SIGNS (and sighs) OF THE TIMES…

Thumbs-up to the originators of epics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and all the unimaginable bigscreen / smallscreen fantasies our carnal minds were readied and conditioned towards – since time immemorial  – to experience  the things fathomed inside one’s brain only – all these deeds playing out in a world called ‘virtual reality’. Throw in the (original) 3 Stooges, and its funny how one had no problem with 3 plain-clothed guys ending up on Mars, mucking up its surface, wearing no oxygen mask gadgetry (and not dying, of course!) – back on earth the next moment, landing head-first, as if everything was honky dory – best fun one pitted out of this was (scantily noticing) how these guys got suckered-in to all kinds of knocks, punches and bruises without bleeding, so ‘súcked-in-on-scifi’ were we!

Yes, like lambs to the slaughter we were willfully coerced  into the fluent utterance of new ‘nametry’ like Jedi, Darth Vader, C3PO, R2D2, Atlantis, Homs, Spock, and all these ‘characterions’ one vaguely remembers. The futuristic minds of these big screen legends worked overtime to ‘put to material the things mankind could but dream of’. And, praise them, their minds were só racing through the cauldrons of ‘imaginetry’ and creativity that we literally jumped for high joy when they announced pending sequels.

The important lesson is: whatever the mind thinks, cán be done. And the music world was not left untouched either – technology constantly moved enhancements from drawing board to factory, creating new benchmarks in sound and instrumentation all the way. Technology always stays a step ahead of itself, as inventors are constantly bombarded with prototipes of the existing  – mány a time not the same quality, of course, but in essence making the work of the artist easier, always striving to create music experiences more pleasurable.

Take The Journey
Take The Journey

While no one can argue the fundamental prowess of the original instrument, we are constantly being kept on the lookout to not be outgunned by a ‘new model-on-the-block’ (some with inferior qualities), which has the potential to make huge technological strides in the market. One almost sheds a tear for the wily old piano that has stood as a beacon over the centuries, leading orchestral ensembles, jazz outfits, churches, school halls, doubling also as the “other child in the home”. Technology has crafted this instrument (and so many others) to evolve into a tool that nowadays has the ability to be played by lesser-schooled proteges, using the touch of one button / one finger only!  Just switch on and up roars your ‘all-in-one band cum recording outfit’!

Just tap your finger, conjure up some melody, and Bob’s your uncle – your own song composed, pronto – right on your kitchen table! There you have it – “taken up by the techno” : monster or saviour? – the choice is tough, but it’s yours.

But things were otherwise back then. It comes almost as a personal accolade if your fingertips can count out loud the names of the “Originals” of yesteryear, whatever your music taste was. And believe me,  even though times come and go , these “Big Guns” will stand out as the people who made it happen for each one of us in our different eras. Be it the  encompassing sounds of the crooners of the 50’s & 60’s, or the 70’s & 80’s with its hippie, rock, underground, metal, disco & jazz-pop , jazz-funk-rock influences, or the hip-hop, indy / eurocencratic cross-overs of the 90’s / 00’s where trans-atlantic influences were blended, incorporated and pushed en-masse to the ever-growing worldwide audiences, becoming more and more accessible through the advent of the internet and social media – even the West African sounds being combed more prominently into the South African traditional genre, giving rise to newly created indigenous styles like the kwaito / kwassa, to where we find ourselves today. Technological advancement always been on the crest of music’s wave. It is as if music has heard and responded to its own cry.

Computer boffins advanced the music experience astronomically, moving so fast, it becomes scary to think where we’ll be in 3 years time. This technology, aided by cut-throat social media, is moving so fast that terms, phrases and practices of 3 months ago become obsolete, so much so that we all need to up our game, stay abreast, and make sure that what we see is nót the ‘hind view of the bus’!

It’s a telling fact that the modular, analogue sound recording desk with all it’s bulk, impressive LED’s and multiple knobs – standing  the whole world full – has been overtaken by the singular big-screen computer driven by powerful virtual programs, producing unthinkable real sounds, needing only a few plug-ins, rendering faster results, the whole shebang manipulated right at our fingertips. At last you don’t need to worry about knocking over your cooldrink in the studio!

We have migrated from the musical yesterworld ruled by LP, 7-single, 33 / 45 rpms, double casette deck, and ghetto blaster, fuelled by the PM9 /PM10 battery to ‘Planet Digiworld’ where SCiFi, WiFi, Optic Fibre, Blue Ray technologies are fast falling off the dictionary already – where to from here and where do YOU see yourself in this? Problem is: do we discard some vital “music morals” along the way? Can today’s artist say for sure that he carries the same pedigree as those who have gone before him? Have technology lead us humans in pursuit of a race we cannot win anymore? Just plainly put: “is technology causing music to die slowly?” 

Tough as the question may be, one deterrent is that the Recording Studio / Record Label NOT invest in quick-fixes. In all our doing, we must – as the old worn-down saying goes – “reach for the stars, but keep our feet firmly on the ground”, otherwise – as so many SciFi movies suggest – we all may end up becoming numbers.

And through it all, the treasure-troves of antique music is still shouting very much loud at us today, just as today’s music will become treasures in 10 years time. Again, to detail is to bore,  so its safe to argue that whilst technology beams up decisively, one pulverising lightyearsecond at a time, it’s bound to fireball on some distant galaxy if it ignores its most prized commodity: us, the human race.

…well, with this, we’re leaving on a jet plane – by for now.

– HTN.