Technical / musical synergy

12Jan09

Disclaimer: I just posted this on my old blog at heatherwiltse.com, but am duplicating it here so this new blog won’t look so bare and empty!

I just listened to the 2008 year in review episode of the NPR All Songs Considered podcast, and was intrigued by a reference that the commentators made to technology in a discussion of the over-arching themes or moods of 2008 music. One of the main themes that they identified was that of retreat, solitude, reflection, etc., as exemplified by artists such as Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. One commentator (I think it was Bob Boilen) equated this with the ‘death of the boom box’: the public listening experience of the boom box has given way to the more solitary and intimate experience of music through iPod headphones.

I thought it was interesting how there could be this synergy between musical trends/evolution and the evolution of our collective listening habits. Then of course, being the nerd academic I am, I started wondering what kind of sociotechnical theory could be used to account for this. Does technical change cause musical change, or vice versa? Do they mutually shape each other? Are they causally unrelated, and the iPod experience just happens to accentuate one of the current musical moods?

I’m not going to work through all that, and it may be just coincidence. But even if it is, I still think it’s interesting to think about how technology design shapes the way that we relate to and experience music.

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