradictory way. The most obvious regression in pop music is back to frantic dancing, featuring the sexual movements of intercourse and costumes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. These version of sexual dance, shouting, groaning and grimacing require only a loud kick drum in 4/4 time and a deep bass drone to keep the audience in a frenzied state. This is old human behavior dating back thousands of years.
In the past, music was referred to as an art form and musical artists were people who had practiced their craft for many years and excelled in their technical and expressive abilities. Classical musicians are polite, well groomed, well dressed people who bring skill and dignity to their performances. Many are university trained. But, now everyone with an electric guitar and amplifier is a musician, even an artist. Some punk rockers boast of their 3 chord vocabulary. With the loss of a tradition of credentials, talent and skill, music is truly egalitarian. Anarchy replaces order and noise is called "music". If your interest is primarily making rhythmic noise that sells, then you switch to rap, hip hop and erotic dance pop.
Many music categories became obsolete by the end of the 20th century. Music styles interbred and proliferated beyond anyone's ability to classify and defend musical styles in a meaningful way. You could argue that this is good -- musical styles should be proliferating and evolving. Or you might value tradition over innovation and argue that styles should have well defined boundaries that players respect and audiences rely on. The proliferation of styles is supported by the internet and unprecedented music distribution network that erases many boundaries and permits aspiring musician to seek direct access to audiences.
If you asked me how would you change the course of musical history? My first impulse would be to restore credentials, ban noise and reward only those who produce beautiful sounds that made everyone feel happy and well. But then I would realize that creativity in music and all other human activities has been banned or punished by authorities who resisted change. As in all matters human, idealistic goals are seldom achieved. Beauty and truth are achieved only for brief moments and rarely appear on MTV.
I will consider a variety of ideas for new music in the 21st century and offer some examples as new music emerges in my studio. I have experimented with sound production, algorithmic composition, and every strategy that has emerged to enable beginners and experts alike to assemble sounds in ways that seem meaningful to them. I have been interested in meditation music, hypnotic sounds, cool jazz, electronic dance, chill, new age soothing music, and minimalist composers such as Philip Glass. A meaningful inquiry into the possibilities for authentic new music will involve philosophy, neuroscience, acoustic science, technology, and an understanding of human nature.