Technological and musical developments go hand in hand.
In the early 18th century, the discovery (or rediscovery) of well-temperament spurred composers such as J.S. Bach to tune their instruments in new ways, making it possible to play music in all keys and essentially paving the way for what we now think of as Western classical music.
After the U.S. Civil War, cast-off martial instruments from the conflict were appropriated, combined with traditional African instruments (such as the banjo) and musical idioms, and used to create a new form of semi-improvised ensemble music with syncopated rhythms: Dixieland. Which in turn begat jazz.
The rise of radio helped popularize big-band and swing music. Rock and roll wouldn't be rock and roll without the electric guitar, and TVis responsible for driving it into millions of homes. Improvements in recording techniques, amplification, and stage lighting gave us concept albums and arena-rock spectacles.
Now, digital technology is forcing another musical transition. Macs are becoming as common on stage as guitars and drums. Old business models are dyingor dead. At the same time, musicians have never had an easier time connecting with their audiences, even as those audiences are fragmenting and paying less money for more music than ever before.
In this blog, I plan to cover the technological advances that are driving musical innovation, changing the music business, and making more types of music more accessible than ever before.
Who am I to presume? On one hand (probably the right, which corresponds to the left brain), I've written about personal technology and the high-tech industry for 12 years. On the other hand, I've been an active, occasionally professional (gig money for beer!) musician, playing and recording (yes, that's a plug) electric bass guitar, for about the same amount of time. From both perspectives, I've followed the transition from demo tapes and flyers, through IUMA and MP3s, to laptop battles, CDBaby, and MySpace. (If you know what I'm talking about without following the links, this blog's especially for you.)
A couple of things to get out of the way, so I can point back to this post whenever somebody e-mails me about them.
1. I work for a company that analyzes Microsoft products, technologies, and business strategies. Because I know a lot about the subject, I might write about Microsoft more than some other folks writing about music and technology would. I have purchased, and happily use, many Microsoft products. However, I have also purchased, and happily use, many products from Microsoft competitors, including Apple (I am typing this on a Mac) and Google, among many others. Some Microsoft products are lame, and some of their business practices and marketing strategies could be called misleading at best. My point: I'll try to be objective, but if you reflexively hate everything coming out of Redmond, I might occasionally annoy you. Don't bother e-mailing me to tell me so.
2. Yes, I play music. However, the previous link is the only time I'm ever going to plug any of my musical projects, or the projects of my friends, with the exception of musicians who happened to be my friends before they became famous and did something interesting with technology, and are therefore worthy of mention. (A category that currently numbers zero.)
I welcome feedback--not necessarily the amplified kind, but definitely the e-mail kind. My e-mail address is mattrosoff at hotmail dot com (spelled out in an attempt to stave off the inevitable spambot deluge).
On with the show.