During a time when the information superhighway was just getting under way I chanced upon an Earth Wind & Fire album I’d never even heard of before. It was called Electric Universe and was recorded in 1983. It had a song on it called “Moonwalk” that contained a lyric line that has rung more and more prophetic in my life and my perception of the world ever since. Maurice White sings in it “Computers on the rise/feelings are synthesized/makes it hard to feel/but the touch of your love is real”. Since that time I’ve viewed electronic music as evolving (or de-evolving depending on the point of view) from an exciting and thrilling innovation that captivated everyone from lovers of the music of Kraftwerk to Afrika Bambaataa to something that has become mainstream,accepted and often seemingly required in popular music. Even today in pop music,if your buying albums by Pink or even the newest music by Alicia Keys the overall sound and production is bassy,electronic and extremely epic in flavor. Has mainstream popularity and therefore homogenization made electronic grooves in all genres simply a boring and unwanted cliche in the modern musical climate? Or is there something a little bit deeper at work in the hearts of the music listener themselves?
Just as recently as this past Valentines Day I’d observed there seemed to be a lack of love around me in general. Later on a member of my family made a very solid proclamation to me. They revealed that they had developed a rather active dislike and distrust for computers. That they are slow,awkward and that each time they have come to a point where they are at last working properly there seems to be a defect that makes it difficult. This person also stated that they noticed an enormous increase in emotional negativity in people either when there are technical problems with computers or when dealing with difficult people through social media sites. I could not disagree with these sentiments to a degree because,for starters,I hear them echoed by so many famous and non famous people all over the place. Many music fans and critics I’ve encountered,including myself,have bemoaned the reliance of hip-hip in particular on auto tune,a software program that corrects the pitch of singers but makes their voices sound robotic and artificial. Prince is foremost among those who’ve made this assertion publicly but stating that for him “the internet is completely over”,furthering stating how it’s cold and robotic intonations couldn’t be good for people. He has filed lawsuits on many different websites to have his music and much relating to it removed,especially on YouTube.
Why does society today seemingly both fully embrace and try to repel technology? Especially computers? I am not convinced it’s because the technology seems to big and scares them somehow. I am truly convinced from my own experiences with the many different shades of “technophobia”,related to music in it’s creation and distribution, that it all speaks to a primal concerned buried deep within the basic human psyche since millennia before the industrial age. Fact is almost 90% of the problems faced with technology,from computers themselves and the software they run,come from us. Technical service,our own lack of knowledge. Nobody that I know are very comfortable when they lack knowledge about something that is important in the world around them. And again I include myself among them. A person might be misty eyed reminiscing for the “good ‘ol days” of Motown,Otis Redding,The Beatles and so on. Others might be viewing modern musical technology through a filter of having much against hip-hop (at it’s core a technology dependent music) which,if your an R&B/soul/funk fan even today,is still nearly impossible to avoid. So perhaps next time I am frustrated with a computer malfunction or irritated by too much auto tune on a favorite new album I’m listening to,it’s likely that in some way myself or someone like me is actually to blame at the end of the day.