Has Technology Ruined Music?

March 24, 2011

One of the trademark complaints of older generations of music fans is that today’s music is created on a computer, or “ripped off” from the music of previous generations. Of course, the “young people don’t respect nothing” argument has been around since the days of Ancient Rome, and that is a different topic altogether. The specific point made, however, is something I often ponder. Is today’s music even music?

Like most things in this world, this is not a black and white issue. While I believe there are some major drawbacks to computer-generated music, I also believe it has opened the door for creative, out-of-the-box artists to make new and exciting music. Sampling old songs, as long as it is done with the original artist’s permission, is not only a great way to make fresh music but also introduces younger generation to great music from the past. For instance, I world never have gotten into Sam Cooke had I not heard Papoose’s sampling of “A Change is Gonna Come” on “50 Shots.” That would be a real shame, as I consider Cooke to be one of the greatest recording artists ever. Music is meant to bring people together, and electronically incorporated samples can bridge generational gaps.

One thing that should be made clear: studio production is not exclusive to hip-hop, and had been around way before DJ Kool Herc spun his first record at a South Bronx birthday bash. Songs like Ray Charles’ classic “I Believe to My Soul” was recorded using over-dubs, as was Bruce Springsteen’s title track from “Born to Run.” Even today, artists of various genres use electronically enhanced sounds to create music. Many producers have extensive music knowledge and talent, and some can even play musical instruments. Think about it: who in their right mind would say DJ Premier isn’t a creative genius because he doesn’t play guitar?

I do realize that technology has the possibility to induce laziness. A lot of artists today are e-mailed “beats” and then record lyrics to them. This is a major flaw in the music making process. Jay-Z once said that he never records a song unless the producer is in the studio with him, because face-to-face collaboration can change and improve the entire direction of a song. Another problem with technologically enhanced music is that some of it is entirely created synthetically. However, there are still many artists who record with live instruments or incorporate them into production.

Don’t get me wrong; I have great respect for musicians. It takes extraordinary skill to play an instrument. However, this does not make producers- especially those who collaborate with a team of knowledgeable engineers in an honest effort to create great music- inferior to musicians in any way.

In a previous article on this site, I predicted that as record sales decline, artists who can put on a great live show will be more financially successful than those who rely on the likes of auto-tune and synth beats. Still, there are those who use sound systems to put on excellent concerts. All in all, I feel that, despite its drawbacks from studio-production generally has improved the quality of music. I look forward to more creativity and innovation by producers and musicians alike in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: