Does Technology Make Music Better?

This past weekend I was on a flight to Los Angeles and I came across this article about the Hapifork. Are you familiar with it? The Hapifork is the next generation of everyday utensils (or so says Skymall). The fork as we know it has remained unchanged for centuries. It has been the staple of functionality for food consumption. But if time has taught us anything, change is inevitable and all things must be upgraded. So, next came the spork; a useless blend between the spoon and fork, which does neither well. Then we were introduced to the Knork, which added a blade onto one side of the fork. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the end result of putting a blade in your mouth. Finally, along comes the technological breakthrough in which your fork can actually tell you if you are eating too much. Yes, call it the year of the Jetsons but for $99 your fork can buzz when it notices that you are not pacing yourself and are eating too fast. I might be alone, but I doubt that I will anytime soon be so rudely interrupted by a vibrating fork upon attending a dinner party. In fact, I think it is safe to say that technology is not quite changing how we eat our food. Most of us will stick with the simple, yet reliable, fork. Sorry Hapifork, you meant well.

It is easy for me not to be swayed by the gimmick of the Hapifork. To disregard the “Next hip thing” and be confident with what I know works. When it comes to music however, I find it much easier to get caught up in the latest gadget in hopes to improve how I make music. But does Technology make music better? Now days, we have seen how music entered into the Digital revolution at lightning speed. No longer are we listening to music in traditional forms such as Vinyl records or CD’s, but instead, we have opted for the more convenient digital download. Even most live performances today are done with backing tracks that replace musicians, singers who filter their voices through auto-tune and DJ’s who just press play on their live sets to reveal pre-made mixes. To add to this list, digital instruments have become commonplace in modern recordings, almost completely replacing the need for traditional instruments.

Technology, while it has enhanced music in different respects, has not made it better. Just like the Hapifork, good music starts with its most simple form; a good song. A good song is a good song whether it is being performed by a world class DJ or on an acoustic guitar in a coffee shop. What makes music good is its ability to move you towards an emotion. It is easy to be distracted into thinking that music improves with the advancement of sound production. What makes Beethoven’s 9th symphony great is not the evolution of the modern day violin, or the improvement of the woodwinds tonal quality, but rather that the musical aspects of melody, harmony and structure have stood the test of time. What makes music good is a having a melody that can be sung by five year olds and remembered when they are 95. If the listener can predict when the chorus is coming or where the next movement in the symphony is going, this usually constitutes a great piece of music. If you can sit down with an acoustic guitar and have a room full of friends sing along, that’s a good marker that the music you’re playing is worth listening to. Technology has improved our musical experience and in some rights has made music more enjoyable, but good music still exists void of any digital advancement or modern tweak in manufacturing. This week, I am going to get back to the root of good music and just keep it simple. Nothing beats a good melody and a non-vibrating fork.

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