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Ned Talk on Electronic Music, by John Griffiths

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

The latest of this year’s NED Talks was held on Wednesday 20th March when John Griffiths spoke on the subject of How electronic music went into the box and is coming out of it. This was a fascinating “romp through the evolution of electronic music to the present day with examples of how it is being made and shared”, as John himself described it.

Over the course of half an hour, John showed us how recording studios have shrunk into laptops, how entire symphony orchestras have been reduced to files on USB sticks, and how the mobile phones in everybody’s pockets have the power not only to share all this but to create new music too. He confessed to suffering from a severe case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and demonstrated several examples of his ever-expanding electronic equipment.

More than this, though, he raised a number of philosophical issues as he described how “the democratisation of music production and distribution has put power in the hands of anyone with the patience and persistence to learn how to use it and to gather an audience.” The question “what is music?” certainly isn’t a new one, as a brief contemplation of John Cage’s work makes obvious, but John’s talk highlighted several of the controversies about musicality, authorship and ownership.

Since the end of the pandemic we no longer run NED Talks during the spring and summer, when most members seem keen to eschew Zoom and all its works; but we hope to be back in the autumn, as long as volunteers with a story to tell are prepared to come forward or are outed by their friends. Ask not what other people might tell you about, but what you might have to tell other people… And if you come up with an answer, do get in touch with Adam Phillips!