Switched-On Melodies

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11095

My parents used to say, "Turn down that noise!" when I listened to albums. What, if any, is the difference between music and noise? Listen to some samples and study the effect of technology on music!


History, Social Studies

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Everyone has an opinion about music, so you won't mind if I ask you yours.

Which of these two is better? They are both the same composition by JS Bach:

What is the difference between the two?

The difference between the two pieces above was a difference in technology.

  • Were you able to hear?

Human beings have a complicated relationship with technology. We are the makers of technology, and yet in so many ways technology makes us. Technology has shaped our music as well; not only the instruments we use to perform it, but our very way of defining, composing, and listening to music.

Listen to this piece, Hymnen (1966—67) - Region II - Karlheinz Stockhausen, by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (below).

As you listen, reflect and write:

  • Would you consider this music? Why or why not?
  • What kinds of technology do you think were involved in creating this piece?
  • What role do you think technology played in shaping this composer's understanding of "music?"


Whether Stockhausen's music appeals to you or not, technology has had, and continues to have, an enormous impact on the world of music in our times.

Share and discuss with your parent or teacher:

  1. What new musical instruments have developed in our lifetime?
  2. How has music composition, performance, or listening modalities changed?
  3. How many of those changes could be attributed to technology?

Continue on to the Got It? section to examine some maybe-not-so-familiar instruments!

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