Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Misguided Response to New Technology

The 1800's were a time when all of Western society was having “growing pains.” Nations, businesses, schools and everyday people were adjusting gradually and sometimes bitterly to the radical changes that had begun in the previous century, not the least of which were the Industrial Revolution and the advent of a scientifically based medical system (sometimes called “Western allopathic” medicine). These two developments had a profound effect on the way that human beings perceived themselves and the world around them.

The Industrial Revolution brought with it a drive to manufacture things in a way that was increasingly bigger and more “efficient.” The artisan’s workshop was replaced by the factory. People in the workplace were replaced with machines, and many human beings were killed or injured while operating those machines. The focus of the factories was to get as many products as possible in the hands of as many customers as possible as quickly as possible, rather than concentrating efforts on doing a good job at something. An urgent drive to produce, produce, produce became more important than human life, good health or the meaning of being a person.

And that’s what happened to singing, slowly and steadily. In a time when artists and composers were no longer receiving constant support from one monarch or another, singing and music fell into the hands of industry as well, and in particular charlatans.

New opera houses were built throughout Europe that housed bigger and bigger audiences. Singers were expected to force the sounds of their voices to fill larger auditoriums so that more tickets could be sold and, with the advent of the phonograph, more records could be promoted and marketed to the public. The new music industry drove singers to produce, produce, produce rather than allowing the singers to serve their art in an effective way.

No comments: