Musicians - A Butterfly Effect
By Dendy Jarrett | (edited)
Can a small change net a big change?
by Dendy Jarrett
Dear Musician –
Chaos theory says that a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in a large difference in a latter state. In simpler terms, chaos theory means that (in theory) a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico can cause a typhoon in China due to subsequent changes in the wind currents it creates. While a typhoon in China may be an extreme representation of the theory, we’ve already seen plenty of examples throughout history by which seemingly insignificant events triggered profound changes.
How can the butterfly effect create change in the music world? Consider the TR-808, which flapped its butterfly wings and sent hip-hop and dance music in a different direction. Or a guy in a college dorm named Sean Fanning, who wanted to create a network so he could share music with friends—and essentially ended the record business as we knew it. Or the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, when a one-night TV appearance transformed the music industry to such an extent we’re still feeling the aftershocks today. How many thought that the invention of S-VHS videotape would mean the end of analog tape recording, courtesy of the Alesis ADAT? Then there’s the impact Madonna had in the late 80s that affected fashion, music videos, and even concerts.
Could you have a butterfly effect impact? Someone influenced every musician. Someone showed each of them how to play their instrument(s). Someone, be it a relative, friend, or another musician they heard on the radio, fueled their desire to make music. And those “someones” were influenced previously by yet another group of “someones”…and so on. This underscores the unpredictability of the principles of chaos, whereby we can never know how all the initial conditions of complex circumstance can affect the steering currents of the future.
So what you do today can have a long-lasting effect on the world of music. Teaching a child to play an instrument could be the catalyst. Playing a song at your next gig that sparks a couple to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after with “their song” could be a catalyst that changes two lives and the lives of all they touch. You might pen a song that gets sampled as the next dance music anthem—after all, a flag waving in the wind was what caused Francis Scott Key to write the song that became the national anthem of the United States.
Even something as simple as buying a set of strings helps put food on the table for a family you don’t even know. That guitar pedal you bought could have been the one pedal that a boutique pedal manufacturer needed to make payroll. When our own Craig Anderton wrote the book Electronic Projects for Musicians, he just wanted to pay the bills because Popular Electronics magazine didn’t want to run DIY music projects anymore. Little did he know that, decades later, companies would credit that book as the catalyst for their start in this industry. MIDI began over 30 years ago as a way to have a single keyboard trigger multiple synthesizers, and now it’s in billions of smart phones and mobile devices.
Imagine what would happen if every musician went out next week and bought an instrument, accessory, or software program—it would be like a GoFundMe on steroids for the industry. Think of the positive effect this would have on the thousands of people who have parlayed their love of music into a lifelong career of making great instruments for those who love to make music. And who knows where that would lead!
It’s impossible to measure the effects of all the butterflies in the world and how they impact the weather. Likewise, your lasting effect on someone you inspire to make music may never be known. But you can be certain that there is an effect. So go ahead—be a musical butterfly. Flap your wings and keep playing your music. Music will thank you in the long run.
And before we leave the subject of butterflies…if you like the Make Better Music newsletter and find it inspirational in your musical endeavors, please share it with one other musician. You may never know the impact you’ll be making. - HC -
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.
Edited by Dendy Jarrett