Revolution Through Impermanence
by John Justice
I believe we are in a revolution. A revolution might seem big and loud, but this one is a bit more subtle. You see, revolution, in its heart, is a geometric term. In its most basic sense it describes a pattern of circular motion. Although, as monumental as it may sound, to begin a revolution, you simply need to revolve. Today I would like to discuss the previous, present, and future revolutions in the world of music.
In 1877 a huge musical transition began. The birth of the Phonograph transported music from the world of live performances, where it resided for the previous 1,000+ years, directly into the homes of 19th century music fans. When they discovered they no longer had to make a lengthy trek to the concert hall, (perhaps even to a separate city from their own,) and all they had to do was spend the modern-day equivalent of a few dollars to enjoy music in their own home, a true musical revolution had begun.
When we dig deeper into the concept of revolution, the dictionary gives us our next big clue; to revolve, you must have something to revolve around. Without a central point you are not creating a circle, or even a spiral, you are merely bending a line. In the case of the Phonograph, the metaphoric “central point” of geometric revolution would be technology. The phonograph was the 1877 equivalent of the iPhone.
With the 1980’s came the advent of cassette tapes. Finally, a way to record a personalized album just for you. It wasn’t long after “The Mix-Tape Revolution” that “Personal Computer Revolution” gave rise to a whole new world of “free” customized music for the masses. Starting with Napster in 1999 and branching out in all directions, a handful of young adults began creating pathways for the average music-lover to bring any song they want into their home, free of charge. (In this author’s opinion, I believe this is the most relevant recent revolution to unfold.)
In the case of most political revolutions, somewhere along the line, something will be lost as something new is gained. Many have thought that the “Recorded Music Revolution,” started by the Phonograph, played a major part in the decline of classical music. It’s no surprise that singers began to saturate the Phonograph market, as one person’s voice translates much more easily to a monophonic wax cylinder than 100 individual instruments. All this talk of “ease” and “convenience” is sounding a bit familiar, wouldn’t you agree? As mix-tapes lead to digital music sharing, we find ourselves in a fresh cycle of loss and gain.
But finally, here’s the good bit: Without shifting our world from concert halls to record-players we could have never given rise to music genres like Blues, Rock, or Reggae, (all of which succeeded due to vinyl.) While computers ushered in an era of “lazy convenience” they also opened the doors to thousands of bands, artists, and new genres.
We are in the beginning a revolution as we speak. Not because of invention, but because of opportunity. We know more today than any previous time in mainstream history. While the previous revolution gave birth to one-hit-wonders and club-banger-anthems, I can’t help but envision the birth of music as a tool, music with a new purpose. We have the ability to levitate objects with standing sound waves, and the ability to obliterate tumors with high-frequency sound waves.
There is so much space for creation in our current moment. There is a blank canvas awaiting the next generation. It is seemingly infinite, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. Pay close attention to the musical Bell-curve. It is fast approaching a new dawn. I urge you to create your own piece of the pie.