Think about what we turn to in hard times to distract ourselves from intense emotions: friends, movies, games, shopping, yoga, books… the list goes on and on. That said, there’s one thing many people turn to in stressful situations to actually sort through their problems, not just to distract themselves – MUSIC.
Music appears to be the predominant artform that most of us can agree on: “It is quite common to come across people who are bored by ballet, passionless about painting, or left listless by literature, but [it is] newsworthy that some people aren’t moved by music“. For example, a CBC article was written about musical anhedonia, a condition in which people can’t derive pleasure from music. It’s estimated that only about 2% of the population are affected by musical anhedonia.
Music is the one artform that’s readily accessible no matter where you are, unlike plays or art galleries. You can easily carry your entire music collection on your phone. Additionally, it requires less focus from the listener; as an auditory medium, you can listen to it while doing a variety of activities including chores, games of darts, and walking.
As a species, we seem to gravitate towards music when we choose to enjoy art of some sort. If we look back throughout history, it has clearly shaped cultures and societies worldwide. It should come as no surprise, then, that humans are trying to preserve music for the next thousand years through a doomsday music vault.
The Doomsday Music Vault
As the world we live in becomes crazier due to tensions between world powers, an increase in temperatures thanks to climate change, and viruses that spread rapidly, the fear of extinction seems to be increasing. For example, nuclear war could be right around the corner as countries fire test rockets across the world. It’s a tumultuous time for humanity.
As a result, many groups are thinking about the future and the things we need to preserve in case a post-apocalyptic world is on the horizon. What will humans seek and cherish thousands of years from now? What sort of culture will exist? Should we start from scratch, or are there things worth preserving indefinitely?
For the Elire Management Group in Norway and the International Music Council, music is indeed worth preserving. A joint project called the Global Music Vault has started construction this year, and “is set deep inside an arctic mountain in far north Norway, on the Svalbard archipelago. Svalbard is a declared demilitarized zone by 42 nations“. For reference, Svalbard isn’t that far from the North Pole.
The vault is being constructed inside the same mountain that houses the Arctic World Archive (which preserves our heritage) and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (which preserves seeds that can develop into food crops).
The music being stored there will be digital, similar to the recordings found on Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify. One of the issues that digital music presents is longevity – digital recordings can’t survive without frequent hardware and software upgrades, and file formats become obsolete within decades.
To combat this, the tracks are preserved with a recent technology that utilizes a “special format used to preserve tracks [that] encompasses binary and “high-density QR” codes inscribed onto a durable optical film“. The technology can supposedly protect music tracks for a thousand years, even against the “electromagnetic pulses generated by nuclear explosions”! Furthermore, “the music capsule and film technology is considered a very green solution as it can store data for hundreds of years without needing constant electricity or maintenance“.
The primary goal of the Global Music Vault is to preserve culture, which means they are initially focusing on indigenous music, songs that have helped shape societies across the world. Of course, the scope of this project isn’t limited to specific genres or eras of music: the Global Music Vault “encourages individual nations to submit ideas as to the tracks and songs making the final cut, potentially involving a public vote“.
A major concern for some might be how this project is funded and will be maintained in the future. Thankfully, the Elire Management Group “intends to generate income from the project by charging artists and labels a fee to store tracks in the vault“.
There are also plans to make the music accessible to the public and to share the vault’s revenue with artists. The idea is to preserve music, not to become another record label or streaming service.
So what does this mean for the future of anything that can be digitized? With this new technology about to be revealed to the public, we may soon be able to keep our own precious collections of photographs, books, social media posts, home movies, and music safe for hundreds of years to come.
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