09/21/2012 05:18 EDT | Updated 11/21/2012 05:12 EST

A History of Music in Under 500 Words


Before Bach, there was no music. This seriously hampered the soundtracks of movies. This glorious music required specially commissioned music halls and churches with perfect acoustics. For hundreds of years, Italians sang Opera and various European composers arranged notes this way and that.

This lasted until black slaves sang while being exploited in fields, paving the way for blues, jazz, and rock & roll. This was by far the most positive thing to come out of slavery, though some countries that got rich may disagree. At about the same time, deep in the backwoods of various small American towns, hillbillies played guitars, banjos, and had sex with their immediate relatives. Elvis was a revelation because he showed white people could sing like black people, even if they couldn't yet drink from the same water fountains. Then, psychedelic drugs rendered black music trippy enough and sufficiently different to be considered not really black music any more.

Strangely, glam rock took off at the same time as heavy metal. Wardrobes were weird. Then, musicians traded instruments for turntables, and the machine that used to play music started creating it. Rap was a perfect medium for protesting and lamenting the sad state of affairs in black America. White people ate it up in droves. Simultaneously, grunge became the perfect medium for white people to vent about all the hardships suffered by the unoppressed. Seattle became internationally renowned for rain, coffee, and angst.

The Internet allowed everyone everywhere to hear everything, and we haven't seen a distinct style of music since. Modern bands are accurately described with paradoxical composite adjectives: "They're a soul, poppy jam band, with blues roots and an old-school urban, rural, new-wave feel."

Sexy music videos brought in money, so the highest paid musicians were no longer burdened with time-consuming things like writing songs, singing, or playing their own music. Autotune could give a goat a honeyed voice in perfect pitch. Meanwhile computers liberated musicians from those old historical obstacles like money, instruments, and talent. Rhythms and melodic samples could be found ready-made for click and drag stitching together. Music has evolved to great heights so that now being a musician no longer requires being a musician. And all this on little speakers that fit inside our ears so we can listen to music while doing something else.

We went from Bach to this.

A version of this first appeared at