Sunday, January 29, 2012

Technological Determinism

I have just spent five hours writing a lecture on technological determinism, and I still haven't finished.
If you don't know, it's an 'ism' that says that everything we do is controlled by the technology that we use to do it, and it sounds ridiculous sometimes and really true at other times.
Technology is really any tool that we use to do things for us, even a stone-age pointed rock that could be used to smash things. All the way from there to the mega-computers...
Technology has changes music greatly. There is a hilariously funny passage in Keith Negus's book Producing Pop about the shock people expressed when they first heard Liszt playing the piano: they simply weren't used to the huge dynamic range and were terrified of the volume when he played loudly. Harpsichords and clavichords were string-pluckers rather than string hammerers, altogether more genteel. And think about how different was before the Walkman and other portable music-listening devices; I know we had little tinny trannies with an earpiece, but the whole concept of piping and entire soundscape into your ears and walking round with it all day completely changed the way people 'consumed' music.
In fact I do wonder whether the penchant for gathering in thousands in warehouses and fields to experience the togetherness of dance music might be an extreme reaction to the isolating ways of listening to music that developed in the 1980s!

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