Modern technology manufactures emotionless music

The advent of audio editing software in the late 70s allowed music to lose its creativity.


by Helen Wheatley, Copy Editor of Opinion

It starts out softly, with just one piano. A few notes are played together deep in the bass clef. The recording is fuzzy but its familiarity is comforting. The ballad is simple, really– a love song to the rest of the world. Imagine there’s no heaven. John Lennon looks up from playing his white Steinway and peers at you through his sepia toned round eyeglasses. He asks you to open your mind to the radical ideas of his lyrics, and you accept. Imagine all the people, living for today. It’s a legendary song because it’s so easy to love. We share Lennon’s sentiments and we believe in peace, but not many of us are willing to give up religion or give up possessions. When we listen to ‘Imagine’, we’re not necessarily drawn to the ideas he presents. We’re attracted to the way he expresses his emotion so simply, in such a loving way, that we begin to imagine sharing all the world.

We’ve become stuck trying to create human emotion and convey human messages like Lennon’s through a means that’s inherently inhuman.”

Back in ‘71, Imagine sent shockwaves of peace and love throughout the world. Today, 45 years later, the song’s lyrics are still plastered on car bumper stickers and sung at every major charity event worldwide. Lennon was one of many artists of the 60s-70s to tap into the vein of emotionally inspired music before the inception of digital audio editing software. Since the late 70s, the world has seen a complete transition in the way music is being created and perceived.

Within the technological age, we’ve created software that allows musicians and producers to relatively create any sound they desire and fix most imperfections in recorded audio. This means that instruments and passion are slowly becoming obsolete in mainstream music, something that hasn’t happened since the beginning of time. If music like Lennon’s inspires peace and emotion and excites the global community for years, what happens to humanity when the music we listen to and conceive turns sterile?

Before the technological age of audio, playing an instrument was the only way to create music. You’d pick up an album, put it on the record player, read all about the artist and then go write your own music just like it. If people are listening to music made with mandolins and cellos and upright basses and guitars, that’s what they are going to pursue in the music making world. If people are listening to music made with computers, that’s what they will in turn try to generate. We’ve become stuck trying to create human emotion and convey human messages like Lennon’s through a means that’s inherently inhuman.

Does this departure from a traditional sense of music composition mean that we can’t enjoy deliciously bubbly pop or deep thumping EDM? Of course not. But it does mean that we have to be cautious of what we allow to become the mainstream. Our trends have allowed music to become a formula rather than an art form. Pop has become the creation of many producers and big money rather than the true emotion and raw feeling of one person trying to make the world feel something. Any major artist can have three people write her a song, then sing it to the best of her ability, pay some producers to fix every imperfect note, then add in the trendy bass treatment and move on. Music becomes an industry based on image and presentation rather than talent.

The world has known this traditional sense of building music for hundreds of years, since the time of Bach and before. To imagine a future without it is to imagine a future where music has little profound impact on its audience. Lennon understood this idea, and he sought to spread his own emotion throughout the world. He succeeded. But as these fundamentalist artists have died off these past few months– David Bowie, BB King, Signe Anderson, Glenn Frey– the world has lost a future with a beautiful outlet for kids and adults to discover themselves while changing the world they live in. You look back 45 years to John Lennon singing sweetly at his piano. Is it worth it? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.