Sunday, 6 March 2016

Music technology

I'm sitting in the rehearsal of our Harmonie at Evron, musing during a few bars' rests, on our plans for the upcoming concert. We are rehearsing a composition by the American lady Alex Shaprio.  We have at our disposal the sheet music to play from, of course, but we also have a multi-track recording of the piece, stored on a PC operated by the conductor.  So we can, once we've got the notes and rhythms down, play along to the sound of the enormous drums and sound machines that we don't have at Evron, as conceived by the composer.  There is a "click track" as well, one click per beat, so we can keep in exact time, and for the live concert this will be fed to the conductor (chef d'orchestre) through his earpiece, so no-one else can hear it.

Our chef  has discussed the pieces with the composer over the phone, there are promises to send her a recording of our performance.

Developments in music technology bring changes, of course.  Popularisation of the record together with electronic amplification led to the rise of the DJ, and the corresponding demise of the many small bands that were employed whenever music was required at any social event.  Now the two forms of music delivery live side-by-side; there is a well-understood place for each.

Once PCs became fast enough, (called "multimedia PCs" at the time), that technology plus digitisation of music and data compression techniques led to the MP3 music file and player, all of which revolutionised the distribution and enjoyment of music for the buying public.  Now that the internet is becoming fast enough, streaming technology is starting to obviate private collections of music, since it can now be downloaded and played on demand.

With still faster PCs, sampling and sequencing have revolutionised the way music is created.

The "buggy whip manufacturing" lobby is always present with changing technology, forecasting the end of the world as we know it with every advance.   These technologies make music easier to create and distribute; this can lead to large amounts of musical dross, but at the same time, I believe that musical genius will reveal itself.  The modern composer and performer has all the old tools still available, plus some powerful new ones.   Nothing wrong with that.

1 comment:

James Higham said...

You modernist, you. :)

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