Music in 2050: What the even will it be?

Two of my good friends David Finnigan and Jordan Prosser are currently in Melbourne, and have been for the last few months, knocking together a piece called Crimeforce: LoveTeam, a script centered around boy bands in 2050, and they asked me to think about and deliver some work based around what music may be like in 2050. You can read more about it over at David’s website.

They were toying with Law & Order early on in the process, and purely out of seeing them playing with some of those tropes, I used the MusicMappr site to help generate a remix of the Law & Order Theme, something I’ve called Ordered Law.

I had a great time collating research from various platforms, looking into possibilities and things that may not actually change at all.

My blurb for the performances is below, with links to two tracks created using algorithmic music making tools.

2050 is a long way away. It’s (hopefully) in the back end of my own life cycle, and ruminating on musical advances up to then has been an interesting and thought-provoking exercise. I’ve found myself speaking to the GROWTH scenario, as it has the more fleshed out world-view and progression.

In this world, I feel that music has been pushed along continually by technological advances, as it always has. The difference exists in the way music is created, with record labels becoming more akin to how Spotify and Apple manage their playlists at the moment, by recruiting taste-makers and cultural heads to plot out music in a certain style or mood. The music itself will be created by computers, with the limits on a computer’s ability to recreate the complex timbre of specific instruments slowly being lifted. We are seeing now through websites like Jukedeck and Google’s Magenta project that computers can make respectable copies of songs given certain parameters, although at the moment these songs are rarely used for much else than royalty-free background sound in videos. There will likely be music making software created for use in a VR world, where complex instruments can be played by anybody.

Youth and protest music will continue to exist, fringe groups will continue to play fringe music for niche markets, and the pop mainstream will continue to co-opt them for want of a trend or fad, and then as quickly, discard them once they are no longer relevant. There may be a rise in the nostalgia and fetishization of ‘golden era’ pop music instrumentation (Beatles, Stones, Doors), but this may also just be another fad that waffles on for a few years.

Moving into the lyrical space, my research has suggested that in over 100 years of ‘pop’ music (music sold to the masses for playback on personal or in-home sound systems), very little has changed about the core centre of the pop verse. Take this comparison of Arthur Collins Hello! Ma Baby from 1899 with Drake’s Hotline Bling.

Arthur Collins (1899):
I’ve got a little baby, but she’s out of sight,I talk to her across the telephone;

I’ve never seen ma honey, but she’s mine, all right;

So take my tip, and leave this gal alone !

Ev’ry single morning, you will hear me yell,

“Hey Central fix me up along the line.”

He connects me with ma honey

Then I ring the bell,

And this is what I say to Baby Mine:
Hello! Ma baby,

Hello ! ma honey,

Hello ! ma ragtime gal,

Send me a kiss by wire,

Baby, my heart’s on fire !

If you refuse me,

Honey, you’ll lose me,

Then you’ll be left alone;

Oh baby, telephone

And tell me I’m your own,

Hello ! hello ! hello ! there !

Drake (2016):
Ever since I left the city youGot a reputation for yourself now

Everybody knows and I feel left out

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out

Cause ever since I left the city, you

Started wearing less and goin’ out more

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before
You used to call me on my cell phone

Late night when you need my love

Call me on my cell phone

Late night when you need my love

I know when that hotline bling

That can only mean one thing

I know when that hotline bling

That can only mean one thing

Both address the use of phones to communicate with their respective partners, both stress the want and need for love via phone conversation. That’s 117 years of cultural change, and yet still there are such heavy similarities between pop verse.

So, I see very little changing in another 34 years. People will still reach out for love via song, either professing or wantonly calling for it through the medium of song. These lyrics, however, I don’t see being computerised or boiled down to a formula, as I feel this basic human connection and outward emotion is the core of the relate-ability in a pop song, and it wouldn’t survive without an entity expressing themselves. There may possibly be a rise in the creation of personas and characters, but I still feel some of the strongest messages in pop are and will continue to be through direct human emotion.

I created two tracks that were composed using the Jukedeck platform. The first (Hackney Revenge) is a pop song carved entirely by Jukedeck, using parameters that I have set, and the second (Stepford Wonderland) is a collection of 3 different Jukedeck tracks, morphed by me to fit with each other. This is an example of what I feel the music making process will be like at some point in the future, with the skill ceiling for makers to create a track getting lower and lower, to the point where the music is made for you, you just change a few parameters to suit your taste, and anyone who creates music like that can now be called a ‘Musician’.

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