Have you ever wondered about the future of classical music: where it's going, who will perform it and how we will listen to it? It's an idée fixe with me - has been for years.
Looking deep into my crystal ball, I'd like to expand the focus and move into a wildly speculative mode, opining about the not-too-distant future. Musical science fiction? Read on
Futurists tell us that we're going to greatly expand human longevity to enable us to live perhaps 1000 years, via "nanobots" (virus-size robots) implanted and swimming in our bloodstream, ferreting out cancer cells, for example, and repairing diseased body parts. We'll eventually harness the resources of the planets and moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune to redesign the solar system, utilizing their vast gaseous and mineral deposits to build "computroniums" - both nascent planet-sized biological DNA and non-living computers. The processes of theoretical physics will supply immeasurable amounts of cheap energy to Earth. Mars will be seeded with specific life-designing nanobots and will be colonized, "terraforming" it. Looking beyond, countless newly discovered planets within our Milky Way galaxy would also be made habitable as we move beyond our solar system, into space. Most radical: the "wet meat" that we are, the product of millions of years of evolution, will be "upgraded" as technology and biology merge within us.
Is it true, or
It's been a hard day at the office, where you've doggedly negotiated for hours with the Director of Mining on Saturn's and Jupiter's moons Titan and Europa for methane rights for your company, the energy powerhouse Methadronium, LLP. The liquid methane seas on Jupiter's two Earth-like moons, now being terraformed, present some serious logistical extraction problems. Of course, you didn't actually go to Titan; you faxed a clone of yourself at 0.10 lightspeed - about a 12-hour trip - to the meeting.
It's later that evening and you want to relax at home. A nice, meditative string quartet would cap this particularly stressful day. You've always liked ancient classical music; it's been a hobby for years. Although there are no live performances of it anymore, that's not a problem. Around 2100, holographic performance became the rage and projections of many of the great old string quartets were cataloged and became available. Not only that - you can interact with the performers.
You turn on your hologram light projector and insert the disc "Emerson String Quartet - 2025-2050." This ensemble was among the most revered quartets in the early 21st century. The blue-green beam is projected from above within a circular platform in a small space at home perfect for chamber music performance. As the four members of the ensemble materialize, a large sub-menu of composers and works appears on your hologram monitor. Within about a minute, the four players, bathed in a diffuse opalescent aura, confer and turn towards you.
"Glad to be with you. What would you like to hear? Beethoven, Brahms, Kurtag, Renknad?
"I'd like you to play the ‘Adagio ma non troppo' movement from the ‘Harp' Quartet, Op. 74 by Beethoven. I'm in the mood for something restful and undulating."
"Fine," says Eugene Drucker, the first violinist. "After that, we can improvise in the style of Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart - whoever you like."
"I think Dvorak would be nice. Let's hear something new from him."
By the year 2150, artificial intelligence and computer chips operating with 1000 gigaflops of quantum light RAM had made the real-time composition of music and performance in any known style eminently practical.
After the performance, you thank the players and turn off the hologram projector. You're fortunate to own a collection of several hundred discs of ensembles spanning the entire repertory of classical music. Since those once-precious 600-year old Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, violas and cellos have disintegrated, it's much better now: all performances are virtual and give you the intriguing option of requesting new compositions created in the style of your favorite composer on the spot. You can even relax and chat with the players before or after - all in the comfort of your home.
Concert halls? A thing of the past. Large projection amphitheatres still exist, though, for holographic performances too big for the home of what were they called symphonies and "Hi-Def" opera.