Music machines


  • Listen to the first norwegian recording (1879)!

    {mp3}tinnfolie{/mp3}

Technology plays a key role in the production, performance and use of music. Some people have been enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by technology.  Others, however, have been afraid that if machines become more important than human creativity, music will be the worse for it.

The exhibition “Music Machines” has many stories to tell about the relationship between music and technology in the past few centuries. These stories are connected with many unique objects which reflect both the time in which they were created and the people for whom they were created.


PEOPLE – MUSIC – MACHINES
About the exhibition by Frode Weium

In the summer of 1989 a Norwegian newspaper, Verdens Gang, interviewed musician Marius Müller. A photo showed Müller sitting in the Scanax recording studio with a computer keyboard on his lap and his coffee cup resting on the keyboard of a Fairlight music computer, which cost over NOK 630,000 (at the current exchange rate about £6,300). The headline asked, “Computer music – better than the musicians?” According to Müller, computer-programmed recordings had a number of advantages; they saved both time and money. However, a computer could not entirely replace musicians. The machine in itself was utterly brainless. “It can’t do more than it’s told to do. It doesn’t make music, it only makes sounds.”

The issues relating to music machines were nothing new. Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 fairytale The Nightingale tells the story of a Chinese emperor who had a nightingale which sang with marvellous beauty. One day the emperor was given a new, artificial nightingale. “Thirty-three times it sang the selfsame song without tiring.” The emperor and his court were so enthusiastic about the artificial nightingale that they completely forgot about the real one. But eventually the artificial nightingale’s machinery broke down, and it could no longer sing. Then the emperor became seriously ill. At the end of the story the real nightingale returned and brought the emperor back to life.

The exhibition “Music Machines” has many stories to tell about the relationship between music and technology in the past few centuries. These stories are connected with around 60 special objects. In the exhibition one can see, hear about and listen to, for example, the Kaufmann family’s rare music machine from the early 1800s, Norway’s oldest sound recording from 1879, Queen Maud’s piano player from the early 1900s, the mysterious theremin from the 1930s, the echo machine responsible for the unique sound of one of Norway’s most popular songs of all time (Det hender så mangt på Hovedøen), the control panels from Knut Wiggen’s EMS recording studio in Stockholm in the 1960s and 1970s, and much, much more…

At the same time, these stories are meant to focus attention on other questions and topics. What influence has technology had on music? How have different social groups approached new music technology? Developments in the course of the past few centuries have been rapid and far-reaching. Today technology plays a key role in the production, performance and use of music. These technological developments have, among other things, enabled us to listen to almost anything, at almost any time, almost anywhere.

The advent of new music technologies has always sparked a debate. Some people have been enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by technology to create new sounds. The claim has also been made that technology has promoted democratisation by giving more people access to music and by making it easier for people to create their own music. Others, however, have been afraid that if machines become more important than human creativity, music will be the worse for it. New technology has often been viewed as something artificial and false in comparison with music which is real and authentic. In the 1930s the Hammond organ was criticised as an artificial substitute for the pipe organ, and fifty years later similar objections were directed at the use of drum machines. Both Hans Christian Andersen and Marius Müller touched on the same problem. Technological progress has also raised the fear that those who create the music will lose control over it. While the threat to copyright was previously posed by the tape recorder and music cassette, today it is posed by internet music piracy and file sharing.

Most of the objects in this exhibition are part of the permanent collection of the Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology and Medicine, but the museum has also borrowed some real gems from other museums and private individuals in Norway and abroad. This catalogue presents a selection of the objects along with the unique stories that go along with them. Many of the objects lie at the borderline between what would be defined as traditional musical instruments and what would be considered pure machines. In which of these two categories, for instance, would one place the player piano, the synthesiser, or the sampler?

Frode Weium

 

 

Jukeboks

Ekkomaskin

Yamaha DX7
Lochmann












 


Teknisk museum takker for samarbeidet med:

www.lydrommet.no

www.yamaha.no

www.apple.com/no

nb

kulturradet

Relekta

ringve

www.romforflere.no

www.ultima.no


 

 

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