Review of December Events
December Section Meeting “Audio and Computer music in the Present Age“: (Review by Charles Gervasi) Greg Taylor’s talk was called “Campfires Seen from Orbit” because it approached the subject from a philosophical view of how electronic music fits into music over human history. When Max, an early music creation software, started 36 years ago, it required a whole room of computing equipment to run. Now it runs easily on a laptop, making modern musicians think of a laptop as an essential musical instrument. New technology tends to affect music in unforeseen ways. Originally someone put a microphone on a guitar to make it louder. Imperfections like clipping or feedback became part of music and became more important than the original purpose of adding a mic. There is a modern type of music called Congotronics that uses older electronics repurposed playing traditional music from the Congo in completely new ways.
Taylor talks about the broad question in technology of “what’s the next big thing?” As engineers we want to know because have an interest in cutting-edge technology and there’s potential for great wealth. Taylor says the question is based on a false premise of a linear progression of technology. There is no “next big thing”. We have access to things down “the long tail”, not vetted by gatekeepers, and not geo-local. The talk touched on chaos theory of “attractors”. Starting with the phonograph, music has been getting easier and cheaper to record and transmit, making it seem natural for music to be free. The perception of the cost of music is affected by the cost of the media. Every new development in music technology influences music in unpredictable ways.
There are countless new pieces of musical hardware and software people are creating and sharing on the Internet. Taylor showed us an example of a keyboard with lights that is really nothing more than an I/O device for a computer that lends itself to music. There are musical instruments that run entirely on a tablet computer. In one example, the musician can drag things around on the screen to change the nature of the sound. In the past musical communities formed to develop music. They admitted or rejected people based on certain aesthetic judgments and biases of the members. These musical communities have gone online. They serve the same purpose as musical communities throughout human history except everyone can join regardless of initial judgments of members, opening music to people who in the past would have not been part of a community. This will affect music in unknown and exciting ways.
Photo: Greg Taylor’s Section Meeting Talk: “Campfires Seen from Orbit: Audio and Computer Music in the Current Age”