By Mousumi Roy*
The history of Western music begins in the 4th Century as the Roman Empire was crumbling under the onslaught of barbarian invasions. It was adopted and developed within the Christian Church for use in religious services, to elevate religious sentiment among the population and to wean the many converts to Christianity off of the pagan music and rites considered antithetical to Christianity.
While the history of Western music began in the 4th Century Church, it was based on ancient Greek and Roman music that people have never heard and have no way of reproducing. Music was influential in the Roman Empire, and many large music festivals played a prominent part in the Roman military tradition. Roman music was derived mainly from Greek music, but they’re too only 40 small fragments remaining for scholars to study, although the theme was central to the life and philosophy of Ancient Greece. The Greek philosophical basis for music greatly influenced the early development of Western music.
The various forms of chant which became an integral part of the liturgy of the Church are the foundation of Western music. The Church initially frowned upon instrumental music, though it gained acceptance. One of the most basic forms of chant was the Ambrosian chants introduced in Milan circa 380 A.D. After the fall of Rome, the centre of the Christian Church moved to Byzantine Constantinople, but Milan remained significant in the West, especially under Bishop Ambrose. They introduced chants and helped spread them across Europe.
Like many other valuable assets inherited from the past, music is rapidly going down the drain. Our greedy, materialistic society that has relegated the mass population to a position of servitude under a small class of privileged masters is rapidly destroying the art of music, which has been a vast, indeed indispensable, part of life since ancient times.
Classical music, indeed real music of all kinds, will soon be gone from our lives. Rather than that most sublime and complex stimulation of mind and spirit, we have opted for noise, flashing lights, and social protest from the culture that took hold in the ’80s. I hope everyone understands. I know it’s not the artists starting to make good money but the distributors like Apple, Amazon and Spotify.
Real music has structure, depth, and subtlety — it is one of humanity’s most outstanding achievements requiring a lifetime of study, dedication and hard work. It is not a fad, and it lasts forever. Where do you see that in today’s so-called music? People call it “music”, but it most definitely is not.
People no longer visit record or CD shops to browse, sample and select individual pieces of music. They let Amazon, iTunes or Spotify do the work for them. The predictable result is increasing homogenization of music created and selected not for artistic content and music appreciation but for economies of scale, mass commercialization, and profit-making.
The sad trend in the growing commercialization of the music world is the popularity of playlists. Intent on increasing the work productivity demanded by their employers, music consumers have become addicted to playlists that take the thinking out of music selection.
Today’s classical music is far different from that of the Middle Ages. It’s big data and new analytical techniques that are making us predictable. More AI was applied to economic analysis, where behavioural economics has much potential. Economists, unfortunately, are still trying to use Newtonian mechanics in their so-called science.
AI music will not be successful in competing against music performed by humans even if they use Electronic generation as a starting point and electronic means of generating sound because AI only exists in the algorithm of the coder and not in the cultural milieu in which human beings exist which is more demanding than A.I. can keep up with, even if their transmission of music is essentially electronic (which recording of live symphonic musicians also are). The electronic distribution platform is so fast that people get bored with listening to the same thing often and require new timbres, new rhythms, and constant novelty, which reflects their contemporary environment and cannot be preserved essentially.
Also, since culture is essentially subjective, the rating of culture based on careful observations, such as pitch cells, motivic development, and other complexities by scientific means, misses the contemporary need for ever more demands of novelty which has a short life span. But since even the great traditions of the past can be repeated on the market in electronic transmission, all music becomes redundant, and claims of its necessity are futile.
The old guard has always rejected the history of real music as newer primitive styles emerged, were adopted, developed then replaced the previously dominant style. This fashion evolution is accelerating because of the speed of electronic distribution. During past style epochs, you can believe that much of the so-called classical music was rubbish, but what we know of those eras is the filtered best of those ancient times.
* About the author
Mousumi Roy is a writer and poet based in Muscat. Her articles have been published in several Newspapers and journals, such as The Khaleej Times, The Times of Oman, India American Today (IAT) etc.