Question & Answer Time
Never a dull moment at the office, as the telephone keeps the world in touch with Music Technology.
WHAT USE IS a magazine - the one you now have in your hands, for example? What should it give its readers, its advertisers and the industry it serves? These are questions that may cross your mind once in a while, but ones the magazine's editor has to ask every month. Sometimes they're easy to answer, sometimes they're not so easy. As far as Music Technology is concerned, the month of November will go down as one of the easiest answers the magazine has ever given its editor. I'll tell you why.
Endless phone calls are one of the less glamorous sides of running any magazine, but they are nevertheless essential. Much of the day-to-day business is conducted over the telephone lines: organising interviews, procuring equipment to review and answering readers queries relating to their equipment, record releases and articles in past issues all help to make life hectic.
Of course, some phone calls are more exciting than others - and more significant. Take two of the equipment manufacturing giants: Roland and Yamaha. When they both demand that a member of the MT staff fly out to Japan to see exactly what goes on at their headquarters behind the Bamboo Curtain you know someone, somewhere is taking you very seriously indeed.
In contrast, enquiries relating to the legendary Fairlight CMI aren't all that uncommon, unless they come from Radio 1. Recently one did. It seems that the nation's number one radio station have it in mind to run a Newsbeat feature on this Australian beast, studying its uses and its effect on popular music. So where better to come for information than MT?
Another call came from the A&R department of one of the major record companies. They wanted to know where to contact one of the bands whose demo was reviewed in last month's DemoTakes. Ever on the search for up-and-coming acts, they keep an eye on columns like ours to make their work a little easier. Of course, it was our pleasure to help them.
BUT WHAT USE is all this if pop music is in an advanced state of decline, as many people have recently suggested? The fact is that pop provides most record companies with their bread and butter, and the prospects for any more "serious" forms of music don't appear too bright without it. The music business is a business like any other, and it needs the bigger earners to subsidise the smaller ones. I must confess to being one of pop's critics - it was predictable, uninspired and uninspiring. There was talk of the death of the "song" with nothing to replace it, a preoccupation with rhythm and production mania merely delaying an inglorious end.
But unless it's all in my imagination, pop music is making a comeback. In stark contrast to the utter mindlessness of the Bee Gees and the meticulously-produced whingeing of the Pet Shop Boys, the Eurythmics' return to electronics and M/A/R/R/S abuse of technology and healthy disregard for musical etiquette have produced a couple of the most exciting singles of the year. And I hear David Sylvian is about to return full-time to making pop music and has enlisted Steve Jansen (drums), Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards), David Torn (guitar), Mark Isham (trumpet) and Danny Thompson (bass) for future live outings.
Perhaps it's too soon to say, but from the underground experimentation that's been quietly going on, we may be about to see a healthy pop scene emerge, aggressively applying new technology to contemporary music. And as people try to reconcile melody and rhythm, composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich look more like prophets than ever. Whatever happens, Music Technology is ready for it - we've already waited too long.
Editorial by Tim Goodyer
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