Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Future Of Music

Other people's music may be as dangerous to your health as other people's other emissions (such as very strong perfume).

At the moment, in America, we are obliged to suffer unprovoked assaults on four of our five senses, with a few exceptions. Off the top of my head, we are not obliged to witness other people relieving themselves in the street; we are not expected to tolerate the spectacle of full nudity in public places (unless we pay); Post Office workers are not forced to listen to customers' cell phones; in some states, small children are supposed to be protected from the sound and fury of loudly spoken obscenities; most citizens can go about their business without having to worry that strangers will touch their bellies --pregnant women excepted.

In the future, this may change, at least as regards noise pollution. Possibly, it was a foretaste of the future when a book-warehouse worker was fired for making unpleasant noises.

No doubt this is an unpopular point of view, but I think I ought to have the right to drive along quietly in my car, alert for sounds of police or emergency vehicle sirens. I don't wish to hear the boom-boom-boom from other people's cars, and I do believe that the sound and vibration are bad for my health. The music may sound lovely to the person playing it --and I don't deny anyone the right to listen to music-- but by the time it reaches my ears, it is distorted. I think the beat resembles an elevated heartbeat, and my own pulse quickens in response.

I suspect that other people's music may cause road rage, but much would depend on the senses of the majority of the population. My own sense of hearing is unusually acute. Who else can hear an ipod charging? It sounds very much like the zing of a filament bulb that is likely to burn out the next time the light switch is turned on.

A quick check of the internet suggests that music is not welcome on submarines... at least, not for overnight visitors to a museum submarine.

For a night about the USS Cobia, visitors are not allowed to bring radios, music players, games systems, TVs.

However, it appears that music is very important to a number of astronauts, and many take their own musical instruments up to the international space station (after NASA has conducted rigorous tests of the instruments to make sure that they don't emit noxious fumes or radiation, or interfere with the electronics, or constitute a fire hazard). Apparently, playing music relieves stress.

I wonder what would happen if astronauts' musical tastes were incompatible. I wonder whether music would be considered safe if there were hostile space ships around, and if part of the mission involved running silent.

It is popularly said that "Music soothes the savage beast,"  (actually, the phrase was coined by William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697:)
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?
In my alien romance world-building for my "Alien Djinn/god-Princes of Tigron" series, I decided that there should be no music for commoners, and the only music should be for State occasions, such as the mating anthem at royal weddings, and should be heavily choral.

I didn't spend a lot of time explaining why there was no music, but the rule gave me an opportunity for some fun when my earth-educated hero of Insufficient Mating Material sang classical rock songs to relieve his stress, and thoroughly puzzled the alien princess who was marooned with him on a desert island.

The Wii game system seems to me to have a lot of potential for healthy(ish) entertainment in confined spaces because a player does have to move more than her thumbs, and indeed can play until certain body parts are quite sore. However, the accompanying noises might drive non-players absolutely bonkers.

Apart from futuristic military uses or bans on music, and whether or not it could or should be controlled by the State to add extraordinary pomp and circumstance to State ceremonies, I find Patrick Ross's blogs about music and copyright fascinating fodder for my imagination.

Index with excerpts of February 2010 posts:

I don't pretend to be musical, but as I understand, music is a created by permutations of 8 notes. Won't we eventually run out of possible combinations? No doubt, the tunes for hymns were written for the greater glory, and were donated explicitly or implicitly to a sort of ecclesiastical Creative Commons. I'm probably absolutely in the wrong to feel indignant when I hear good Lutherans putting their own words to tunes I learned from the Church of England fifty years ago.

Maybe recycling a good tune is okay. Maybe Mash-Ups are going to be increasingly unavoidable in music. I wonder what will happen when it's almost impossible to create an original song. After a couple of thousand years of composing, it will happen, won't it? Would there still be an incentive to be a song-writer?

Could all music be created by a super computer? Could all music be formulated like a chess game? After all, in chess, there are only ten possible first moves. How many possible first notes are there? Eight? Fifty-two?

If so, would all computer-generated music be royalty free for anyone to perform?

Words, I think, are different. There are tens of thousands of words in the English language alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment