The Centre for Corporate and Community Development in collaboration with Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair (KLESF) and Malaysia Mental Literacy Movement (MMLM) organised a webinar titled “Music and Technology” on 14 September 2021 via Zoom and Facebook Live. Presented by Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) President-cum-KLESF Steering Committee Co-Chairman and MMLM Committee Secretary Prof Ir Dr Lee Sze Wei, the webinar which saw more than 150 participants, exposed how music and related industry have evolved with the development of technology, from the beginning of human civilisation to the highly connected society. It aimed to encourage music lovers to be more interested in the development of the industry in relation to technology.
In the webinar, Prof Lee spoke about music and society, audio and human auditory system, the music industry and technology evolution, the impact of technology on the music industry and technological and commercial outlook in the music industry.
Prof Lee, who is a music lover said, “Music is an art form and a cultural activity whose medium is sound, organised in time. Music has a long history. When civilisation started, music started as well. The earliest piece of music was recorded in ancient Greek. Music is a way of communication. Humans have created a lot of musical instruments and it has evolved over the years. If you analyse how it is propagated, it is an audio signal to detect and listen.
He explained the science of sound and music. “The kind of audio signal we can detect through the auditory system is quite limited in terms of the frequency range. Hearing range describes the range of frequencies that can be heard by humans or animals, though it can also refer to the range of levels.” He added, “The music industry consists of individuals and organisations that earn money by writing songs and musical compositions, creating and selling recorded music and sheet music, and presenting concerts, besides establishing organisations that aid, train, represent and supply music creators.”
As Prof Lee spoke about the key milestones of technology that influenced the music industry, he said, “Phonographs are the first technology to change the music industry as music can be recorded, played back and shared with a bigger audience. It was the turning point of the music industry. In the 60s’, there was compact kind of cassettes compared to vinyl record to create convenience for listeners. Digitisation happened when music was recorded into a compact disk. Later, we had the Walkman, CD players, iPods, iPhones and so forth. The Internet became widely available for the general public in the 90s’ and that was the revolution for the music industry. The music industry was shaped by socio-economic factors and one of the key factors is technology.”
Prof Lee is a telecommunication engineer by training. He enjoys listening to various kinds of music. His music appreciation started in childhood when he was exposed to pop music widely played in the community he lived in; that was in the 1970s when music was widely distributed and played on vinyl and cassette players. He lived through his teenage years in the 1980s fully indulged in Western and Cantonese pop music like many other teenagers of the era. He later discovered many other types of music after going to the university in the 1990s and has since learned to appreciate most of them. Since young, he has witnessed and experienced the evolution of technology for music distribution and playback - vinyl and cassette to CD, MP3, peer-sharing technology (Napster) and streaming technology now.