Context : MusicalStuff

Quora Answer : Are music fans ready for the absolutely awesome and totally unexpected music revolution that's coming?

Dec 1, 2019

I am ...

in the sense that, as far back as 1990, I remember I and my friend sitting around bitching about how "everything had been done" in music, and that there was nothing new that can come out.

And then I spent the next 30 years being pleasantly surprised by all the amazing new ideas and innovations in music that appeared.

Of course, many of them contained elements and had some similarities with earlier music. But it was obvious that they were different and exciting because of their differences too.

These days I'm an optimist. I have no doubt that the kids will surprise and delight me again and again with new and different things.

So ... I'm always listening out for it.

Quora Answer : Can you imagine what the next genre of music would be?

Jan 12, 2019

My prediction is that "hip-hop" is going to fragment into various of subgenres that don't like each other very much.

Pretty much as rock did in the post-punk 80s.

Rock, as a unified thing, fragmented ... into punk, metal, goth, indie, emo, grunge etc. For a while these subgenres wanted nothing to do with each other and evolved distinct cultures.

Clearly trap / "mumble rap" is hip-hop's "punk moment" : when a new bratty generation finally disrespects its elders and breaks away from the tradition and alienates older fans of hip-hop. Thus precipitating the end of hip-hop as we know it.

That doesn't mean that beats, samples, rap or hip-hop attitude will disappear.

Instead, hip-hop will fragment into 10 different subgenres. And each will carry on with some variant of beats, samples, rap and attitude. But each will take it in different directions, emphasize different sounds and different aspects.

People will stop calling themselves fans of "hip-hop". They'll listen to, and say they are fans of, whatever the subgenre of choice is.

The attitudes from hip-hop will continue to be assimilated and merged within pop music.

Pop music isn't going anywhere. Pop music is much older than most people think.

The average pop music you hear in, and complain about in, the charts has roots that go back to The Andrews Sisters and Jive and Tin-Pan Alley and the earliest blues and jazz. It's anthropophagic. It consumes and absorbs everything else, forcing it to play by its (pop's) own rules.

That pop will be with us 50 years from now. And its tradition will still include jive and The Andrews Sisters; Madonna and Prince and Michael Jackson; and Beyonc\xc3\xa9 and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.

Artificial intelligence is coming to music production in a big way in the next decade.

Big data will be used to analyse the hits and create new ones for tomorrow that are just similar enough and just different enough to the current hits to grab maximum attention and profit.

We'll have neural network "style transfers" in audio, that will make it sound as if classic musicians are guesting in new music. You won't be able to tell that it's not Miles Davis jamming with, or Stevie Wonder singing on the chorus of the latest tunes.

This technology won't change music. It will fix pop in its classic moments. But we'll have more recombinations of elements.

Genuine innovation will come from unexpected places. From neglected odd genres, like darkwave, new age, black MIDI, Christian choral music, from stuff you and I haven't even heard of.

And from clowning YouTube virtuosos.

People who dismiss new music as "trash" or simplistic, will find that some of the new strands will be shockingly complex. I think we're heading for a new era of "maximalism" in popular music. Where virtuosity bred on YouTube; meets the complexity that computers allow; meets the sheer knowledge of different styles and genres that this generation is growing up with access to, thanks to the web.

I've created a new folder in my music collection recently that I call "cinebeat". It's a terrible name, and I'll probably change it, but it contains stuff which is, in some way, "cinematic". But it's also manically pop. And sometimes "prog" jumping from one style to another in short sections.

It contains stuff like this :

which is, what? Elements of manga soundtrack, videogame music, drum'n'bass, jazz and synthesized pop singing.

And this :

YouTube virtuosic showing off, proggy changes in style, some soul / gospel stylings?

And this :

Bit of metal, digital hardcore, opera, folk-music.

I think this kind of thing. This "showing off", this digitally enabled ultra-eclecticism, is going to be creeping into mainstream pop music.

Watch a rap video today. It's basically mini cinema. And the music to accompany it is a soundtrack, with long introductions, transitions to different styles, breaks for bits of dialogue in the middle.

Someone like Tyler, the Creator is happy to mix different styles of rap, singing, abrupt musical transitions in his "pop" music :

That desire to hat-tip to musical sophistication is there in pop acts like Clean Bandit.

I think we're going to see pop get more ambitious in these dimensions.

No one is going to want to "go back" to imitating Bohemian Rhapsody type prog rock pop. But I think the cinematic epic style of pop is going mainstream now.

The next genres are going to be musically "prog" in the way that sasakure uk, Jacob Collier and Igorrr are : playfully jumping between multiple genres and soundworlds in a kind of manic ADHD

What hip-hop has taught pop is that pop music isn't really about the music, or the song at all. The music is just a sound-track for the artist to perform "being themselves". Or being their invented persona.

In the new pop, the sound-track to the persona, the underlying music, will be as changeable as the costume and background scenery that the persona inhabits.

So expect to hear more music that sounds like a mix of Igorrr and Jacob Collier and saskure uk. Chaotic mashups and patchworks of different styles. Held together by monstrous personas who stamp their identity on everything. Or who role-play their way through a sequence of identities much as David Bowie or Nicki Minaj have done in the past.

Quora Answer : Where is music headed?

Dec 15, 2020

Long story short : as far as anyone can tell, music started as something tightly integrated with other kinds of ritual and performance, and gradually got "abstracted" out of that context and became an independent thing.

Music was learned by ear. Until we invented musical notation. Which helped composers study and analyse it better. And to start writing scores which were more sophisticated in their own right, but also portable between contexts. You could take the same score to different countries or cultures. From a church to a concert hall. Music became detached from the ritual and activity that inspired it.

Then we invented recording technology which let us capture sound directly, rather than merely the abstract score. This refocused us on the performance aspects, the improvisation, the microtonal "blue" notes, the personality of the performer etc. More or less everything interesting in 20th century music comes from this fact.

Now ... new technologies are making music so portable and convenient to take anywhere (eg. streaming directly to earbuds which can be worn even when exercising at the gym or any other activity), that music is increasingly written for specific settings and is increasingly "functional" ie. fine-tuned to support particular activities.

There's music which is ideal for driving cars, or working out, or jogging, or listening to on a phone with friends at a school playground, or to accompany a fight-scene in a movie, or a boss fight in a video-game, or for the rave, or catwalk.

I think, already, for many people in our culture in the 21st century, music is losing its status as something to be listened to "in itself" or "for its own sake" and is increasingly just "soundtrack" to something else. Whether that's cinema, videogame, sports, parties or even "amusing TikTok video with likeable and attractive social-media stars"

This is the reality behind all the complaints about "modern music" or "post-modern music" or "pop music today" etc. People want something that's like a symphony they listened to in a concert hall or a beloved record they bought on vinyl. And, instead, they are getting new music which is, in its own way, just as competent or skilful, and just as innovative and imaginative. But which doesn't stand listening to on its own, out of context. Because it's so finely tuned for the context.

In other words, having spent a couple of millennia abstracting away from the context, music is now returning to being tightly coupled with our everyday activities and rituals.

Popular "musicians" have blown through being "video stars" and are now "social media" stars first. And their music is the soundtrack to their evolving social media persona. Just as their videos and clothes etc. are there to support that persona, so the musical content is, too.

And that's where I think music is heading for the foreseeable future. To be reunited and reintegrated with other media : with story-telling, with poetry, with rhetoric, with visual arts (especially cinema, clothes design, etc.).

It's interesting that increasingly popular musicians talk about "projects" rather than "albums" or other more specific musical terms.

I find this interview with Qveen Herby fascinating.

There's no question that Herby is a talented singer and rapper.

And yet listen to the way she talks about what she does. It's full of discussion of her brand, her clothes, her mood-boards, her persona. Her EPs even come with associated make-up lines.

I find Herby fascinating and frustrating. I love watching her. I think she's a really talented musician who is enjoyable to listen to. And yet, even more than many contemporary artists, I find her music so "empty". The lyrics are takes on utterly generic, cliched themes.

And that's because the music and video are not there as infrastructure to support the lyrics. Or the "story" in the music. Instead the lyrics and music are there to support the story of the persona of Qveen Herby.

This is not a new phenomenon. It's been growing within pop music probably since modern pop was invented with Elvis Presley. Nevertheless it's reached a whole new level in YouTube / social media culture.

And probably this is here to stay. Maybe the crass obsessive consumerism of mainstream pop might give away to other moods and feelings. But I think we're stuck with the reality that the future of music is as soundtrack to our lives and activities and soundtrack to the artists who presume to inspire and lead us.

As Herby says, her goal with music isn't to make "great music" or "tell a great story". It's to inspire a sense of "self-worth" in her listener. This is music as coaching product. And that's the relationship she aims for between artist and audience. Again this isn't new. Think of all those rock'n'roll songs that exist to pump up young men and make them feel braver, stronger, and more energised to confront life.

But it's reached a new level of self-awareness now.

Anyway, that's where music is headed. Decreasingly a "thing in itself". And increasingly becoming re-amalgamated with the other arts into new gesamtkunstwerks at the service of new rituals, activities and personas in our culture.

Quora Answer : What if anything could replace streaming music in the future?

Jul 29, 2019

There's no obvious candidates.

I don't like streaming much, but I'm starting to admit that the battle has been lost.

There'll still be some vinyl and tape fetishists. And people like me who prefer a disk full of MP3s, but it's hard to see that anything can replace the convenience of streaming for most people's musical needs, most of the time.

I think there are some interesting new technologies and challenges and cultural shifts :

AI is coming to music. Partly in the making of it. And one thing that will be plausible is AI generated playlists of AI generated music. That's not going to appeal to people for whom music is an art. But for, say, the kind of music they play to pump you up at the gym. I don't see why AI couldn't generate always new and fresh examples of that. And most people won't care. Restaurants, shops etc. might well find that AI generated "muzak" is cheaper and "better" than current playlists. Though "real music" in these circumstances is already so cheap it may be hard to compete with.

Personalized streams. Ie. stuff you want to listen to but don't know you want to listen to. AIs can pick up cues from your social media behaviour, from your health-tracking sensors, from the microphone and camera you stupidly put in your living room and which is feeding Amazon, Apple and Google with every detail of your private life, etc. And then find appropriate playlists for it.

For many people, music is about the band / artist and how that artist "represents" or is an aspirational / iconic figure for them. And what they want is some kind of personal connection with that artists. Musicians are not just about making music, they are about becoming a public persona / figure / celebrity. In this sense, channels like Twitter and Instagram have already become as important "streams" as Spotify etc. They are other "live" / \xe2\x80\x98real-time" channels to connect with the artist. I think there's still some room for closer integration between music streaming and social media. YouTube now has live streams where YouTubers (including musicians and music-educators) interact live which an audience. Particularly talented musicians on YouTube are becoming "music educators" ... showing and explaining how they make the music they make, how it works in terms of tonal theory. Or technological trickery. Etc. They engage in challenges from their subscribers and Patreon patrons. They do live hookups and duets and co-productions with their fans. They do Q&A / AMA sessions. I think this is just the tip of the ice-berg and we'll see far more professional "musicians" as professional "musician / YouTuber".

Let me give you an example of an online musician / beatmaker who combines making trap beats, with online tutorials, with YouTubing and interacting with his audience. I have never gone out of my way to listen to his music outside the context of his YouTube videos. But I'm "consuming" music through watching his videos, including the following from the last days or so. Music actually not made by the guy himself, at all, but by his other viewers and fans, using samples he's made available for them to flip.

That strikes me as something profoundly radical.

There are several things to note.

Firstly I think the music we're hearing there is good, contemporary, interesting music. (Albeit within its genre.) As good as most things you'll hear on the radio or mainstream music playlists / streams. By "known" (for some value of known) artists in the genre.

The idea of "reaction" videos. This is a big thing in music these days, watching people listening to music and reacting to it. Giving their thoughts. Who would have predicted that? Who would have predicted that instead of watching people making music we'd be watching people consuming it?

Thirdly, yeah, it's not music he made. It's music other people made, based on his sample he made available to download. He's curator and instigator and judge. He is contributing to the music. But also joins us in our role as listener. A strange mix of activities for a musician.

Fourth, this format doesn't just work for trap and other electronic / pop music. It works brilliantly here too :

Music production / presentation and performance is evolving very fast on places like YouTube. Faster, even, I think than on Spotify.

I think that AIs are soon going to be able to create pure audio streams as well as human musicians can, initially for certain genres, but it's not clear that it can't go all the way. However, listeners DO want to engage / admire people somewhere in that musical supply-chain, and music's most interesting future is on the people-focused / interactive channels like Twitter and Instagram and YouTube.

Spotify probably needs to figure out how to become more social at some point. To augment its audio-streaming platform with social text or video channels between artists and audience.

Quora Answer : What do you predict music will sound like 50 years from now?

Apr 25, 2020

Artificial Intelligence

AI is going to be increasingly important in music composition from here on out.

Not in the form of "get the AI to write music". I think that's going to be a minor issue. People LIKE writing music. We already do it for fun and give it away free. AIs are not going to take over that, there's no economic incentive.

But what there will be is a lot of AI assistants coming into DAWs.

You'll have plugins that, given a chord sequence, will improvise melodic lines on top of them. You'll have plugins that, given a MIDI melody will give an increasingly plausible "human" performance on realistic sounding instruments. I'm convinced we'll get neural style transfer which can transform simplistically recorded parts into close approximations of famous players. Want Miles Davis playing trumpet on your track? You'll soon be able to have a neural network trained on every Miles Davis recording which can make your trumpet part sound like him. Etc.

In the next 10 - 20 years, the home musician will not only be able to have an entire sampled orchestra or rock band available on their laptop, but a huge amount of the wisdom and intuition of orchestral players and rock guitarists etc. captured in machine learning systems, so that your compositions will sound extraordinarily like humans playing them.

We'll also, of course, play with this technology to create various genre-chimeras. Covers of famous songs in different musical styles. Or new music which mixes widely diverse styles together. Today, if I use sampled strings to add an orchestral break to my prog-rock epic, most people will be able to tell the difference from the real thing. Tomorrow, I suspect only a handful of experts would be able to tell, by listening, that I didn't hire Mahler to write and orchestrate an extra middle-section of my tune. AI is going to make the music "fakes" that good.

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