I read an article the other day that talked about people's aversion to technology and how ridiculous that was.  The author criticized how people view technology as something that gets in the way of art (among other things).  A statement he made really cut right to the point of the matter: "People never complain about how the piano gets in the way of Chopin's music."

It's true.  I guess the equation here is something like what Groucho Marx was reputed to have said: "Comedy is tragedy plus time."  The piano may have received some resistance when it first made the scene (after all, music was generally written to be played by a specific instrument), but eventually it gained acceptance because of it's inherent qualities (variable volume, sustain, and pleasant tone; features its predecessor, the harpsichord, lacked).

I remember a debate my history class had in high school over whether electronic instrumentation was ruining music.  Well, none of these fools were musicians yet, and though I hadn't picked up a guitar at the point, I could see they were missing the point.  They complained that it was wrong for a person to be able to program a drum machine and put together a song in a brief time.  I disagreed.

Composition is where music starts and is arguably the most important aspect of it.  Computer-aided music is to composition what word processing is to the professional writer.  Sure, it increases an artists output simply by making the process more efficient (i.e., "Backspace" or "Undo" is invariably faster than white-out), but it also allows numerous chances for experimentation.  Consider the fact that in his day, Duke Ellington had to tour with his orchestra constantly in order the keep them on a payroll, just to be able to hear his compositions as soon as he wrote them.

Today the computer is in the process of replacing all but the most professional multitrack recorders.  Music stores are still selling 4- and 8-track devices, but those are a dying breed.  Back in the late '90s, one of my students spent $200 on one for xmas.  A few months before I had purchased a piece of software for $50 which did all his did and far, far more.  I showed it to him, and he immediated regretted the purchase.  Granted, in any case such as thin, one has to possess a computer, so that price must be figured into the equation, but we are coming into a time when computers are regarded among many as an appliance as necessary as a phone or television.

In fact, computers have assumed the function and responsibilities of many household appliances and other items.  I made a list the other day, and here are but a few of the things I came up with:


typewriter (the last one was manufactured in 1996.)
answering machine (I use email instead)
telephone (you can speak on-line with a mic and avoid long distance charges).
juke box/entertainment center
cd player
radio (see Real Player among others)
tv/vcr/dvd player (through vcds/dvds, etc.)
multi-track recorders for musicians

It is only a matter of a few years from the time of this writing where computers will replace standard vcrs.  There is a considerable push to get all television/cable signals digital in the next few years.  Aside from any improvements in overall quality, this will also expedite the ability of a computer to compress and store this data (since it would not have to convert it from analog).

Over the past few months a few of my friends have been recording video with a camcorder, digitizing it, editing it (including effects), then exporting it back to tape.  The only reason to go to tape right now is that it is a more easily transferable medium.  That won't last long.

Computers have supplanted so much reference material we practically used to have to go to the library to consult:

phone book (not just locally, but the entire country/world)
additional volumes of classical literature (i.e. copyright free) which were made available beginning in the late '80s via Project Guttenberg)
In his novel Galápagos, Kurt Vonnegut describes a small computer called Mandarax that contains vast amounts of human knowledge.  In the story, it merely serves as a plot device.  Well, in reality, it's coming.

Copyright 2007 Ale[x]plorer.

Back to the index