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The Music We Deserve - Allen Wentz

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This is an entry in The Future We Deserve - a collaborative book project about the future. See all the entries or talk about this entry.



The invention and proliferation of the music synthesizer (thank you Dr. Robert Moog and others) changed my life in a very profoundly futuristic manner. I was an early adopter of the instrument. In fact I was on board so early that I only knew one other person who owned one before me! I scraped and saved to get one, as they were expensive and I was very young, and the only way to hear them was via the few ground-breaking record albums of the day. After I finally got my first synth, I would play for days in happy solitude, creating new, never heard before sounds and arranging them into something that was hopefully, audibly palatable. Instead of a string, “skin”, reed or metal tubing, I could fashion new sound sources using pure electricity! The excitement of literally tapping into pure voltage to create sound was just so thrilling. This was literally the sound of the universe. Oscillators vibrating at Quark speed. Filters shaping the tone, and Envelope Generators providing complete control over the time domain of each sonic event. Not to mention the modulation capabilities of Sample & Hold circuits, LFOs and various other voltage processors. I mean, that terminology even sounds cool, does it not?

My “dream gig”? It was to be playing in the lounge of the moon shuttle! Looking out at the cosmos, while my sequencers chugged along underneath melodic waveforms of varying shapes and amplitude. But of course NASA decided man’s natural, unending quest for discovery of new worlds should be shelved in favor of payload carrying space busses. But I digress..

So you see, I’m a musician who assumed 40 years ago that by the end of the century, at the latest, we would all be listening to this amazing, “non-traditional”, futuristic electronic music due to affordable, available new instrument technology. Instead we merely got more of the same, just augmented with “funny sounds”, although there has been some amazing music produced in that genre. And to be fair, there are always people pushing the boundaries of what any art form can be.

So as I end my sixth decade on this lovely water world, the future has always been a bit of an oxymoronic concept for me. An avid sci-fi reader when younger, those stories seemed almost mythological, as many were so prescient in their narrative and then voila.. came to be. For better or worse. Be it Verne's TV, or Orwell's Double-Speak. (Can you say “Net-Neutrality”?) Magical, yet "biblical" in the same breath. Exciting and full of optimism, yet simultaneously dangerous and hopeless. Forward & backward at the same time! So, since we are always living in the future, do we deserve what we have now?

At least in music, and the other fine arts as well, the future has always been with us. And modern musical composition gets plenty of mileage out of “traditional” musical instrumentation. Stravinsky, Copeland, Coltrane, Stockhausen, Davis, Zappa, Cage, and many other true pioneers have written music that will not be fully understood for possibly decades to come. And like good-quality, nutritious food, we do deserve it.