• 1. Influence of technology on development
of popular music in the 20th century.
• 2. Late 60s early 70s progressive rock –
‘The Dark Side’.
• 3. Case Study – The Velvet Underground.
• 4. The Punk Phenomena – 1976-79.
Technology and the creation of
The advance of technology within music in the 20th
century has had a liberating effect – broadening
creative and listening opportunities to a mass
At the same time it has reduced the sense of any
mainstream in music – classical, popular or folk –
in which we all participate.
We can all remain within our chosen musical
subculture(s) and remain closed to everything
else. We live in a musical postmodernism where
every thing is relative and value judgements are
difficult to make.
• Raises economic issues – technology gets
cheaper and easier to use - so new
refinements and complexities are needed to
keep selling the products.
• Raises creative issues – people using it use
it less and less creatively – so much is
possible we use it to do only the simplest
Nineteenth Century Mainstream
• Idea that before the onset of the 20th century and
the development mass culture there was more of a
sense of a mainstream style.
• European art music – general consensus on style –
led in the 19th century by Germans – Beethoven,
Brahms to Wagner, Bruckner, etc.
• Popular music also had a general uniformity of
style – Waltzes and other dance music,
nationalistic music, Music Hall traditions etc.
• Technology of music widespread and fairly
uniform. Based on playing instruments live.
20th century fragmentation
• Music technology in 20th century both develops a
mass industry and a mass market – but also
separates and allows sub-genres and subcultures
that detract from the mainstream.
• Today the mass music industry allows us to follow
and consume only the sort of music we like – Rap,
Classical, Medieval, Thrash Metal, etc.
• There is no mainstream – but a mosaic of
subcultures in music – of which arguably all
classical music is but one.
Pop Industry and Technology
• Pop music industry
predicated by technology and
there is an argument that
more than anything else,
determines the success of the
industry in general.
• Phonograph (wax) to Shellac (78s) to Vinyl (45s
• Crucial part played by the 45 vinyl single in the
• 70s album sales increasingly important
• 80s 12 inch singles and CD singles introduced as
the importance of the single declines
• CDs take over from vinyl
• 90s DVDs
• Blue Ray DVD?
• Electronic mics - 1925
• Electro-magnetic tape - commercially
available from the late 40s
• Stereo sound developed for the cinema first
available with tape in the 50s - by 60s home
stereo record players become available -
records increasingly in stereo
Cassettes and CDs
• 70s saw compact cassettes widely available for
home taping - particularly of radio - in-car radio/
cassette players and `hifidelity’ home stereos now
easily affordable. Dolby enhanced appeal
• By end of 80s cassettes outselling other formats
three to one
• Digital age and CDs from 1982. CD-Roms by
1990s. MP3s and Internet late by 1990s
• Now DVDs.
• The sound engineer/mixer `represents the
point where music and technology meet’
• sound mixers initially technicians - now
• 70s and 80s opened up the creative
possibilities of new technology and the
musician/sound engineer/mixer could be
one and the same. E.g. Brian Eno
• Gramophone, Radio, Reel to reel, Stereo
hifi, in-car sound systems, compact cassette
and radio, walkman, Ghetto-blaster (boom
boxes), CD players, portable digital
recorders, mini-disc players, home
computers - all have influenced the music
industry in various ways. Their sales an
important part of the overall industry. Sony
a company with interests in all areas.
• Les Paul and the 2-track recording. Tape
Delay. Close mic-ing
• Late 50s slapback delay - Sam Philips
• Over-dubs - e.g.- Good Vibrations
• 2-track to 8-track - Sergeant Pepper and Pet
• 32-tracks and more
• Grows out of hawaiian guitar by Leo Fender
• Acoustic guitars with amplifiers in the
1940s - Charlie Christian a pioneer
• Les Paul and `the log’. The Les Paul
• 1948 Fender Broadcaster and 1954
Stratocaster – humbucking pickups
• Analogue (subtractive) synths from the
• Commercially available from late 60s -
Here Comes the Sun - switched on Bach
• 1970s affordable but still monophonic
• Opened up many new possibilities
• Kraftwerk (Autobahm first all-pop hit)
• Other forms of synths mid 80s
• then - MIDI - digital revolution
• 90s manufacturers trying to use digital
technology to emulate classic early synths
• The Australian produced the Fairlight – cost
around £50,000 but could do it all and was an
instrument that could be played
• Buggles - Video killed the radio star 1979 -
Trevor Horn/Art of Noise
• Sampler allowed non-instrument sounds to be
used musically - Kate Bush - Baboushka.
• Sampling could do away with live musicians
Sequencing and more
• Sequencing, sampling and multi-tracking
together on Michael Jackson’s Thriller
• All digital recording (DDD) Dire Straits
Brothers in Arms 1985
• Cut and Paste audio/sampling, Fatboy
Slim’s Praise and Paul Hardcastle’s
Economics of Technology
• It gets cheaper. Early Moogs £10,000 now
equivalent technology £200.
• Early 60s multi-tracks could only be done
by pro studios – now all digital 8-track costs
around £400 with effects. Its possible to
have all the technology to do a Sergeant
Pepper for less than £1000.
• Means of production in the hands of the
people - but now they seldom have the skills
to use it!
• Previous generations would have filtered
out poor musicians/singers and amateur
music who would never have got to the
public - now they can and do all the time.
• Anyone can make a CD-quality 16-bit digital
recording - there is no talent filter but the listeners
ear. Also technology can correct anything!
Quantising and Vocoder.
• Musicians/singers do not need to be trained - is
this good or bad?
• Live element of performance ever diminishing.
Especially since 1980s. Miming to recorded
tracks increasingly the norm in pop industry.
New ways of making music
• Using technology’s strengths to inspire new
• Machine-like timbre of analogue synths developed
into experimental pop that was deliberated
mechanical – e.g. Tangerine Dream
• Software sequencers encouraged copying chunks
of music - repetitive dance music where special
effects had to maintain the interest - filters, etc
• From a high in the 1960s the pop music
sales and progressively reduced – there is
no real mainstream pop culture as there was
in the 1960s.
• Music is a global industry that is in crisis –
how to get people to pay for their music
when it is possible to get free off the
• In the post modern age – everything is
relative and value judgments are not PC.
• We consume music in a very narrow range
– each compartmentalised subcultures
knows and cares little about each other.
• This was not the case in the 1960s – and
even less the case in the 1860s.