The motivation for this question is personal; I find unpitched percussion grating, and thus the way that I will pose the question will be colored by that.

The prevalence of unpitched percussion is omnipresent in most music played since the invention of the transistor radio; except for the few new genres in which no drums is the norm (and these are niche, never chart-toppers), there is scarcely a song in which there are no drums or electronic simulations of drums.

I used to compose electronic rock songs in GarageBand, and I would experiment, even if only in thought, with different fixed ensemble ideas (imagine a rock band with clarinet and no guitar), but it would never occur to me to leave out drums, or even use an alternative to drums. One day, a conversation with one person led me to be grabbed by an idea that hasn't let me go yet: unpitched percussion isn't necessary. When I realized this, I have been unable to enjoy most new music, simply because most new music features unpitched percussion. I began to wonder: does modern music have to be this way?

What factors led to music taking this path? What if we lived in an alternate universe where electronic music were more like organ concertos, with sequencers eliminating the need for pedalboards and modules and parameter knobs taking a stop's role; where bluegrass was the only thing on country Top 40 charts; and where trad jazz was the predominant type of jazz? What would have led to such a world?

  • This is an excellent question, but the musicologists who could answer it are mostly on Music: Practice & Theory where this question would unfortunately probably be considered off-topic.
    – PiedPiper
    Nov 4, 2019 at 15:22


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