If we could call up a time machine and go back to any big city in about
1850 or earlier our ears would require a radical overhaul to accept differences
in the general sound picture. Music, even if familiar to us, would have
strange overtones. All of which points to the shifting sands of every facet
of living and the environmental overlay. Today we can hear instruments of
particular periods played by those whose research allows them to conjure
authentic sounds and performing styles. Equally, we can commission specialists
who make instruments to the precise specification of a certain period.
These sweeping changes to our direct musical experience have brought
us further than ever before, and yet we always find the bewildered whose
rate of acclimatization with both the early music revival and the cutting
edge of new music remains haphazard.
Overall, there is now an intermix of knowledge and exploratory ideas
in the world of music galvanising progress, whether in pop, jazz or so-called
serious music. It is sobering to speculate what may have driven music forward
if the innovatory leaps derived from recording and broadcasting had not
taken place. It is all too easy to go along with progress and forget that
it might have been otherwise, which in this case seems astonishing.