The Future of Electronic Music

Electronic music celebrates human intellect, progress and unison with technology and science. If we reflect on past and present movements in the styles of electronic music, we see that it has always been about the future and futurism. Composers and producers have always strived towards the science fiction themes, futuristic sounds, electronic elements, analogue sounds and finally celebrating digital music expression as means of setting the background for what is about to come.

The very nature of electronic music is about anticipation of the technological equilibrium. The question is what will happen to this music style as a global phenomenon once we reach the common goal.

a) It might disappear as an active music style and be recorded in libraries as an interesting post-industrial phenomenon.

b) All electronic music might take a new form and become very complex so that it might not be comprehensible by contemporary human.

c) It could continue to self-perpetuate or turn into a primitive music expression in form of a tribute to our achievements.

Some academics speculate that we are at that stage where momentum of technological development is so great that there is no point of return for the humanity as we know it.

Two years ago (in 2003), Time magazine organised a conference called “Future of Life” as a celebration of Watson – Creek’s discovery of the structure of DNA. All the speakers at this event were asked what they thought next fifty years would bring and an interesting comment came from Ray Kurzweil, who took an optimistic approach and pointed out that most of the predictions were rather shortsighted. In his piece for the New Scientist, Kurzweil explains that the most common mistake futurists make is that everyone reflects on the past fifty years when making projections for the next half a century, and calls this phenomenon an “intuitive linear” view, where it is assumed that the current rate of progress will continue to apply in the future. After assessing the history of technological developments, Kurzweil argues that the progress has always been exponential and justifies this by monitoring various aspects of this progress, for example, reflecting on different timescales and taking into consideration a wide variety of technologies, ranging from electronic to biological, sum of human knowledge and economic implications.

“Ultimately we will merge with our technology. As we get to the 2030s, the non-biological portion of our intelligence will predominate. By the 2040s it will be billions of times more capable than the biological part”

We have a very powerful statement here – it almost summarises the essence of electronic music. Whether these views are a bit too optimistic or not, it looks like humankind has taken evolution to a next level and it is not about to slow down or reverse – or is it?

In Foundation series, Isaac Asimov introduces the concept of psychohistory, a scientific method of predicting the future by observing masses rather than particles of large and chaotic systems. Kurzweil uses this analogy and gives an example of predictable properties of gasses by utilising the laws of thermodynamics and our inability to predict movement of their rather chaotic and quite unpredictable particles. In his views, information technology is just as predictable. However if you are to make accurate predictions of human development you must take into account our very human nature which hasn’t changed significantly since the tribal times.

Socio-economic developments are usually lagging behind and slowing down the exponential progress of technology and science. Right now, we are in relatively balanced west-east relation between the rich, poor and the middle class. This can however, turn around with the next major economic crash, which could be self-initiated or caused by natural effects. When big economies start running out of momentum there will be more wars and more Divide et impera (divide and conquer, divide and rule) scenarios, recently seen in Balkans and Middle East, and when that’s not enough – there will be another global war. This ‘dark era’ is also covered in many, mainly mature, styles of electronic music. Post-apocalyptic scenarios have always been one of the favourite themes for techno authors, science fiction film directors, computer game producers and animators – especially in European and Japanese and animation schools.
The consensus is that electronic music always takes slightly darker path, especially with the more sophisticated or complex sub-styles (IDM, electornica, deep techno, goa, experimental) with couple of exceptions in some cheerful but brainless directions this music took, such as happy hard core.
Before it goes back to the pessimistic motif, electronic music will take a new direction and break away from the apocalyptic theme. This age will be known as the second renaissance of music and art and will go in line with the momentum of technological developments. Let’s hope Kurzweil was correct and our generation will be part of the beginning of the stage two.

“We are making exponential progress in every type of information technology. Moreover, virtually all technologies are becoming information technologies. If we combine all of these trends, we can reliably predict that, in the not too distant future, we will reach what is known as The Singularity This is a time when the pace of technological change will be so rapid and its impact so deep that human life will be irreversibly transformed. We will be able to reprogram our biology, and ultimately transcend it. The result will be an intimate merger between ourselves and the technology we are creating.”

Electronic Music V2.0
by Dejan Petrovic

Written by admin