Monday, October 10, 2011

Music and Technology

There are a couple of different approaches to this question. One is a celebration of all the wonderful gifts technology has brought to music. For example, with a laptop and an inexpensive recording equipment package you can set up your own home studio for less than $1000. This replaces what would have cost probably $100,000 twenty or thirty years ago and offers an order of magnitude of higher quality than the recording equipment the Beatles did all their recording on. With the iPod everyone can carry thousands of songs around with them to listen to anywhere. I compose using an inexpensive music software that enables me to instantly hear notes I input played on any instrument at any tempo. It even does dynamics and fermatas. True, it's still a computer so the performance is, uh, stiff and clunky, but it produces a perfect score, ready for publication.

The other approach is to criticize the intrusion of technology into music by noticing that with the hundred year old development of recording technology, no-one has to learn how to play an instrument or even go to a concert in order to enjoy music. Another consequence is that recorded music is ubiquitous in most public spaces. The effect of this is that music is taken for granted and becomes just another mass-produced industrial product. The one place actual music performance is still demanded is at pivotal life events such as weddings and funerals. The general level of musical knowledge has probably plummeted as a smaller percentage of the population takes music lessons and hence learns to read music.

Both of these approaches contain truths, of course.

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