Musicians of all generations have always embraced technology to create new soundscapes, from harpsichord and dulcimers to piano to synthesisers. Whether the instruments encouraged public taste to move this way or vice versa is a life imitating art argument but it’s safe to assume music will continue to be pushed forward by musicians expanding boundaries and engineers making it happen.
Sometimes all in one, as was the case of the incomparable Les Paul, who was not only the father of the electric guitar but is often overlooked for perfecting multi-tracking (alongside Ampex).
In today’s smartphone society today’s iconoclasts have gone a step further from just using technology to change how their music sounds but have changed how it’s distributed. Examples of the viral success of the Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” have demonstrated how new channels can be effective.
But enter the concept of crowdsourcing. Using an audience to adapt and evolve music technology and the actual content themselves. For example, Beck (of “Loser” fame) released his album “Song Reader” via sheet music encouraging musicians to create their own version of his songs.
But an even more collaborative and technologically challenging concept is WholeWorldBand partly created by musician (10CC, Godley and Crème) and video director (U2, Sting, Blur) Kevin Godley.
WholeWorldBand “is an innovative music platform and mobile app that combines audio and visuals to create a global recording studio in the cloud”. Musicians upload their own tracks and other musicians, famous or otherwise, are encouraged to collaborate on the music. Voila, you’re now playing with Ronnie Wood or Stuart Copeland. The initial artist can then remix to their taste. Solo artists without a band can develop arrangements of their music with a global session band. And if the quality is good enough and a song is released, you could even earn royalties!
Other recent innovations include the Quincy Jones (multi Grammy award winning musician and producer, best known for his work on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) backed Playground Sessions which aims to teach potential pianists of any age through technology, collaboration and instant feedback.
American rapper Timbaland is involved in OpenLabs which effectively is a cheap and effective way to use touchscreen innovations to create a home studio, storing information in remote cloud servers and making sharing to SoundCloud very easy and intuitive.
Unsurprisingly, Icelandic singer Björk is embracing smart technology, releasing her album “Biophilia” with companion iOS and Android apps to create a more immersive experience of the album.
It is also very encouraging from an Irish perspective to see many other companies involved in Music and crowdsourcing based here. Along with WholeWorldBand being based in Dublin, other indigenous companies are having success from Ireland.
There’s Soundwave, the Irish music discovery app that’s rocketing skywards with 165,000 downloads. It allows users to find out what other people are listen to. All the user has to do is follow someone on the app to list their musical favourites.
45Sound is another innovative Irish company that allows bands to crowdsource live video of performances shot by the audience to be submitted online post gig and then edited to fit the recorded audio.
We’ve come a long way since the electric guitar, but I have a feeling that Les Paul would approve.
“We go in there and we work on altering those ideas and in many cases go in different directions.” Les Paul – 1915 – 2009