Translation: Reshaping the Music Discipline After the Covid-19 Pandemic (I)


After every storm, the sun comes up. When the clouds clear and we recover from this Covid-19 pandemic, there will undoubtedly be a renewed understanding of humanity, along with an opportunity to reclaim music, pioneer the new instead of following the old, give a new perspective to our art, and reconnect with the larger world in the 21st century.

In the short time that has passed since the emergence of the global virus, we have encountered some positive applications. First, the music faculty, which spent most of its years avoiding interaction with technology, is now forced to establish close relationships with it. As we practice social distancing, professors and instructors are learning and becoming increasingly familiar with online methodology, platforms and applications to deliver their lessons, at least “virtually”. Second, there is the desire to connect with humanity among the general population, a renewed burst of creative energy. Music; It is experienced in homes on an increasingly private, personal level and is performed solely to express emotions, raise morale, or challenge one's intelligence and ability. These performances are often simplified with limited production, and voices and/or acoustic instruments are brought to the fore. Professionals, like members of the French National Orchestra, were recording themselves while in quarantine, and individual pieces were put together through video synchronization so that the audience could experience the entire orchestra (France Musique 2020). Even before that, commercial pop artists shared their performances. At Fox's online iHeart Living Room Concert for America, stars from Billie Eilish to Mariah Carey performed in intimate settings to raise charity funds (Blakemore 2020).

Most of these performances, shared on social media or YouTube, were not intended to make money, but simply to express creativity, connect, offer solace or entertainment. Technology (for example, live video broadcasting) is important as a means of communication. But artificial, formerly common music production has mostly been set aside. The human element rather than the electronic one is the focus. You don't need to adopt sound processors (Auto-Tune) or engineering and mixing. You don't need to constantly think about creating a sound that will compete in the industry. Due to virus-induced isolation, the market's digital formula was interrupted, creating a tight breathing space for the organic musician. Music in higher education should capitalize on this opportunity and support the repositioning of greater social design.

In the wake of the current pandemic, the world will undoubtedly become acquainted with systematic change and new technologies – what political economist Joseph Schumpeter might describe as “creative destruction” when innovations disturb the economic system and bring about radical industrial changes. Instead of associating the upcoming innovation with a negative connotation (such as downsizing), one may think that this change can have positive results and start a new era in which old ideas and institutions are replaced by better ones. (Thornhill 2020). Such a mess; It can revolutionize the way music is created, marketed, distributed, consumed, creating employment opportunities in academia and discipline (Vazquez 2017). If approached with a focused strategy, an improvement can be seen not only in the process but also in the quality of the content and the music itself.

There has never been such a period in history. But the situation faced by the music discipline is somewhat comparable to today, when a hundred years ago, during the extraordinary explosion of sound innovation with the invention of the gramophone, radio, microphone and amplification. Those in the academic music world did not assess the situation wisely or develop a vision at the time. As a result, a powerful “music industry” emerged, and from year to year the gap between academia and business grew so much that the music industry eventually overtook all the others and began to independently direct the voices of societies. We can learn from past mistakes.

Audio technology in the early 1900s changed the face of music in a way the world had never seen before. Citizens have changed from active music performers to passive sound receivers. Before technology, those who wanted to listen to music had to either play/sing themselves or attend a live performance. Sound; later it became easily accessible through recordings or airwaves. And even when live performances were presented through the use of microphones and amplification, the styles of singing and performing changed, just as the necessity of having resonant concert halls. This innovation created a big shift in the expectations and tastes of the listeners. Some musicians and trainers were rightly concerned. The famous military marching songwriter John Philip Sousa complained in 1906 that this technology would seep into the culture, and its impact would be seen not only by professionals but also by the extraordinary number of amateurs involved in making music in the United States.

…America has advanced the arts so much that today it is the Mecca to which artists of all nations travel…. There are more pianos, violins, guitars, mandolins, and banjos among America's working classes than the rest of the world.

It will only be a matter of time before [with the new technology] the amateur disappears completely, and with it a number of vocal and instrumental teachers who will have no expertise or enthusiasm…. When a mother turns on the gramophone with the ease with which she applies electric light, will she sing sweet lullabies to her baby to put him to sleep, or will the baby be put to sleep by a machine (Sousa 1906).

However, most scholars ignored the implications of this and accepted sound innovations without much apprehension and embraced technology as a means of teaching: for example, students were now more inspired because they could hear valuable compositions that were “technically far ahead of themselves and had no other way of recognizing.” (Cooke 1916). Also recorded music encouraged a stream of music understanding courses. Because students could now sit in a classroom and listen to various genres and masterpieces (Apel 1969). Thus, the academy incorporated technology with “assimilation strategies”, in which technology was perceived as a tool to expand the status quo (Hayles 2012; Ruthman 2017). This is an approach similar to the one seen recently, where musicians use their digital tablet/iPad only as a display for 300-year-old notes. However beneficial the interaction may be, this approach ignores the broader social and economic context of the technology.

Author: Lisa A. Urkevich
Original Title: Our Rebirth: Reshaping the Music Discipline after the Covid-19 Pandemic
Publication: College Music Society, Vol. 60, No. 1, 2020.
Original Article


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