NPR logo Music In 2510: How Will It Sound?

Music In 2510: How Will It Sound?

The other day, Bob and I were gazing out the window by our desks, watching layers of winter clouds glide silently by. (These are billable hours under the "inspiration" budget line.) Things got heavy pretty quickly when we began to ponder where all of this would be in 500 years.

The view from our office. (credit: Bob Boilen)

I figure it'll all be buried under a vast, turbulent sea, and that the only remaining life will be the gruesomely mutated aquatic creatures that slither beneath its oil-black surface. But Bob was more interested in imagining what music will sound like in 500 years. Here's what he offered:

"In 2510, music becomes the ultimate wallpaper. Every store and every building uses music as an identifier. Musicians write music for locations, venues, office buildings. It's Muzak's Muzak.

"Like so many awful things, this inspires a revolution in music. People get together underground with instruments made of string and wood, and voices altered by drugs, to make music much like the sonatas of the early 17th century. There is no audience for this music. Everyone is a participant."

When you think about it, music today isn't that much different from music 500 years ago, during, say, the Elizabethan era. It's still played on stringed instruments, with vocal harmonies and familiar melodies and chord structures. That said, I imagine that music in the next 500 years will become more and more amorphous and dissonant. We'll likely have machines that can produce the music for us, automatically mashing elements together so that everyone can have their own customized "songs." Musicians who compose actual songs with words and melody, and play those songs on vintage instruments such as the "guitar" and "bass," will be a novelty.

I love how the producers of the film Children of Men took the time to imagine what music might sound like in the year 2027:

What do you think? Look to the future and tell us what you hear.