Technological advancements and society's mentality towards it.
Does technology overshadow skill?
I had an interesting conversation the other day on an instant messenger with a good friend whom, due to the pace of everyday life, I don't get to see too much of. We are both passionate musicians and were catching up on how our musical lives were going. The conversation moved onto technology and how it seems to effect many musicians, music industry and our approach to music. This got me thinking, if technology has an obvious effect on the music industry, then surely it has effects in other facets of our lives and society? What are some of these effects and are we conscious of the greater implication of change, that the advancement of technology brings?
Music is an art. It takes time, years, to develop your skill, technique and ears. The reason it takes years is because we change. Our likes and dislikes change, our opinions shift and we are constantly seeing and hearing things with a slightly different perspective than before. This is the musical journey and the evolution of a musician. Many people don't see it like this. They are more interested in the instant gratification, than the effort and discipline it takes to shape ones craft into a conduit for them to express themselves musically. It is a beautiful concept, magic almost.
The advancement in music technology evened the playing field so to speak. Things became more affordable, so more people began exploring music and various instruments. As time went on and technology advanced, media became more involved. Media made music more popular. We didn't necessarily have to go out to a club to watch a musical act and be entertained, we could listen on the radio to all the songs that were popular. Television also got involved, producing MTV and VH1. Music was popular and the public could see the appeal of the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. More and more people started picking up instruments and starting bands. It has got to the point that we don't need live musicians any more to produce a song and sell it. Because we live in a consumer society, music becomes a means to sell a commodity. Music as an art skill has been in a decline ever since. Mainstream media dictates what is popular, and unfortunately what is popular is not the level of musicianship, but the over-produced image that sells a lifestyle.
Technology has guaranteed us speed and near instant gratification. We no longer need big expensive studios, which is great, but it also brings in a rush of quasi-musicians whose interest is in the business of music and not the art of music. We have become use to this instant gratification, that we prefer it over exercising discipline, and spending time on improving our craft. It is much easier to have a computer correct all the mistakes, and package it up neatly into a product for the populace to enjoy. Have we already forgotten that music is an art which one can express themselves? Music was never meant to be perfect. It is the tiny mistakes that a musician makes that gives them their individuality, and because we each express ourselves differently, we each sound slightly different. Imagine if every musician played every note precisely perfect? They would sound like a machine – every musician would sound the same. What is the point of expressing oneself if everyone else sounded just like you? There would be no need for music any more. We might as well let radio stations and television decide what we listen to...Oh wait...
It seems as though we have become addicted to the technology that was there originally to aid and make our lives easier. Now it has made our lives so easy, that we have handed our creative, individual power to over-production and auto-tune. We have become lazy and impatient, wanting great songs, but not wanting to spend the time on our individual skill. It is this mentality that is reshaping the future concept of music. The younger generations will be the ones that propagate music and our global culture, and if their ideals and morals of music is somewhat warped by mainstream media, then our future art form of music may be eventually lost with each passing generation.
So it seems that with the advancement in technology, it at first improves our lives by assisting us. We then live with the technology, integrating it with life, eventually becoming reliant on its uses. Then technology improves, further more assisting and improving our quality of life, but in the process we become dependent, and in some cases, addicted to the new possibilities the advancement it brings. The cycle will always continue...
Perhaps this is evolution in work, the natural progression of a concept. I feel it is our morals and mental grounding towards the concept of music that is crucial to remember. We need to bring it back to its simplest form to really appreciate and remember what music is - expression. Technology is great and can bring great possibilities, but we need to exercise moderation and focus on intent. Mankind will always be seeking for perfection, or at the very least improvement. We sometimes get caught up in the quest for perfection that we forget that to be human is to be imperfect, and perfection is, ironically, found in the imperfect. Imperfection is natural and this shouldn't scare us. We should be seeking to improve, not with technology but in the most simplest form – a musician with their instrument, an artist and their skill. If a musician can convey their musical intent with nothing more than their instrument instead of using banks of effects and technology, that is truly impressive. This is not to say that technology has no place in the music industry, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there needs to be a balance. Technology is no replacement for skill, and if your skill is hidden by a veil of technology and that technology fails (because it is bound to happen), your true skill is what will be left showing for the world to see.
Another argument that I have come across against technology, is that technology is replacing jobs that people do, therefore increasing unemployment leaving skilled jobs for those who could afford the education. This is a good argument. To try offer a solution to this problem, I have to ask another question; “What is the purpose and meaning in life?”. Personally, life to me is not about work. We should be learning and discovering without causing harm. Life is not about working in a retail shop, 9 to 5 for a meagre wage that barely covers the essentials. Technology can be used to replace labour workers, but as a society we need to change with it. Our goals as a society shouldn't be work to survive, but it should be one of discovery, self-improvement and co-operation. If our society wasn't so obsessed with earning money and accumulating material wealth, we could use technology to replace those jobs that offer a person very little intellectual stimulation. What benefits are there for a bank teller other than money? If our goals as a society were different, then our approach to technology would also shift and we could truly use it to our benefit, instead of using the most amazing technology for war applications. It certainly seems that we are hell-bent on destroying ourselves.
Technology abides to the universal law of duality; it is both good and bad, but it is our approach and mentality towards it that determines whether it is beneficial or malevolent. What are our goals as a society? Perhaps that is the problem we face today, is that we all have different goals and ideals and we fight each other to be heard. Technology will always be with us as long as man has ambition. We need to be mindful of the implications, practice moderation and be mentally well grounded and not forget who and what we are, and what our purpose is.