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Music Technology: Then And Now

May 2nd, 2008 1:38pm EDT | Claudine Paul By: Claudine Paul favorite Add to My News
KraftwerkAlmost everyone owns an Ipod, or some other form of music listening device, that we can thank to the benefits of the changes in music technology. If we were to consider however how the "music" itself has changed due to technology, then the changes in music technology can be viewed from a whole other point of view.

From a broader perspective we can perhaps say it really started with the German Electronic pop group Kraftwerk. They were essentially the first band to have the foresight to mix electronic sounds provided by the "new technology" on hand in the 70's and mix it with the pop sensibility provided by influential "surf rock" bands popular at that time. Working with synthesizer keyboards used to create electronic improvised sounds, they are mostly known for the sounds of "Techno-Pop." The track featured here is Kraftwerk's famed "Trans-Europe Express" which can be found on the band's Trans-Europe Express release. The track has had a longevity of sorts due to it's consistent rhythmic beats, and it is still being used today as the "sampled" rhythmic background to many Hip Hop and Dance tunes heard today.


Upon leaving his famed band The Beatles in 1970 musician Paul McCartney was ready to put the past behind and shape his music into a new sound. To every Beatles purist's dismay, he delved straight into his "synthesizer" keyboard heavy project WINGS. As McCartney was a music pioneer with The Beatles, he was also a music technological pioneer with WINGS. They were to become the first act ever to have a #1 hit in America with a prominent "synthesizer" keyboard based song. The song "Little Luck" topped the music charts in 1978, and it is off the band's Wingspan title.


It's an era that many may want to forget, but thanks to music technology the pulsating Funk dance sounds of the Disco era was once in full force. Musicians at this time with the use of electric instrumentation created dance tunes that kept club floors packed for hours. Club culture became the rage, and the production of music at this time was just as vital as the creation of music. Dance tunes were extended in length of time, and it foreshadowed the birth of the extended remixed song single as it is currently known.

At the end of the 70's following the anarchistic DIY (do it yourself) Punk music movement another movement was brewing. Many bands ditched guitars for electronic keyboards, and it paved the way for the age of the "New Romantics." Bands like Duran Duran, Flock Of Seagulls, Spandau Ballet, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and The Human League with a little help from the newly launched MTV used fashion and new electronic created sounds to become chart toppers. U.K band Depeche Mode picking up were Kraftwerk left off were able to use music technology and turn their electronic synth generated pop into "Music For The Masses." Their "People Are People" track from their People Are People release reflects the creative use electronic studio "machines" that ushered the new sound that would become the standard for many electronic music acts.


The influx by electronic synth bands followed from Europe to Detroit to an impact was made on dance floors everywhere. It ushered in the new "Techno" craze, and the electronic created beats, and music that were played at dance "Raves" parties.

80's Metal hair bands from Motley Crue to Bon Jovi were also of dominance. However there was one member of a well known Metal band who was keen on incorporating some new music technology to evolve his band's sound. Eddie Van Halen the famed guitar virtuoso of Van Halen did just that, and showed off his electronic synthesizer chops as a force to reckon as a keyboardist on the band's only #1 single "Jump." Off of Van Halen's 1984 release, it has turned out to be one of the biggest songs ever released by Van Halen.


With the death of 80's Metal and the 90's Grunge music of corporate disenchantment the Rap music movement moved from the underground and full force into the mainstream, and where it is twenty years later still in dominance. With the development of user friendly DIY music tech equipment such as sampler machines that can record and rearrange a portion of a pre-recorded sound, and other similar types of similar equipment has formed the new aesthetic that is now Hip Hop. A long way from "two tables and a microphone" check out how musician Kanye West and producer Timbaland as they both rework a sample of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" that would be used for the lead single "Stronger" off of West's Graduation release.


DJs also have benefited to advancements in music technology. Formerly known as "just some guy spinning music in the booth," they have become stars in their own right. Celebrity disc jockeys such as DJ Paul Oakenfold, Carl Craig, Tiesto, Darude, and Paul Van Dyk have their own cds, videos, and label contracts to release their mixed cd of songs.

It is not clear where the technology of music will be directed from this point. However because of music technology more and more musicians are becoming music entrepreneurs building their own home studios to record, pressing their own cds, starting their own companies, and selling their own music.


Story by Claudine Paul
Starpulse contributing writer


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