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Are computers a sort of End of History for music instruments? now that we have devices that can produce any form of sound wave and automation that made music execution independent of physical processes, is there ever going to be a truly new musical instrument? could a newly-thought UI significantly affect what new music is made?

@hisham_hm there will be new synthesis techniques and new user interfaces, and surely cross-pollination between them

I would guess the lack of innovation rn is more cultural than anything, I can't imagine we've done more than scratch the surface of ways of digitizing actions, providing rich feedback, and generating audio from them

@martensitingale I hope you're right! In any case, there's always endless ways of coming up with new uses for the existing stuff, even. So there shouldn't be a shortage of new music.

But perhaps the outburst of new styles in the 2nd half of the 20th century, accelerated by the development of new instruments, was a historical anomaly.

@hisham_hm @martensitingale i don't want to make too strong a set of claims here, but i think you've got to look at recording and transmission as a driver as much as any other other technological factor.

(not that you can easily separate those things from all the other sonic innovation happening at the time.)

(and now that i think about it: i'm pretty sure we lost as much as we gained. maybe more, in some ways that matter.)

@hisham_hm @martensitingale (to expand on that second parenthetical: we've got an astonishing set of tools for making sounds, now, but what we don't have in this era of amplified and recorded music is anywhere near as many people who can and do sing and make music as part of the daily fabric of their lives.)

@brennen @hisham_hm @martensitingale Proportionally not as many, but I think in absolute terms the number of people with the means and free time to make music is increasing because the barriers to entry are dropping and the population is growing.

@cbowdon @brennen @martensitingale yeah, but the fact that a gazillion people make music in absolute numbers (while everyone listens to/has exposure to the top 40) probably has less direct impact on one person than being raised in a family with musical formation. Is that what you were alluding to, @brennen?

@hisham_hm @cbowdon @martensitingale yeah, just exactly that - in my grandparents' generation (born 20s-30s american midwest), nearly everyone could sing on at least a basic level, since it was an integral part of church / home / work life. my parents were still raised in homes where that was a factor, and at times of heightened emotion, i'll still catch glimpses of it - we sang hymns when my grandma was dying, my aunts will sing harmonies around a campfire sometimes...

@hisham_hm @cbowdon @martensitingale ...but i think that, at least in US culture, for people my age, there's very few of us who have direct access to that. music became something made by special people, something we consumed. there's a lot more of it by volume, in theory, but there are important ways it's no longer woven into the way we relate and express ourselves in general.

@brennen @hisham_hm @martensitingale Fair point. I don’t think my grandparents ever did more than mumble along to hymns at school, but obviously different cultures etc.

@cbowdon @brennen @hisham_hm @martensitingale

interestingly folk music still seems to have a fairly popular niche in Northern Europe, and coexists alongside modern instruments like synthesisers and the use of digital recording (in the Netherlands there are even pirate radio stations devoted to it, and people make use of obsolete PC's and surplus components from mobile phone infrastructure to build the transmitters.

Also you can order bagpipes online from Bavaria (as well as Scotland!) 😆

@brennen @martensitingale definitely, multitrack recording changed music more than any single instrument.

the fact that Les Paul is a pioneer of both the electric guitar and multitrack recording is nothing short of amazing.

@hisham_hm Electronic music's capable of perfect abstract emulation of any instrument, but barring some new invention the output is always going to be limited by the physics of speakers, and those aren't improving all that fast. To use an extreme example, the 1812 Overture is pretty hard to reproduce accurately.

@hisham_hm Ghost in the Shell had cyborg musicians who transmitted music directly to the listeners' augmented brains.

@hisham_hm But that is probably a long way away. (and might not even be feasible)

@grainloom but how would that make the music any different than we have today? implanting a wav file in my brain is a wav file still -- we can put these ones and zeros together today.

@hisham_hm You could stimulate more than the auditory parts of the brain and you could have better control over what is delivered or incredibly tightly coupled feedback from your audience.

@grainloom yeah, but music is by definition about sound. I'd call such a "multimedia" experience something else :)

@hisham_hm @grainloom
You could transmit sounds that couldn't normally be heard, and so you could incorporate such sounds.

The normal way to do this right now is with beat frequencies, but if you use monaural beats you need high volume while with binaural you need headphones or properly-placed speakers. Plus, with beats, you don't just get the envelope -- you get the carrier being modulated too.

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