This new music/sonic tech (iPad in particular) opens so many new doors I think as with many new things, especially groundbreaking inventions, there is and will be controversy. “Real musicians” whoever they are, could be a bit miffed at the thought of non-musicians making music. But the whole point of the easy access of a touch surface, and the highly advanced processing power is to allow for new creations. To go beyond the norms and conventions. From the beginning, computer music was different, and it took a certain amount of guts, daring, or some avant guard sense of the world, even to accept it as music.
Innovations in musical instruments throughout history have opened up vast territories that had been previously unavailable, unimaginable even. The piano was a culmination of many innovations and technology breakthroughs, so much so that it makes it difficult to classify; in what category of instruments do you place it?
Well it has strings, one may say. Yes, indeed strings it has…88 of them. So its a string instrument, along with the violin? Well, no, it is actually considered a percussion instrument. Because each of those 88 strings is struck by its own hammer, or a set of hammer parts and pieces and weights and well, a bunch of physical stuff that works incredibly well together. Unlike the harpsichord on which the strings are actually plucked — the piano strings are struck much like what happens when playing the bells, a glockenspiel, or the vibes. So it is technically a tuned percussion instrument.
The piano then is an example of a high tech device which did indeed change the course of music history. Where would things be in this world with no piano tunes from Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin, Ray Charles, or Oscar Peterson? I think a sad place.
(I wonder if, back in the day, someone might have claimed, “You can replace 22 strings players with that damned pianoforte contraption.” Or , “It’ll be the end of the orchestra…”)
In so many areas there are thousands of innovate ways to use an iPad/iPhone, etc. from commercial flight tracking software for travelers, to word processing, spreadsheets, inventory management, and credit cards acceptance (and I’ve seen iPads now at several retail shops being used as a cash register). There are highly specialized apps for land surveyors, piano tuners, and pilots.
And then there is the what I believe to be the iPad’s most significant game changing function….that is its sonic capabilities. At this point in time it is certainly just a conjecture but the hardware and iOS could become significant in music history as starting a whole revolution not only in how sound is generated but also where it is made (parks, airplanes, bathrooms) and by whom…by who. By me, that’s whim.
Not to loose sight of something though…this should be mentioned early on in this blog. Ease of use and automatic tuning, and gesture control is fun and with the right apps, anyone can make sounds…sounds that are not terrible. But let us not forget…what makes something listenable? What makes something a good song? There are so many intangibles…
Well, we all have opinions but it is my contention that musicians and composers have nothing to fear from the fun music creation apps and folks generating tunes from them. I am not afraid that someone that thinks A# means “A Pound Sign” will create better music than I. And if they do, then I have a lot more work to do (which I already do anyway).
The well written, well played song will be superior to any computer enhanced creation. Emotion is the core of music and when a composer lays it out, or a player injects themselves into the performance, nothing can rival some of the levels that can be achieved.
Until we have bots that can think and feel, I believe that only humans with the drive and the talent can create true, lasting art that can touch your insides.
I am not saying anything against automation….hell I am writing on an iPad I can’t very well dis much that is computer related, can I? But a music system or a game of gestures where pretty music will flows easily is fun and all, but now let me have some control over that. Given an opportunity like that, I am convinced that a musician could take that as an ingredient and make something much more out of it.