The absence of a significant musical trend or cultural movement so far in the 21st century: I’ve attributed this to a lack of territorial isolation in that movements (artistic and cultural) would spring out of ‘scenes’ that existed locally but not globally. Now that we have constant connectivity, this separateness is rare, and thus so are movement shifts.
There may also be an element of technology involved, and not just in the advances of global connectivity. Technological progress has created musical trends and genres; think of the increasing number of audio multi-tracks and how that begat Sgt. Pepper’s or Pet Sounds. Or of the fuzz guitar creating psychedelia, the drum machine and sequencer creating electronic dance music, etc.
We can look to film as a guide. There’s a dramatic difference in movies produced in the ’70s versus those in the ’60s and in movies shot in the ’60s compared to those in the ’50s. Many people, especially the young, in the ’70s, would have a hard time watching ’50s movies as they seem old-fashioned. The shift in style and look is pronounced. There are aesthetic differences, too — subjects that were taboo at one time became commonplace decades later, for example — but often, technological developments that influenced the culture inspired these changes.
Think of Jean-Luc Godard and the jump cut. An editing technique that was so radical at the time of Breathless is commonplace in film and TV (and YouTube) now. Godard made it revolutionary because cinema, as a developing art form, still had areas left to explore. As time moves forward, the technology of the medium is no longer one of limitation.
Another example is the brilliant Russian Ark, an ambitious 2002 film created in a single long camera shot. Digital filmmaking was new, and the hard drive space available to the cinematographer dictated the ‘single shot’ running time of Russian Ark. Compare this to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, meant to look as if it is a long, single-shot movie, but throughout, there are several sneaky cuts. The length of a roll of film limited Hitchcock as he had no access to hard drives, but this did not make Rope any less radical in its era. Now, the single-shot film is commonplace — a technique used and overused by modern filmmakers with an almost unlimited amount of digital storage space at their disposal.
Limitations of a medium breed experimentation as the artists push and explore what is possible. With limits removed, this experimentation takes other forms.