Since the beginning of time, we have been evolving. The further and further away we get from the conception of life, the more and more we become a species that has learned to adapt to its surroundings while creating more surroundings to adapt to. Ie. Technology.
First I should explain where we have come from. In analog technology, a wave is recorded or used in its original form. This is how the first recording were done and continue to be done. Originally, we used actual tape to do the recording and if it needed edits, markers would be used to darken out the tape or pieces would actually be cut out. Things are much simpler now. In digital technology, the analog wave is sampled at some interval, and then turned into numbers that are stored in the digital device, example, your computer, a CD, MP3, etc. Editing can be done easily on a computer screen and changes can be made to the sound, just by altering the code, read by the device.
Why the switch? My answer is why not? We do everything we can as humans to make life easier. We work towards efficiency and using our time wisely. We want better quality. We look for guarantees and fool proof plans. Of course we would turn to the digitalization of music in order to expedite more and more of it, as the demand grows. With the click of a button we can bend sound into submission, making it do exactly what we want it to. Auto tune is a prime example that changes the human voice to have it sound as if it is in key, most often sounding rather contrived as it too uses digital sound as a legend.
How did this movement start?
I’ve been around since the 70’s. This means when I went to school, people were still talking about the 60’s. I think things were still pretty tame in the 60’s although with the influx of drugs and the hippy movement, it is possible that humans were changing the genetic makeup of their minds and passing it on to their next generations, ie. Myself. But along with this liberated movement of the youth back then, technology was ever expanding too and with the invention of computers and then Macs, the creative process of music making was simplified and a whole new world of possibilities opened up. The basic rules of composition no longer applied as people were setting up their own home studios everywhere, making what they believed to be fine music.
Artists that stand out in my own childhood are people like Donna Summer with her I feel Love track, very very fun, I can just imagine it playing loudly at a disco. Then we have, of course, Depeche Mode, a band that continues to revel in digital music, responsible for a cult like following they’ve been evolving and morphing their sound for decades. Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, another pioneer in electronic music. Again, decades upon decades of musical musings, pushed by newer and newer technology.
Electronic music is a world of its own and it’s one I enjoy being lost in. When the Rave movement started, I was right on board with my lego necklace and fuzzy jacket. Raving got a bad rap because of drugs but not all who raved did drugs because you certainly didn’t have to be high to enjoy yourself and let your heartbeat be moved by the bass, I’m a prime example of that. Time has passed but electronic music has continued to blossom. Programs such as Garageband, Acid Pro, Logic, Soundforge, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, there are so many, all these software programs have been created in the last couple decades that have just blown all other attempts at efficient music making out of the water.
Now, all over the place, on every vehicle of media we find some type of music that has been digitally altered, if not all of it. All sound that is released into the universe now, online or in recorded form has been converted into a series of 1s and 0s. It’s very rare that something is released in its original state and in order to get analog sound, chances are you may have to go see an orchestra.
I’m always comparing analog versus digital to warm versus cool colours. Analog would be warm, digital is cooler. But, in the world we live in, it’s becoming more and more glaringly obvious that we need both to make earth spin properly. There will still be people at the local bar doing Bob Dylan covers on their old acoustic guitar, there will be even more 13 year old Rebecca Blacks that are auto tuned and manufactured into some type of Fruit Roll Up product.
Some of the first integral pioneers in the world of digital music are as follows:
*Elisha Gray was an American electrical engineer. Gray is best known for his development of a telephone prototype in 1876 in Highland Park, Illinois and is considered by some writers to be the true inventor of the variable resistance telephone, despite losing out to Alexander Graham Bell for the telephone patent. Gray is also considered to be the father of the modern music synthesizer, and was awarded over 70 patents for his inventions
*Max Vernon Mathews (born November 13, 1926, in Columbus, Nebraska) is a pioneer in the world of computer music. Mathews wrote MUSIC, the first widely-used program for sound generation, in 1957. For the rest of the century, he continued as a leader in digital audio research, synthesis, and human-computer interaction as it pertains to music performance.
*Dr. Robert Arthur Moog (pronounced /ˈmoʊɡ/, MOHG), commonly called Bob Moog (May 23, 1934 – August 21, 2005) was an American pioneer of electronic music, best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. The Moog synthesizer was one of the first widely used electronic musical instruments.. Moog developed the voltage controlled oscillators, ADSR envelope generators, and other synthesizer modules. Moog shipped a piano-style keyboard as the standard user interface to his synthesizers. Moog also established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.
These men are simply scientific catalysts to what humankind as a species had already put in motion.
I decided to take a different spin on things by putting it out there that WE are indeed the true inventors now. We, as society, has created the technology to be able to do whatever we so desire with sound. Almost like a snowflake, no two sounds mixed by two different ears will sound the same now. The voltage may be different, attack and release may vary, even each computer system or software program may render the track differently. It’s a game, an illustrious game… A choose your own adventure story.
Yes, these inventors and entertainers I mentioned beforehand had much to do in the way the world has created or perceived digital music but now, I think it’s safe to say that WE are the inventors. Children are taught in primary school, as young as Grade 3, how to start layering sounds and using clips, training their ears to hear all the melodies of each possible instrument, not just one. That didn’t happen for me when I was a kid but it’s happening for my children and I can just imagine how much farther ahead we’ll be in another 2 decades. Funny thing is, the younger generations ears are being trained to hear a digital version of the original sound and not the analog version so much… I guess this is how evolution continues.
I made a small video montage of an energetic piece that friends of mine, Gridmode, wrote called Camouflage. I added my own video clips from various places to tease the eye and used my editing skills as much as possible. I did this visual in order to prove my point that we are the inventors. This track was conceived in the minds of two brilliant men, coming from absolutely nothing into fruition. I am ever recording video and the clips taken are from other videos or other friends of mine who are always eager to be a part of a creative venture.
WE are the inventors of our art. There have been pioneers, we’ve had mentors, times have changed and not everything old is new again… I love looking at where we have come from in order to speculate where we are going. I for one will have a first class seat to wherever it’s going because I’m my own Captain and I’m looking at the Great Blue Yonder with wide open ears.