If our spaceward looking, dreamy-eyed forefathers could see the realizations of their Stars (both Wars and Trek) and Judy Jetson dreams come to life in the modern age, they might be positively dumbstruck. Although we never quite managed to achieve that elusive, Blade Runner/Big Hero Six melding of East and West and there are certainly not as many flying cars around as they may have pictured, the digital age is upon us, and with it have come some fairly amazing technologies and innovations most of us remain blissfully accustomed to. Surely the space-racers of the sixties and seventies would be proud of us in that respect. We have voice automation that my father often remarks at—Siri may be annoying, but at least you don’t have to spend hours reading key phrases aloud to get her to understand you like you had to with the o.g. dictation software. If you’re measuring progress by comparison Cortana would pretty much be seen as her holographic Halo self by the analog generation. GPS isn’t just reserved for planes and boating, but is available at any time to any person with a Smartphone. When you think about the difference between ourselves and those who came before us, our age is certainly driven by complex yet accessible technologies.
But what does that mean for the simpler pleasures in life? Evaluate yourself here: when is the last time you sat in a room or even (GASP) outside, and did something creative or intellectual without the assistance of wifi, or cable, or any other technology? Way back in the day—like Jane Austen back—people (okay, women, but you get the idea) used to define themselves by their accomplishments. I draw, I sing, I write, I paint. Well the ladies and gentlemen of today, self included, all seem to define themselves the same way, e.g. “I’m on Pinterest. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook” But what does this mean for another artistic pursuit—the creation of music? Are we the digital witnesses to the death of creativity?
One could certainly argue the affirmative. A good deal of songs these days that darken a variety of genres from pop to rap to EDM sound like their lyrics or just the entirety of the song in general might have been written by a computer. Some of them probably were. And in a society where there are just so many ideas floating around the internet and no real way to permanently erase information on any level, there’s a whole lot of repetition, of re-imagining existing work instead of producing original material. You could argue that major artists are just following a formula of autotuning and the same old subject matter, or you could say that it’s more about digital media, social media, and image than it is about talent. But that’s what people said about the Beatles back in the day. And Elvis, and Fleetwood Mac, and AC/DC, and Daft Punk and any number of a smorgasbord of artists and groups from a hodge-podge of genres. It doesn’t mean that it’s true, or that it holds up with time.
In fact, like any good debate, you can argue either side successfully. You could say that the interconnectedness and globalization afforded to us by the internet and by technology has fostered ingenious collaborations, the dissemination of creativity on a national and international scale, and the use of music for some of the most effective and meaningful humanitarian aid. So, the death of creativity? Maybe not. Maybe more like a metamorphosis of how creativity manifests itself. We may all be drones to the digital queen bee, but at least we’re still busy making some extraordinary things, just one of which happens to be music. Rock on.