The way that we listen to music has changed considerably over the decades. From listening to music on turntables to enjoying it on supposedly indestructible disks. Then, to be able to stream it and not have it take any space up within our home at all. Music has become more disposable and immediate.
So, let us think about the music innovations that we once benefitted from that, in many cases, we still do.
Stereo, or stereophonic sound, is the reproduction of sound where two independent audio channels are used. The impression it creates is of sound being heard from all directions and so more like natural listening than listening that has been forced. We were created with an ear on each side so that we could hear sound from 360 degrees, and stereo is a way of recreating that.
It is British engineer, Alan Blumlein of EMI, that we have to thank for the stereo sound that we enjoy today. He patented not only stereo records and films but also surround sound. Some of his ideas about stereo are still in use today.
Now, of course, movie soundtracks are appreciated at home with the Dolby stereo sounds only once possible by visiting the cinema. Home portability has been achieved.
There is no doubt that the invention of smartphones has helped increase the popularity of music streaming. As the Walkman allowed us to listen to the cassette on the move, the iPhone or Android phone is allowing us to stream music to our device rather than only be able to listen to it on our desktop computer inside our bedroom.
The first phone that had music, because it had MP3 capabilities, was the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar. MP3 is primarily an audio file that uses a compression algorithm to reduce its file size. Because this compression cannot be reversed and the original data is lost during the compression process, it is known as a “lossy” format. It is, however, still possible to have MP3 music files of reasonably high quality
Streaming and downloading software to any device capable of internet access is now the norm and is similar to MP3 in the fact that only digital files exist, and then not even those when music tracks are streamed to a device rather than downloaded to it. Streaming is a space-saving way of listening to music as much as it is a disposable one.
Standing for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, MIDI is a technology that helps record producers rather than listeners of music. It means that recording studios no longer need to bring a musician into their studio because the technology allows for electronic instruments and various tools to communicate with one another at the same time as being able to track without the need to re-record. MIDI is about creative freedom and keeping production costs low. Initially, technology will prove expensive because of its development costs, but as it becomes more widely spread it starts to save money in many instances.
An extension to midi is how we now have sampled sounds on instruments such as electronic keyboards, rather than having digitally created sounds. Sampled sounds are the real instruments rather than just resembling them. Sampled sounds can include melody, rhythm, and speech. They can also be of whole bars of music, layered and equalized. Also, sped up or slowed down, looped, or repatched. Much manipulation can be done to create the sampled sound desired.
In summary, music is about listening and production. Technology has helped both over the years. Stereo sounds will resemble what we hear in real life and smartphone technology continues to make music portable. MIDI will ensure that real instruments can be heard without ever bringing the musicians into the studio. Sounds on instruments such as electronic keyboards now mean that someone can be playing a solo instrument that sounds just like the real instrument. That is because it is.