They say software is eating the world. In the world of music production, software has given anyone with a computer or an iPad access to multiple sounds and techniques. Is this a valid replacement for the old school methods?
Quincy Jones doesn’t think so. In his recent, infamous interview with Vulture he claims that: “Musical principles exist, man,” he said. “Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man.”
I agree with him on some of this – A classically trained musician will presumably be able to get more out of a production studio (and an iPad) than I can with my untrained background. But, I also think that convenience and emotion trumps technical proficiency for a reason – it sells. And so we have music-by-numbers.
The internet has let the genie out the bottle. By giving publishing and creative power to anyone with a modem, the internet upended the music industry harder than any other i can think of. Music used to have the perfect model. Scarcity in its production process meant that money was made at an astounding rate, and this could be ploughed back into experimentation within the industry. However with the cash dissipating due to online piracy and access to resources – most songs on the radio are now designed to appeal to the masses, and to guarantee a sale. Much like we tend to have sequel movies at the cinema, new ground is rarely broken in the mainstream music world.
My response to Quincy is – so what? Move out of the mainstream then. What Quincy Jones fails to realise in his interview is that mainstream music is only one type of failing music. In fact, the term ‘mainstream’ and ‘pop’ are becoming less and less important. The internet has built up communities around every kind of genre you can imagine – from classical to afro-electronic beats driven by iPads – you can find it if you want to.
The problem is not a lack of proficient musicians or producers in the world. It is just that Quincy is looking for new things in the old places. And those old places are broken now.