Tuesday, 6 January 2009

What would music sound like in a post-carbon world?

As I write, gas supplies to the UK are under threat while we enjoy some of the coldest weather for some years. As well as being burned for heat, gas is used to generate electricity. With oil prices erratic and coal almost a thing of the past our reliance on fossil fuels can appear a little short-sighted. Nuclear power is problematic for a whole raft of reasons and alternatives still make a up a tiny proportion of the total power generated.

I rely heavily on electricity in my music work. I use play-along CDs and programs such as Band-in-a-Box and Cubase for my teaching. For composition and soundtrack production I am totally dependent on my computer. And then there is my treasured collection of CDs and LPs. Somewhere my brother has a wind-up gramophone and a collection of 78s. It may be possible to adapt it to the needs of my own vinyl but I can't see it handling mp3s very well.

So, if the power is switched off, what then? Well, assuming we don't all freeze in the first cold snap, we'd have to dust off all those acoustic instruments. If you have a piano it's value will suddenly rise and your popularity with it. My guess is that we'll face an enormous skill shortage. In a nation that loves karaoke shows such as The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, one band can serve the needs of a nation on its own. Where will we go for entertainment once the TV stops working?

Which brings me neatly to my book, Adventures in Sound, which will still work in a post-carbon world. None of the games requires electricity or items manufactured in a carbon-based economy. And, by fostering co-operation and music making amongst the participants, it may go some way to solving the skill shortage alluded to above.


  1. Hi Jonathan

    I like where you are going with the lack of electricity !

    Refering to your e mail, I have a blog site too, primarily dealing with Crystals, which, through reception and transmission of Light, create sound, but of a frequency not normally heard by Humans !

    With best wishes


  2. This sounds fascinating, Cosmo. Are we talking very high frequencies? Are there instruments to measure them. I'd be very interested to know more, especially in relation to sound - even if I'll never actually hear the sounds they make.