Will Music Lose Its Soul?
By Dendy Jarrett |
Will Music Lose Its Soul?
If it does, don't expect technology to be the culprit
by Dendy Jarrett
There's a quote attributed to Freddie Mercury: "We are in a golden age of music. There will be a time when technology becomes so advanced that we'll rely on it to make music rather than raw talent...and music will lose its soul." Granted, he’s not around to verify whether he said that. But while it’s true that technology has come a long, long way since the glory days of Queen’s Mercury era, people have been talking about "music losing its soul to technology" ever since we stopped using bones to hit things...so do they actually have a point? Of course not, and here's why.
Back in the 50s, singers started using—horrors!--reverb and EQ, which some felt was simply a crutch for teen idols who were chosen primarily for their looks. Multitrack recording and punching are no longer considered evil, nor are samplers, yet they were originally thought of as "cheating."
Reality check #1: Music technology is like anything else—powerful in the right hands and horrible in the wrong ones. Reality check #2: Queen could not have released Bohemian Rhapsody without the cutting-edge technology that existed at the time. All of the layering, delay, and chorus effects were so crucial to the song that, in concert, they had to rely on backing tracks (while using video as a distraction from the fact that it couldn’t be performed live with the same sound).
So how many people have argued that technology stole the soul from Bohemian Rhapsody? Show of hands...
Yeah, that's what I thought.
Anyway, it’s true that many of today's stars are the result of a management company that sees "talent" as a commodity (that is, money to be made) and thanks to technology, raw talent is optional. I’ve been backstage at some major concerts (I won’t name names) and saw the pitch correction processors getting an exhaustive workout to keep up with the artist being so horribly out of tune. I’ve participated in radio shows in which artists were asked to sing a few bars of a hit, and I had to leave the listening room out of embarrassment for the artist.
And yes, in many cases, over the course of a few years and with vocal coaching raw talent may catch up with perceived talent. But sadly, it often doesn't.
Certainly today, we’ve seen the trend come and go (I hope) of the effects-drenched over-the-top vocals that make everyone sound like they stepped out of the movie Tron. While pitch correction wasn’t really necessary for someone with Cher's talent and simply added a fun gimmick, it was necessary for someone like Kanye.
So really, if there's any soul being stolen, look for humans to show up in the security cameras. If you’ve ever recorded in the studio and liked the raw mix much better than the "polished" version...then you've witnessed human-based soul stealing at work. We all know technology can never replace raw talent, but we have to be aware that misused technology can neuter that raw talent.
Perhaps Freddie Mercury was looking much farther ahead than our generation when he supposedly made this statement...maybe to a time when we travel between planets, and forget what it feels like to throw a towel down by a lake, put some tunes on, and feel the sun warm us. Or to spend an afternoon at the park, pull out a guitar, and sing (with raw talent) with some friends. Technology will never kill that—or steal its soul. -HC-
What do you think? Will technology suck the soul out of music? Join the Discussion here ...
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.