Advances in the ways music has been created over the years have been mainly due to advances in the public’s tastes, views and beliefs over the same period. The most ‘advanced’ art at any one time could, therefore, be seen as the means of expression deemed most popular or suitable at the time. Electronic music, or music that uses technology to produce its sounds, rhythm etc. is one area of music where advances (in the scientific sense of the word) take place. New inventions such as the synthesiser can produce sounds never heard before, and improvements in recording, editing and sound quality have led to new methods of music production being created. I would argue, however, that the application and creation of these aspects of music is scientific. True, to create melodies and rhythms using these new inventions is artistic, but then the melodies and rhythms created will not be more ‘advanced’ then any before them, just the way they sound will be. The same is true of all advancements (in the scientific sense of the word) in art. In a scientific sense of the word ‘advanced’, the most advanced music would be the music that incorporated the most up-to-date technology in its creation. But the scientific use of the word ‘advanced’ is not appropriate when describing advances in art. These advances are advances in the culture, morals and beliefs of the public.
If advances in art are only changes in culture, ideas, etc. then the most ‘advanced’ art at any one time would be that which was most concurrent with these ideas, morals etc. This would make popular music the most ‘advanced’ music of any time, because it is the most elastic of all genres, bending and changing it’s image and sound in accordance with the public’s views, belief’s etc. Popular, or ‘pop’ music is created with the specific task to attract as many listeners as possible. The principal criticism launched against ‘mass’ or popular culture with increasing vigour after 1945 was that it was ‘plastic’ and ‘inauthentic’. This is a popular view, with many people viewing pop music as a custom built process rather than a form of expression. Pop music changes itself when the public’s reactions to events or issues change. The music changes accordingly and this change could be seen to be an advancement of some kind, but not of the technological or scientific kind!
Changes in compositional technique that occurred in mid 20th century shocked the world. Composers like Cage, Boulez and Stockhausen were abandoning the tonal system in favour of new, experimental methods of composing such as the 12 tone technique. “Modern music has its origins in the brain, not in the heart or the ear; it is in no way conceived by the senses, but rather worked out on paper.” This new method of composing was seen as unorthodox and unnatural, and audiences found it hard to listen to due to the lack of tonality. It should be noted, however, that “The idea that the tonal system is exclusively of natural origin is an illusion rooted in history.” People’s disdain for the ‘avant-garde’ style of composition seemed to originate from the exclusive use of the tonal system up until that point. Such changes in compositional technique were viewed by most as a regression or deterioration in the quality of music as opposed to an advance of any kind, certainly lack of understanding and people’s inability to appreciate music not using the tonal system meant that avant-garde styles of composition can only be seen as a change, not an improvement or advance. It seems clear then, that scientific advance and artistic advance are two very different things. Evidence to suggest that they are very closely linked, however, can be found by observing cultures or civilisations that have yet to develop both scientifically and technologically. Civilisations yet to advance significantly in culture or technology also have primitive forms of music. Use of music seems to be more to do with function than enjoyment. In a developed culture music is used recreationally and is rarely for anything other than enjoyment. The social songs of developing countries help create a sense of community awareness and co-operation that is very important to the survival and well being of each individual. The instruments they play on and the tools they use to draw with are both very primitive, as is their science and their music. This shows that civilisations with primitive technology and science also have primitive forms of art.
In conclusion, scientific advance and musical advance are very different, but the two are very closely linked. It can be seen from looking at undeveloped civilisations that the advancement of art relies on the advancement of science and technology. Developing countries approach to art is usually very narrow, focusing mainly on food and gods. Science represents the main opposition to religious study and if developing countries were scientifically and technologically advanced, it would be very unlikely that their music would still focus on the same things.
Scientific and technological advances provide new materials, methods etc. to artists, who may or may not incorporate them in their work. Musical advances are due to advances in the public’s tastes, views and beliefs over the same period, and should be seen more as ‘changes’, not ‘advances’. Because of the inherent individualistic and self-expressive nature of music, a change in any part of it cannot be seen as an advance or an improvement, only as a new method of expression, not better or worse than the one’s before or after it. A scientific advance, however, most often involves a discernible improvement from one idea to another, the old being replaced by the new. No such replacement occurs in music, with the old being incorporated into the new. The deliberate and calculated form of advancement that occurs in science (research, experiments etc.) is another difference between the two, with changes in music coming about because of changes in society (culture, morals etc.) and not deliberate decisions about what to create.
Both music and science advance, but they do so in different ways. Nonetheless, both the arts and science are closely linked, as is their advancement, and a lack of progress in one will ensure similar results in the other.
Theodor Adorno, Philiosophy of Modern Music
Iain Chambers, Pop Music and Popular Culture
Theodor Adorno, Introduction to the Sociology of Music
 Iain Chambers, Pop Music and Popular Culture, Macmillan Education ltd, 1985, p.38
 Theodor Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, Open University Press, 1990, pg.27
 Ibid. Theodor Adorno, pg.27