The Future of Music: An Hommage to Herbert von Karajan

The Future of Music: An Hommage to Herbert von Karajan

Today is the 115th Birthday of Herbert von Karajan. I wanted to take the opportunity and reflect on what it is that I find fascinating about this man even more than 35 years after his death.

Herbert von Karajan first and foremost was a formidable musician. Many of his recordings of the great works of art are still unsurpassed, and his collaborations with the most iconic musicians of his time are legendary.

But Herbert von Karajan was more than a musician. He was a visionary entrepreneur who made use of the potential that technology gave him to spread the beautiful music that he loved so much.

At a time when music was primarily perceived in live performances and audio recordings, it was Herbert von Karajan who stipulated that in the future, all of music consumption will be based on video. This was in the early 1960s and many people at the time thought that this surely cannot be the future. Today, the number one place for music consumption are video platforms such as YouTube, and TikTok where all the music is presented with video.

Another example: Karajan was instrumental in introducing the Compact Disc format to the world. The event at which the format was first introduced, was held in Salzburg on the invitation of the Herbert von Karajan Foundation in 1981 and it featured Herbert von Karajan, the founder of Sony, and the CEO of Philips.

In an interview around that time, Karajan complained: “I have been born 10 years too early, I will not see all the great developments that come out of digital music.” One of the things that he foresaw at that time was that “in the future, we will have all of music in a small knob in our ear, carrying it around with us wherever we go.” This was also in the 1980s.

It is this visionary capacity of Herbert von Karajan that is most impressive to me. It comes from a curious mind, the determination to improve on the status quo, and the daringness to imagine a future different from the present.

I salute his approach today, in a time when yet another technological revolution is around the corner. This time, artificial intelligence that has human capabilities of creating, understanding (but not reasoning yet) is challenging us to consider our path forward. Many are fearful of this development, but I suggest that we approach the new technology with openness, and with an eye towards how it can help us to build a better future for all of us.

Thank you. Herbert von Karajan, for leading the way and being a role model to this very day.