Monday, January 11, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) When music-making technology and gaming results in philosophical questions

Hundreds of years ago, the only way to make music was to learn how to play a musical instrument, or to sing passably well. As time marched forward, various technological advances, ranging from programmable synthesizers to auto-tune (see previous post), have allowed people to create music without years upon years of study.

At the same time, there has been a movement in the software world toward more engaging interfaces, to the point where some people are actively using gaming principles in their software design. (See all of my posts in my Empoprise-BI business blog that mention FourSquare.)

Put these together, and your head will spin around.

Jon Healey:

CES isn't usually a place for mulling existential questions, but here's a couple for you: What constitutes a musical instrument, and what does it mean to be a musician? I couldn't help wondering about that after seeing a demo of a prototype from Music Mastermind, a two-year-old Calabasas-based start-up founded by a former major-label executive and a Wall Street trader. MMM is developing a music-creation tool that erases the line between video games and composition. It enables people to create full-blown, professional-sounding songs by singing into a computer or specialized portable device, then using a software band to provide the backing track. And it does so with the look and feel of a video game.

After Healey attended a demo at CES, he reported:

It's obviously not the same as playing the notes yourself on real instruments with honest-to-goodness recording equipment, but it's close enough to be startling. That's why MMM's chief technical officer, Reza Rassool, calls the software "the first 21st century musical instrument."

MMM noted that this was not the first move to expand music-making. They cited karaoke as another example of the extension of music-making to the people.

Now whether you consider MMM's opponents as backwards-thinking Luddites or true musicians probably depends, at least in part, upon your personal music-making capabilities. Yet at the same time, I personally don't feel that MMM has really lowered the bar much more than auto-tune, karaoke, programmable synthesizers, and the like have already done. There's a wide spectrum of opinions on what is true music vs. what is fake - for example, I'm sure there's a very vocal minority of people who believe that music went to hell when Les Paul started electrifying guitars. And on the other hand, there are probably people who believe that no performance should ever be live, because of the possible errors that can occur during a live performance.

So, how do you feel about technology and music?
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