Have you ever heard a snare drum played at full volume in a bathroom? Or an acoustic guitar played underwater? Or bagpipes played, anywhere? Then you know there is a time and place for when music makes sense. Musical instruments are built, selected, and played together, or individually, that best suits the environment. This listening environment dictates the chosen music and instruments based on the acoustics, physical size, and social situation.
The music should be appropriate for the target listener based on the listeners' environment that will consume the sound. A few examples include rock music played in a night club, piano and choir played in a church, pipe organ played in a large cathedral, and big band jazz played in a ballroom. Most musical styles were originally created based on the acoustics of the environment. People rarely expect to hear percussive music in a cathedral or a pipe organ in a small night club. The percussive instrument would reverberate too much, and logistically a pipe organ is just too big for a small venue. It just does not work. A live venue's environment played a big part in how certain types of music and musical instruments were conceived. However, another kind of listening environment also changed the way music genres and musical instruments were conceived.
Back in the mid-1800s, a new medium was invented that would change music forever in the form of sound recording devices. By the 1920s, consumers could indulge in a select number of musical styles on a phonograph box played in their living rooms or on a jukebox. Now musicians were writing music that would sound good in live venues and through these new listening mediums. As the technology changed from the electrical era through the magnetic age, music transformed significantly up to the current digital era. The listening environments expanded to include music created for cars and boomboxes, TV, computers, and personal mobile devices.
We have entered an era where technology has advanced to the point where anyone can express themselves through music. Thanks to digital computer workstations, killer apps, and digital marketing, anyone can create music and share it with the world. Music genres have expanded from just a handful of styles a hundred years ago to thousands of genres and subgenres. Just look at the music styles listed on platforms such as Spotify and YouTube. People are continually expressing themselves, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries, and it is a beautiful time to be a musician. The musician should always be mindful of the environment in which they hope their music will reach the listener.
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.