Alex Urbanec

Barista, musician

This conversation is closed.

What will the future of music hold?

I spend quite a bit of my time studying the history of music in all cultures in order to understand where music will be going.

In the last hundred years alone, music has become incredibly varied. With the introduction of electronic music, we experienced even more variety.

What do you think the next century holds for music?

  • Jun 15 2011: Since anything Lindsay says to pay attention to is worth paying attention to, I'm paying attention. It's impossible to predict anything accurately, much less the arc of something like music, which is essentially unknowable in true nature and its appeal (that coming from a professional music critic!), and existed before we all started taking notes and will outlive us long after the last human is dust: Vibrations are the essence of everything, and the wind will still make a sound.
    The advent of new technologies, social media, and ease of travel do enable musicians and listeners to experience, share, combine, and fuse disparate sounds and traditions, and in many ways that is exciting and good. Also, the idea that there is any "pure" music is probably silly. But if the future does not include respect for and preservation of the environments that have historically nurtured various traditions and the contexts in which these traditions are lived- in which the music is a functional part of life—something valuable will be lost, something no tecnology and file-sharing can restore.
    Also, I'll point all of you to the book, The Mysticism of Sound and Music, written by Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan, which contains many relevant passages including something along the lines of: "If you want to know where a society is headed, look to music; it will always predict what is coming."
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      Jun 15 2011: Wow!! Larry..Thanks so much for stopping in here. I am honored to have you here..being one of the great thinkers about music and culture..

      For those who don't read the Wall Street Journal or the many other places his reviews appears, here us his blog/web site to which you can subscribe.
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    Apr 27 2011: Whatever it is, I predict there will be drugs involved!
  • Jun 26 2011: Alex,
    Great question, thanks for bringing it up!
    I think about this a lot too, I think Levitin did an amazing job of turning music into a great new way of discussing the past, connecting it to the future, human beings being the link.
    Anyway, I believe as people become more connected with technology, much like this website, people get the chance to hear and see much more of the world's cultures. Music is a great thing to explore with the recourses the internet offers. Today, I can look up any country and probably find some traditional and modern music from that place. Simply by listening to different musics, I am inspired, as are many musicians. Because of this phenomenon I believe as this idea sharing gets bigger and bigger on the internet, music will keep trying to fuse with other kinds to find happy mixed-breeds much like we have done with dogs from around the world. We will continue seeing "unusual" or unique instrument combinations, trying to find perfect timbre mixtures; we will keep exploring rhythm and harmony of different parts of the world and try to stir them together in a way that becomes harmonious; music will continue to be expressive but technology and electronic music will certainly have an impact on the futures' musics.

    Technology has done a few things for modern music: add the sense of "perfection" to intonation and time--most music-writing software puts every rhythm in perfect mathematical time and ideal pitch. Musicians of the future might learn how to be quite metronomic, which could potentially destroy expressivity (but that's not a claim I can justify yet.) ALSO, music gets to have a new sound now that technology has a push of creativity. The new "sound" is just that--what we call synthesizers. Musical instruments are the coolest things ever made on earth in my opinion, BUT computers have made some intense sounds as well. Right now, popular music started exploring our hearing thresholds with BASS and TREBEL.

    Future music: LOUD?
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    Jun 16 2011: Another thought. It seems from archaeological finds that we have been making music for some 40 thousand years and getting hold of whatever implements were around us to that end. We'll probably be making music 50 thousand years from now, assuming we get there. Conclusion, music is hardwired in all of us. The mistery is why.
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      Jun 16 2011: ....and the joy..and the aspirations, and the need to feel free and so many other yearnings that come from deep inside us...yes music will always be with us

      .What do you think Gustavo of the evolving idea here that music will also always echo and refer to those anciet ryhtmns , frequencies and tonal phrasings to which our bodies and spirits have always resonated.?Larry's comments below, my own thoughts and pointing to Bela Fleck as an example, Mohammad's wonderful fusion music. What about the notion that our awakening to our new reality as global citizens, our new access to the ancient musical traditions of many different cultures and sacred practices will speak to us more and more through fusion music that also fuses from among these traditions. That music will in fact pave the way for our relaizatin as global citizens?.
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      Jun 16 2011: I think you are right Mihammad that the ancient rythmns are eternak rythmns and that now in a time of disenfrachisement and alineatiin around the world more an nore people will return to the healing resonance of these ancient traditions. ( did you see the comments below on the same theme and the quote from Hazrat Inayat Kahn?)Also have you seen Bela Fleck's work with Edgar Meyer and the Morooccan ( I think) drummer? A similar return to ancient ryhmns and tonal phrasings that was won widespread support accoss many generations.I will check out your two links over tea later..Thanks so much

      EDIT: Liked them both..great music..universal appeal thank you for intriducing us to them.
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    Jun 16 2011: Here is a quote from the work jazz historian Blumenfeld refrred us to at the end of his post, below:

    "What secret is there in music which attracts all those who listen to it? It is the rhythm which is being created. It is the tone of that music which tunes a soul and raises it above depression and despair of everyday life in this world. And if one knew what rhythm was needed for a particular individual in his trouble and despair, what tone was needed, and to what pitch that person's soul should be raised, one would then be able to heal him with music" Hazrat Inayat Kahn

    Thinking more about your question, Larry's comments and my own initial response, I am forming the idea that what speaks to us in music . the elements inmusic that make our spirits soar, that stop time, that are literally transformative are timelss, eternal, constant. So it seems most likely that humans will always have these fundamental ocnnections to certain ryhmns and harmonic intervals. Have any group tone on E flat together and away we go to an unexpected place. So perhaps if we could all lookin what music people are making in 2111 we would be swaying and moving right along.I asked Larry to comment here because some of his recent work has been about music and culture, growing out of a journalism residency he did in New Orelans right after Katrina. He speaks with far too much depth and eloquence for me to even attempt to relate more than the most elemental insight arising from Larry's work. He is pointing to it in his comment below and that is that the music we hold on to for generations and generations grows out of an actualliving human culture. What we all love about N.O. jazz grew froma neighborhood in N.O. ( that was destroyed by Katrina). One of the questions Larry raised was dispersal ofindividuals in the jazz community to other places would allow them to continue to generate and build from that N.O. stlye. ( forgibe and correct ,me Larry if I am erring here)"
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    Jun 15 2011: I fear that predicting the next hundred years is utterly hopeless, such is the rate of change even now. Verne did a bit of this though, in his novel 1993 (written in 1893), with string quartets linked by radio from four different countries and share values instantly visible on a "screen". But technology and societies and education...who knows.
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      Jun 15 2011: Hi Gustavo..we won't hold you to what you said a hundred years from now if it turns out you are wrong?

      What about Eric Witacre's virtual choir..Lots' f posisbiities their for live on line improv perhaps membership supported or viewer paid like seminars are now.

      And for the immediate future what about the wokr that Bela Flek is doing on his tour with Edgar Meyer and the moroccan drummer? and his tour before that ..the African project. He is bringing some pretty advanved muiscal stuff to the mainstream and drawing coss over auduences of many generations.

      You see no emerging patterns that will unfold over lets say the next decade even?.
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    Jun 15 2011: Have we even grown into this century's new frontiers in music?

    I spent the entire winter last year with John Cage initially just interested in his aleatory art but then fascinated with his music and his explorations of our physical and psychic relationship to sound and sound patterns

    I think the science of sound and the ancient knowing of the power of certain vibrations, frequencies and harmonic patterns will be unpacked more fully and make its way into main stream experience of music and sound

    .I use african and native american drums and temple bells in my meditation practice and ocassionally stumble on one of those magical mind/body openings that can happen with vibration and sound. I witnessed little children somehow having a natural affinity for certain tones and tone intervals.So I think we will rediscover what the ancient traditions have always known and bring that more fully into main stream musical experience. Perhaps music will even be the force that allows us to evolve new ways of thinking and new relationships with the pursuit of knowledge by opening us to new pathways within usHere's a wonderful DVD that is available as a free..instant play on netflix;MUSIC INSTINCT;SCIENCE ANDSONG

    Trying to understand what I see around me in culture, what I see here at TED, I am beginning to think that the complexity of our modern world has come on us faster than our capacity to be comfortable with that; that what unpacks out here where we are in science isn't more knowing but more encounters with the unknowable in a wolrd that isnt comfortable with the unknown and the unnknowable. ( we are discussing this aspect at Is Knowledge Infinite?)

    The response culturally has been, I think, a recoiling back to the saftey and security of the pre-rational mythic level of cultural evolution..Music and Sound could help us be comfortable with complexity and the unknown
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    Jun 15 2011: Hi, Alex. Funny you should ask that. I happen to be researching nearly the same subject for a possible book, not necessarily to predict future developments but to understand the nature of music better. The mistery of music is what concerns me, as it has always been my main passion and I have taught music history in schools. This is a big subject being actively pursued by neurologists and other scientists. I would place the emphasys on the quite odd capacity of music to create a solid though invisible universe that brings a sustaining inner life to the individual which should be extended to all. Dance and pop don't do that. I maintain that it is only having an inner life and cultivating a passion that saves us at the end. However, I limit myself to the music I know, classical, jazz and some popular songs. From there I try to, yes, predict what works will still be in the repertoire of the symphonic orchestras a hundred years from now.

    There are many, many sides to this subject, so I am delighted to have found you here. I was considering placing a list of questions in TED with the aim of finding out the specific opinions others may have about well known works.


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      Jun 15 2011: Hey Gustavo..I didn't even look at your comment in framing mine..but we are pointing to the same fascinating!!! This will be fun to unpack together.
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        Jun 15 2011: Hi,Lindsay. Yes, I decided to start my own conversation on this subject. It interests me extremely. Now I'll wait and see. I can't hold my breath.
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      Jun 19 2011: Hello Gustavo,

      I believe this may be of interest to you. Have you ever read Daniel J. Levitin's books "This is your Brain on Music" and "The World in Six Songs?"
      I believe that both books would be directly related to what you are studying, and may help spur ideas.
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        Jun 19 2011: Hi, Alex, thank you very much. Yes, you are right. I know of the first Levitin book but not the other one. Trouble is, I know from experience that if I start buying every book I think I should read for my research I end up spending a fortune, which I don't have. So I read reviews and then look for the titles in libraries. However, I am narrowing down the subject and concentrating on getting answers to my concrete questions first. I thought that your example of musicians getting together to play spontaneously was wonderful. That's how folklore came to exist, when people lived near each other and could meet easily to celebrate and have a good time. They also had a fairly common culture and as a rule didn't travel more than a couple of miles if at all. In a modern capital, of course, that's no longer the case, so folklore is no longer a natural event. The spirit in your example is the closest to it. The music I am dealing, though, is of the more elaborate and lenghty type, so called classical, in contrast with easier, entertainment music. Different songs and dances will always exist, since we all need distraction, but we also have some masterworks from centuries ago, so one of my questions is what masterworks from the 20th century will still be there in another hundred years. You have studied the history music, so you are familiar with the repertoire.
      • Jun 26 2011: ALEX,
        Those Levitin books changed my life. No exaggeration.
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      Apr 29 2011: Moody Blues on steroids . . . or would that be ecstacy?
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        Jun 15 2011: a little of all jkjk. seriously though, theres like 50,000 people there, and look at that stage! not bad for a "underground" scene.
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    Apr 28 2011: I would like to see it come back round to acoustic music on the front porch. You know, banjos, mandolins, guitars, fiddles and the dog house bass.
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      May 4 2011: My friends and I play bluegrass and jazz on my porch, on the street, wherever really. I remember one time in particular, some friends of mine where playing drums on the sidewalk of our neighborhood, and so I went and grabbed my bass. As soon as I got there, a flamenco guitarist showed up with a saxophonist and a latin vocalist. Within minutes we were playing samba ("Mas Que Nada" specifically) and had attracted a large group of people, everyone was dancing and having a good time. It was amazing.
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        May 4 2011: I don't know of a better way than you have described to bring people together for a good time.
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    Apr 27 2011: Hopefully we'll finally see the inverse-talent pyramid approach ended - where people who controlled the infrastructure of the music industry got rich off the talent of others.

    Now that music can reach an audience without the need for major record labels, this has already started.

    The music itself will fulfill the same role it always has.
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    Apr 27 2011: When the recording industry is large enough I expect there to be patents on chords and sounds...
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      Apr 28 2011: ...and all good rock n rollers will play them anyway and never file...
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      Jun 15 2011: That's a scary thought..Chris....they are already using music to treat parkinson's..not out of the realm of posisbility the way things are going that patents will be sought for tonal patterns with the power to cure..and granted..look at Monsanto.
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        Jun 15 2011: Monsanto is precisely why I consider it a possibility.