How Technology Changed Music

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Won Ho
AMST 3020-090
Schacht
Final Paper
How Technology Changed Music
John Covach, the author of What’s That Sound, distinguishes the cultural elements of pop-culture/music within four distinct categories: social, race, business, and technology. Without a doubt, all four of these traits within pop-culture have been evolving and changing ever since the emergence of any pop-culture. The cultural themes of the always-changing society, business, and technology have indefinitely changed pop-culture and vice-versa. In my essay, I want to discuss how the technology and the evolution of technology affected the growth and modernization of popular music.

Undoubtedly, the most important technological achievement for the music industry was the ability to capture sound (on records, tapes, compact-discs, etc.), thus making it possible to mass produce the same record and make it available for millions of music consumers. However, there’s more to the technology in music than just the achievement of recording and distributing songs. Since then, there have been more, numerous groundbreaking technological enhancements within pop-music. Therefore, there should be a stronger emphasis on the power of technology and how it has affected pop-culture. For example, the radio, television, internet, and some hundreds of modern-day instruments, have only been around for less than a century. Because of these technological developments, and because how they’re so fast and recent in changes, it’s critical in understanding how all this technology is affecting music. To put it into basics however, technology has changed music greatly because it has changed how music is distributed, heard, and performed, but most importantly, and as mentioned earlier, technology has changed how music is captured and created.

By 1905, Ford had recently created its first mass produced car, the Model T, the first flight took off in America at Kitty Hawk (1903), and the phonograph was still a fairly new creation. America was making some great technological advances. However, what was really remarkable about the phonograph, or otherwise remembered as the “talking machine,” was the tangibility that came with placing the needle on the disc and then eventually hearing the sounds that came from it. Having that “disc” that somehow had music consigned on it was such a technological achievement because this was one of the first instances of being able to “touch” recorded music (Katz). Music was now tangible and sound could now be “frozen.” This was just the start of the cultural change that would come about from the discovery of sound recording. People would eventually be able to decide what they wanted to hear, where, when, and with whom (Katz). And this listening “freedom” would only become more and more relaxed as society and technology progressed. Before sound recordings, the only way to preserve and make music mobile at the same time was music scores.

With the ability to “capture” sound, one of the greatest consequences from it was the ability to make music portable. A song could be recorded in a studio on a certain day, and with that recording, that record could be preserved and shared with the rest of the world for years throughout. During the pre-rock & roll era during the earlier decades of the 20th century, there were a countless number of blues, jazz, country, swing, classical, etc. hits that had accumulated throughout time. However, even if people could recognize popular songs, they probably didn’t know who had composed the music. The reason behind this is because only the people who could perform the scores of those famous songs were able to transport the music (Miller). There were no radio stations or TV channels. In today’s equivalent term, the music score then was today’s CD and the performer was the CD player.

At our present state in the 21st century, the phonograph is no longer a prominent, popular music device. Nowadays,...
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