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There is a lot of going back to the 80s happening since around 2010, and music has made sure to make the most of its “retro” opportunities. There has been shows such as Stranger Things, movies like Blade Runner 2049 and well known artist like The Weeknd that began using sounds from synths very 80s like.

There is however a youtube channel that specializes in this sort of feeling, the channel is called “NewRetroWave” why should you look into it? well the 80s were surely an important era for music in terms of electronic music and music structure.

There is a nice summary of what Synthwave and Retrowave is by Observer.com:

In the past couple of years alone, the sub-genre of electronic music also known by names like outrunretrowave and futuresynth, has transformed from a whisper on a few select Internet hubs into a self-sustaining musical ecosystem hoisting itself up and expanding rapidly.It all began in the mid-2000s, when gamers and horror nerds took a liking to French house artists like Justice, Kavinsky, and College, who were creating sounds inspired by ’80s film score legends (Carpenter, Goblin, Brad Fiedel). Since then—and especially after the release of the 2011 arthouse film triumph Drive—the genre has exploded in a plume of modern electronic fury, with artists emerging around the globe, from Stockholm to Dallas, Texas. That satisfied-but-anxious feeling you had watching Terminator for the first time, that inexplicable sense of comfort you got every time the Beverly Hills Cop intro came on, these sensations might just bubble up again when you hear the dark aggression of artists like Perturbator and Mega Drive or the pure ’80s worship of Mitch Murder and Miami Nights 1984.

Julia Neuman

Cyberpunk and Synths

There is a part of the 80s retro culture that stuck around until today, and that is Cyberpunk, which began to rise as a branch of sci fi and popularized after Blade Runner and Ghost in The Shell.

The music that acompanied these futuristic cities and enviroments was very distinctive and came mostly from synths.

ALEX, a retrowave artist comments on the whole aesthetic of the genre when asked about references from movies such as Blade Runner and games like Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s kind of, in general, the culture right now, it’s sort of edging towards that aesthetic style – yeah I think it’s pretty cool, I think it’s pretty fresh too cause I prefer the – It’s not really about nostalgia, more doing something new with it. Cause I’m not really from the 80’s, I’m 22, so I don’t know what it was like to sort of be in that sort of era. I like the idea of sort of the more fringe aspects of VR coming back in a much more innovative kind of way, and then you’ve got the whole thing about Cyberpunk which is kind of a more 90’s thing I guess.

But at the same time, it’s sort of a revamp. I think it’s something we totally needed as well cause I think there’s a lot of reboots right now as well… … that may be best left alone… … I do like the whole sort of “Retro” thing coming back.

There is an interesting aspect about this whole genre, which is that it has mostly gained traction and listeners through the internet, with platforms like YouTube. This makes it like a somewhat funny wink to the whole cyberpunk aesthetic.

Retro With Digital

retro

While the idea is to come back and capture the vibe of the 80s through 90s, its sounds and the overall feel of the time, there are many new technical aspects that differ from those original sounds, digital most of all.

There are more tools, and it’s easier to produce music today, and while some like to go back to analogue synths, others make the most of the possibilites that come with the digital set of ideas.

The easiest way to make Synthwave or Retrowave is through a MIDI keyboard, which directly connects to the pc and lets you control the sounds through a digital channel. Once this is done, there is a work of sampling old music, and mixing it with new sounds, playing with the tempo and pitch in way that makes the old music heavier and easier to follow as an electronic music song. This proves that no matter how much there is of something, there is always something new to find in the past.

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Despite all the connections and relationships between different cultures, there is still a big difference between the east and the west mostly between Western culture and Asian culture, including Japan. While music is a place to share a universal language, there are many interesting differences in the way music developed since many centuries ago.

According to britannica.com there are: “three general concepts: (1) the sound ideal, (2) the structural ideal, and (3) the artistic ideal; but those three things are not clearly separate in any musical event”.

Ancient and Nara Period

The very first signs of music in Japan showed many similarities with China and Korea, so in a way, they influenced eachother very much, and at the time, there were few lines that separated them in terms of music. It wasn’t until the time when Japan was known as Yamato Japan due to the domination of the Yamato clan that Japan started to use instruments such as barrel drums which were played with sticks, while another figure is seated with a four or five-stringed board zither across his lap. Crotal bells (pellet or jingle bells)

The way japanese music evolved was that it managed to produce avery complete sound with few instruments.

8th Century Japan

It was at this time the history of Japan’s music starts to get clearer and a sens of the musical structure, instruments and composition can be understood.

In terms of the structure in Japanese compositions there was a clear difference from Western music, and that is the  jo-ha-ky?, this is a three part sturcture which Japanese music followed. First, an introducction, then scatterings and finally, rushing towards. The interesting thing about this, is that all three parts were different from each other, as opposed to the western structure of recapitulation.

Edo, Meiji And World Wars

Everyone has some sense of what the Edo period was in Japan, even if you don’t know it. The Edo period was the era of the Samurai and shortly after Ninjas, which have been used in many forms of art, stories and games.

There is also a type of music that comes to mind which often includes the “shamisen” and the “shakuhachi”, the first being strings and the second a type of flute. There was also a lot of use of drums, called “taiko”.

Before the second world war, Japan was very interested in their traditions and identity.

“In the writings and musical works of the composers, Japanese-style composition is seen as an act of seeking and creating a Japanese identity in an international context”

LASSE LEHTONEN

After that, the modernization of Japan came with European and American influences, but Japan managed to preserve its tradition and essence; the result being, new and fresh ideas for their music.

Modern Japan

japan

It’s actually interesting to go on youtube for example and search for japanese artists, because while many of them still perform very traditional folk music, the way they’ve incorporated other genres is very interesting, genres such as Jazz, Rock, Hip Hop and Pop. In a way Japanese music manages to be extraordinary most of the times in terms of the performance and composition.

One of these great artists was Ryo Fukui, a self-taught Jazz pianist. While he is not one of the most famous he certainly brought a lot of new inspirations to jazz, however it did not reached its full potential.

Thelonious Monk taught us the beauty of improvisation. Louis Armstrong helped us find fun in swing. Duke Ellington showed us the wonder and joy to be had with a big orchestra. Ryo Fukui had all the material to make a similar impression on the world of jazz with the modal masterpiece that is 1976’s Scenery, but among some of music’s biggest injustices, the lack of a global stage for musicians of Fukui’s ilk is one of the most unfortunate. When listening to Scenery, it’s hard not to think about the countless other potential works of art that the Western musical zeitgeist has failed to account for.

Jazz Izzin

Ryo Fukui 1976

It’s up to you to explore a bit more in the area that you prefer, but there is no doubt that Japan is one of the most interesting in terms of music.

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For a long time music videos have been a part of the music industry, many times as part of the whole promotional plan or to broaden the artistic value of the music.

Golden Age of Music Videos

Videos

Before MTV first launched in 1981, music videos where out in the world, but it wasn’t until they were broadcasted the first 24 hour music channel that it became a big thing.

The way it worked was that from that point onwards, lots of people discovered bands and artists while watching TV, but that was the hook, that people were “watching”. When we listen to the radio sometimes it’s easy to forget, or get distracted, but if you are watching a music video, you see faces, small stories, names written at the start or end of the song, and this became a huge thing.

Songs such as “Thriller” from Michael Jackson, “Sledgehammer” from Peter Gabriel, “In The End” from Linkin Park and “Weapon of Choice” from Fatboy Slim, to name a few, are some of the songs with the most memorable videos within this golden age of music videos.

It wasn’t until the arrival of internet and different social networks and platforms such as YouTube, that this started changing.

Streaming, YouTube and Independent Art

Music videos became the default way to promete and market new music, but when the consumer’s eyes shifted from TV and Radio to the internet, viewers decreased rapidly.

After the internet first established its roots, some time passed until YouTube became the main source of music videos in the world. A lot of things changed, from choosing exactly what you wanted to choose instead of the surprise of watching something new, and in a way a more personal experience.

The music industry took notice of this change and focused more on YouTube and streaming services, while channels like MTV began to make the most of shows and reality shows in order to stay relevant and give something to the young audience they used to have.

Dave Meyers one of the most popular music video directors today, told young aspirers to direction in the music industry:

Times are so much more amenable to them. The birth of influencers is evidence of that—people making $60,000 a month are using their iPhones to shoot little comedy skits. It’s just young people doing what they do. And advertisers want that audience. So I think that the most important thing is to just do it. Find your voice, and then push your voice. And then be humble enough to hear the feedback. If nobody’s checking for what you’re doing, try again. And keep trying

theatlantic.com

YouTube allows a lot of creativity to happen, this of course extends to music videos.

Lyric Videos and Videos for Listening

There is a trend that has been very successful which is to upload a song without a video in the traditional sense, but a video that just shows the lyrics of the song in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. This also comes from the idea that YouTube is a free platform and many people clicked “videos” just to “listen”, some people don’t care about the videos they just care about the music, this is why a faster simpler way to share music was introduced.

Still music videos are very much alive, and while they don’t have the spotlight they used to have on TV there are some that stand out.

Recomendations From The Last Decade

Woodkid, Iron, 2011

Radiohead, Daydreming, 2016

The Voidz, Human Sadness, 2015

Childish Gambino, This Is America, 2018

Arctic Monkeys, Four Out Of Five, 2018

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