A love of music is at the root of all our passions for audio. The ways that you and I learned to appreciate listening to, and creating music, are going to be different than the ways that people listen to and create music in the future. There is a constant struggle between the disruption and preservation of those methods.
Record stores have been closing steadily since the demise of Tower Records, streaming music via YouTube and Spotify are becoming preferred to AM/FM, and Guitar Center is $1.3 billion in debt, while Amazon is thriving. The romance of digging through dusty record crates to find two copies of a great break on vinyl, has been fading like a well-loved album cover. Music discovery, once a truly social activity requiring physical presence, grueling research, and conversation, has become more voyeuristic and individualized through the use of social media and search engines. Over the past century, passive solitary music consumption has overtaken active group musical performance. Percentages of discretionary income spending are also shifting away from musical content and moving toward hardware devices that commoditize music.
However, with tectonic shifts come opportunity.
- Fundamentally, one of the greatest powers of music is to bring people together, and bringing people together is core to building community, identity, and purpose. How could the power for music to connect people be amplified in a positive way?
- What problems could be solved in the next generation of music discovery?
- How could this industry inspire a viral interest in music education and creation, or redefine those terms?
- How could brick-and-mortar record stores and musical instrument stores reinvent themselves not just to survive, but to thrive?
- What incentives could be created to drive an employment boom in the greater music industry?
- What should the 5, 10 and 20-year goals and roadmap be for music discovery and creation?
What if every sound in the world was being recorded, and tagged with location and time? What if it was all searchable, reusable and accessible from any device? What new information could we learn from a sonic omniscience? What could we detect and automate? What problems could a system like this create or solve? What would it disrupt? What new forms of art could emerge?
As our world becomes increasingly filled with sensors and microphones, and the services we use are paid for with disclosure of data, it seems as though a system like this might one day be possible. What are the long term implications of a sonic omniscience? Is it all NSA and 1984, or are there opportunities to mitigate an Orwellian dystopia and use a system like this to create a better world? What responsibilities should those developing sensor networks and search algorithms have to ensure the best possible outcome? What should the equivalent be to Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics?”
While the creators of augmented and mixed reality are pioneering great experiences in the realm of binaural audio, one might ask the question, what’s next? Where are the greatest opportunities for understanding our environment through sound, and seamlessly blending audio content with the world around us? What would we do with greater contextual awareness and responsiveness? What problems could we solve? What are the limitations and the possibilities?
From the earliest sputtering combustion engine of the Ford Model T, or the clackity-clack of a Mickey Mantle card in your bicycle spokes, to the modern stealthy sounds of the Tesla, the symphony of transportation continues to evolve. Knight Rider’s Kitt sold us on the dream of a car with the ability to carry on a conversation, although we’re not there yet. Car enthusiasts modify their exhausts to make them louder, and researchers are designing tires to make them quieter. As vehicle sound systems become more complex, what will this mean for our interactions with them? How will the sonic experience of vehicles impact the emotional relationships that users or bystanders have with them. What risks and opportunities does the vehicle give us that’s different from other platforms?