Brian Eno; On the Dehumanization of Contemporary Music
Lucid and critical as always, the British musician acknowledges the good while denouncing the danger of technology in the creation of music.
Very few besides Brian Eno could see with such clarity the downside of today’s music. While the revolutionary music producer is hardly averse to change, he’s also, in no small measure, of a stature capable of questioning the dark side of those changes.
Technological advances have so permeated the field of music that musical production can today be achieved by just about anyone hoping to make music. Music can, afterall, be made with nothing more than a laptop.
Eno warns that this temptation, like any temptation, has its consequences. One is a search for perfection. When technology is applied to art, it entails a human cost. It’s dehumanized. Eno won’t leave aside this human essence, nor the imperfection entailed therein. Remember Whiplash (2014) in which the only possibility for a drummer to be the best is to use the metric of the body, even at the expense of the body itself.
According to Eno, achieving “perfection” with machines results in a process deadly to music. Perfection cancels what had been human. It’s the search for a perfection which, in becoming an aesthetic pattern, suppresses the magic of instruments heard from the early bluesmen, in the essence of grunge music, or in Bob Dylan’s rasping voice – while musicians today tune their instruments with Auto-Tune.
Some centuries ago, an advance in music would focus on the measurement of frequencies, notations, and, later, on the use of scales and chords. Already in the 19th century, innovation implied delving into the scientific reasons for sound – as Modest Mussorgsky did, in a suite called Pictures at an Exhibition. The Russian composer was inspired by an acoustic principle dictating that bass sounds last longer than higher sounds, and this endowed their movement with a dark solemnity.
Paradoxically, human imperfection may actually be more perfect than mechanized perfection. And this, as Eno points out, is something that needs to be valued and protected not only in the field of music but in reality, too.
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