All in our head(phone)s

Despite the fact most non-musicians have never heard of him, Bob Moog is one of the most influential people in modern music. He never wrote a hit song, or even released a record, yet his invention the ‘MiniMoog’ synthesiser can be heard on music from the last 40 years, and has influenced the machines now heard on a massive proportion of both popular and experimental music.

In a fascinating documentary Hans Fejellestad followed Moog over several months, recording his reflections on the way machines have changed music forever.

Before technology got involved music was almost exclusively a communal thing. People came together to play and to listen, and it was always about a moment that could not be captured. As technology has developed from recording, to synthesising sounds, to sequencing them on a computer this has changed.

Now, Moog points out, we have a situation where music can made by one person on their own with a computer, to be listened to by one person effectively on their own through headphones. With all our personal devices, ‘long tail’ of access to whatever we choose to listen to, and individualistic society this is increasingly the case.

Some of the biggest artists in the world like Aviccii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex make their music on their own with a computer in solitude. I sometimes see teenagers walking to school all wearing oversize headphones over one ear all listening to their own personal soundtrack. They are, as Sherry Turkle puts it, ‘alone together’.

It is interesting that one of the only aspects of the music industry still bringing in significant amounts of money is that of the shared experience of live shows.

As I sit now in departures at Heathrow airport I am struck by how much this scene has changed over only a few years. Now almost everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of personal device, a scene that is repeated in communal spaces almost everywhere.

Working together is hard work, sometimes simply being together is hard work, and it is so much less stressful to retreat into our own personalised worlds accessed through our devices. All the more important, I think, to make sure we work at actually being together, at valuing that and making the effort to make it happen.


Photo Credit: x_miinzi_21 via Compfight cc






2 responses to “All in our head(phone)s”

  1. Ezzy Avatar

    Is this an effect of over collaboration in other areas of life? With the advances in technology we almost cannot escape each other now – we’re expected to be contactable all the time and for someone to switch their phone off is going against the norm.

    Could it be that with headphones on, it’s a bit of personal time where nobody can interact with you unless you choose to take them off and engage? And by creating music independently, it is an outlet for the creativity that’s being stifled in everyday life?

  2. […] start of a new academic year caused me to reflect on the potential loneliness of a life mediated by technology, and consider the momentum of life in a University. I took over the subject leadership of Primary […]

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