Music has been a valuable medium for all kinds of people from all walks of life. Over the past century, it has undergone the most change in human history.
These changes come from various movements and technological advancements that have made learning, recording and producing musical talent more accessible and, at the same time, more difficult than ever.
In the early 1900s, modern music first developed through lively jazz in various clubs with an air of nostalgia. The 1930s were the best example of this era through song and dance. It was often an escape for people, with depictions of cigarettes and alcohol throughout the period.
“I think there was a lot of romantic music,” said Terry Wykowski, 76. “I asked my mum about this when I was a little girl, and I remember her saying, ‘Love makes the world go round’.”
As this era passed, a new era opened up, giving way to crucial scientific discoveries, such as the synthesizer and television.
According to gilderlehrman.org, much of the musical revolution began later in the 1960s. With America leading the entertainment industry, prominent anti-war campaigns and civil rights movements became a major part of the media. In particular, the civil rights movements led to the uprising of many African-American genres such as blues, jazz, soul, and eventually hip-hop and funk, which served as the basis for the genres seen today.
New technologies, such as noise reduction systems, cassette tapes and 8-track recorders, are all advancements that have been improved time and time again, benefiting artists who have stood out. Even with these new forms of production and the ability to record music, it was far from universally accessible and would remain so for some time.
“People who wanted to release their music, they had to fight hard to get into a studio. They had to know someone and work their way through to get it all recorded,” Wykowski said.
Around this same time, rock and soul music was debuting as more emotional music, mainly due to the nature of the times and current events.
Another new way for people to get attention was through television, where people could show off their talent to the world on different channels.
“In New York they had a TV show called ‘The Original Amateur Hour’, which was like ‘So You Think You Can Sing’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’, and they sent Glady Knight to that show where she was discovered , and she became a very famous singer,” Wykowski said.
Soon, however, the purely analog period, used to describe instruments that were not digitally modified, was coming to an end. The age of rock and hip hop has dawned. Advancements in the music industry have formed the basis for digital music production.
The 1980s were the most influential period in the technological aspect of music and gave birth to mass production and midi instruments. Rock and R&B have been highly regarded for their unique feel as they transition into the digital age.
“I remember Elvis Presley had a band and there was a recording studio called Sun Records. He would go there and play and sing and there was nothing going on but analog instruments and recording said Niel Douglas, an 82-year-old senior and classical music enthusiast.
In a study conducted by The Royal Society, statistics show that the era had a newfound popularity in bright and upbeat music. It also signified the rise of disco music, which was mostly produced electronically.
This age also gave way to CDs to replace records and tapes. Also, as computers became more standardized, piracy increased. According to MUSO world piracy report, it was such a problem that piracy wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the 1990s until 2017.
It was also much harder to get noticed. As technology improved, the cost of required studios and equipment also increased.
“The technology I was using was called a Feralite computer, which was the first music computer,” said local professional music producer Mars Lasar. “That machine itself was $70,000 and people were selling their houses to buy one of those things.”
As the ball fell on New Year’s Eve in 1999 and everyone cheered the end of a century, new inventions got centralized and made music ever more accessible.
For example, the iPod has radically changed the way people listen to music and has become much more personal.
As pop culture grew, so did the trend for more aggressive music, according to the same Royal Publishing study.
In another study of NCBIthe percentage of those who had no contact were now three times more likely to have mental health problems than they were in the 1970s. Along with this, the rebellious nature that became a form of Widespread expression led to the aggressive music that teenagers comforted themselves with.
“I think rap music is so realistic and sincere; I think that reflects the growth times very well. It’s very earthy, it’s very authentic and it’s very authentic. It is an understanding of the younger generation who are struggling to overcome various problems. I think it’s harder today to climb economically,” Wyokowski said. “It was a chance for ordinary people to become famous.”
With a new medium of self-expression and the growing popularity of rap, people began to reflect modern-day issues, which had not been resolved by romanticism in earlier eras. Statistics by The face of data show that 27.1% of the top 100 singles were rap and hip-hop.
Another popular genre was EDM due to the new need for electronically produced music coupled with the wide range of readily available digital sounds and instruments. People were eager to try everything they couldn’t do with the old interfaces.
However, with the new mass accessibility to creating music, it has become much more difficult to stand out and music has become less personal.
“It just seems like there’s an awful lot of people making music at a very high level,” said senior Jim Wykowski. “I think it can be quite difficult to stand out. You have to do something very unique or innovative or do something that people can latch on to.
Even so, the new amount of tools was mind-boggling to those who used them.
“What he did was allow people who were restricted before to be unrestricted, to be able to go to all these places they never could before. So today’s creative exploration is incredible. We only dreamed of these tools in the 1980s,” Lasar said.
These new tools allowed people to create music that was never possible before, and creating something unique was more manageable, which helped foster alternative genres.
However, with ease of access to digital tools came another price, piracy.
“People were taking mp3s, putting them on hard drives, sharing hard drives and putting them in mobile devices, and the whole music industry went down in a year. People were listening to music too, but what’s even better was that it was free, everyone was stealing it. Even now people can listen to everything I have for free,” Lasar said. “But today, I’m okay with that. It’s good that people care enough.
In a study of The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2008, iPod users aged 13 to 19 had an average of 800 illegally downloaded songs. Torrent sites and illegal downloads have become routine and impossible to maintain.
As the excitement faded, the early 2010s gave way to ever-improving discoveries and technology. With that came a new kind of music: modern pop.
Pop took more than 40% of the top 100 in 2011, according to The face of data. The last time it saw similar popularity was in 1989. The digital age created a better medium for expression, and it was a lot less harsh than the 2000s.
The nature of the genre helped people spread messages about current events or issues that were usually harder to get out. The growing accessibility of music venues, such as social media and free tools like GarageBand, has made it easier than ever for people to post their names.
“My granddaughter, when she was about 9 or 10, started using GarageBand on a smartphone to create tracks for her vocals, and she wrote songs for herself. She now has an Apple laptop with the right programs, and it’s pretty amazing what you can do with it,” Douglas said.
Today, the music industry is more important than ever. Platforms like TikTok, Spotify, and SoundCloud are making it both easier and harder than ever to make a name for yourself.
It’s taken a long road to get to where music is today, and this is just a small chapter of what’s in store for the future of music.
“It seems like today’s most prolific style is being created,” Lasar said. “We went through a period where we didn’t know where we were, but it looks like we’re getting to the next generation of genius.”