After watching the 1970’s classical/pop group ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) perform at the 2015 Grammy Awards, I was struck by how mechanized pop music has become over the past 40 years.
Here’s just one aspect of this:
Let’s say that a 1970’s recording had a string line behind the vocals during the chorus section. That string part had to be played by a live musician each time it occurred in the song. Regardless of whether it was played on violins or a keyboard, a real person had to record it to tape; playing it anew each time. Nowadays, that same string part would be played once and then digitally duplicated each time it appeared in the song. (The process is exactly the same as when you “cut and paste” in a word document.)
So now, even when a live person (and not a computer) is playing the music, the result is a string line that sounds EXACTLY the same throughout a song. No subtle differences from beginning to end. No emotional growth. No sense of momentum. No built-in variety. No “human-ness.” Just antiseptic “perfection.”
It’s ironic that it takes a group like ELO, who sounded so “electronic” back in the day, to remind us of what music sounds like when played with the human element.
Want to experience a whole new way of playing piano? Take free piano improv lesson here.
Get my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration