Sigurjónsson, Njörður: Can Music Predict the Future?

In 1977 the French economist Jacques Attali asserted that music had prophetic nature. If we listened to how new music emerged, first as noise and then the articulation of generational angst, we would hear the sound of the future. And if we perceived the innovative ways in which this new music was being performed and organized in society we would be able to hear developments of the times and foreshadow social formations.

The first two decades of the 21st century saw radical changes in how music is managed, handled, and experienced. Internet connectivity and digitalization, together with globalization, transformed the way people perform, record, produce, distribute and listen to music. Taking a cue from Attali, in a manner similar to Theodor Adorno’s this study uses the music to “think with”, and asks: “What’s next?” The analysis is based on three cases of contemporary music, and seeks to contemplate on what music management could be in relation to the predicted technological changes. The songs, their meaning and context, is used to stimulate critical thought, inspire, and fuel the imagination. The conclusions are not objective ontological facts about future reality but rather the study asks what music does to envisage, understand and cope with the anticipated social and technological transformations.

Focusing on the effects of Automation, Transhumanism, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, this study explores possible functions of music in relation to projected technological developments of what has been called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a phrase used in this discourse to label some of the probable changes to technology in the near future, or rather the increased speed of technological developments and the possible changes to the nature of work and society (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2014). This might be the technological revolution that is not as much about how people change technology or the outside world, but rather how technology changes people (Schwab, 2015). At the same time it is imperative to resist the grand epochaliptic narrative of technological advancements that come in “revolutions”. As there is an episode or an observable chain of events that somehow brings about a change so drastic or dramatic that there is complete break with the past.