We live in an age where art is blooming and at the same time, crumbling.
As a musician, I see some very apparent changes in the music industry, for example, the music in the 70's and 80's and the music that is trending now.
The musicianship of musicians has certainly increased over the past few decades but composed music keeps leaning dominantly towards the preference of the mass audience and hence gets simpler day by day both in terms of the music and also the lyrics. I am sure many people among the general audience are also able to differentiate between the music of both these eras.
So what brought about such a massive change?
It's a question that plagued me through many sleepless nights as I have an orthodox style of musicianship where I try to bring out the flavour of music from the past while giving it a modern touch required for contemporary songs.
The answer is quite simple.
We have done it ourselves.
In the past while cassettes were still rampant, studios recorded their songs on tape and recordings could only be done by bringing all the artists required for the sound track and playing on cue together. If mistakes were made, you either physically cut that part of the tape, or repeat the whole thing again. So to avoid mistakes, artists trained themselves to perfection. As a composer then, you had to have an idea of how most instruments worked manually so you can direct the artists for your song. When you sit down with so many great musicians together evidently your musicianship also grows. It was an age where people were still exploring different genres and new instruments and hence were very experimental with their music and this used to bring out a bulk variety of music to the plate, where each song had its own unique flavour.
With the advent of Digital Audio Workstations commonly called in its abbreviation, DAWs, things changed.
Granted DAWs made things much simpler to work with, reduced budgets and improved sound quality. But the boon and bane lie here. With DAWs you no longer required the actual artists of every instrument to sit in the recording for a song. Most of the instruments are on your fingertips and you can play them with a simple midi keyboard and sound interface. Hence composers no longer required to be dextrous in every instrument and can depend on himself/herself entirely for making a song.
The idea of perfection as a musician is also no longer required because mistakes could be undone by simply pressing two buttons on the keyboard together - ctrl+z.
Gradually because of this songs started becoming simpler to the point that they soon slipped into what we musicians call, a 4 chord system. The idea being, just with 4 chords playing in loop, you can sing almost all the latest songs over them. This is especially rampant in the Hindi film industry.
When a song is restricted to 4 chords, obviously the melody becomes simpler and hence so do the lyrics. So how do you make the song a hit then? Simple, bring in a good singer with a unique voice or a voice loved by the public and the song's a hit!
Especially now is an era where every Tom, Dick and Harry, irrespective of their musical backgrounds and knowledge is picking up on the concept of "home studios" and making his or her own songs, with their own music productions, sometimes with no idea even as to what they are making, and releasing out on streaming and social media platforms. This is an influence of the social media hype, where everyone wants to become a verified account holder, or social media influencer like Youtube celebrities and such. Opportunities have increased and at the same time, so has the competition. But the quality of music made is literally going down the gutter.
Now if we try to bring out the uniqueness of old music back again, it is no longer seen as "trendy". Why? It's us musicians who had trained the ear of the audience in the past to listen to all kinds of unique flavours and experiments in music and it is also now us musicians who have trained the next generation audience to only understand simple music with relatable or easy to sing along lyrics. This brings out songs that trend for the time being but do not last through the ages. I am sure many of you have many old songs at the tip of your tongue, why do you think that is? Even though they are not modern or trendy with the present generation, when the quality of the composition is bringing out musicianship of various artists and the essence and greatness of the composer, the song will last through time, no matter how long.
I believe the entire fate of future music rests in our hands. We are the ones who have to train the ear of the audience to understand and accept quality music again, and I don't mean sound quality, but the quality of the music composition. If musicians become more willing to bring out a better musicianship from their music, and resist their belief that the audience will not accept it or see it as "modern" and "trendy", they are fully capable of bringing out wondrous, illustrious song compositions that will barrel through the test of time.
By Vijay Bharadwaj