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The Impact of Digital Music on Composition, Performance and Listening By Richard Ingham Electronic generation and transformation of sound

played a major role in historical developments in music in the twentieth century. Since the electrical 'singing' arc of William Duddell in 1899, composers were fascinated by the potential of radically new sound sources (much as composers and instrumental technicians in the nineteenth century had developed orchestral expression). Computers have become commonplace in the work of designers, visual artists and installation artists in the last twenty years, but electronic music has been an important part of musical development since the 1950s. Both art music and commercial music made use of synthesised sounds throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but the creation of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) systems around 1983 began an explosion of new opportunities. Synthesisers and sequencers (for digital recording) from rival manufacturers could easily be combined and chained together. Yamaha's DX7 keyboard also appeared in 1983, featuring affordable digital sound synthesis. Analogue synthesis was out of favour, but in an interesting later development, once the ear had reached digital fatigue, these generators were once again in demand, in the same way that musicians quickly realised that traditional acoustic instruments were quite attractive after all. The invention of magnetic tape for recording purposes came at a fortuitous time for Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was one of the leading serial composers of the post war period. His music was extremely demanding (on both performer and listener), some of it on the verge of impossibility in performance, particularly in the advanced conception of time and proportion required of the performer. However with the development of electronic manipulation, in theory any line or combination of sound events would be possible; thus the first generation of electronic compositions were produced. Enormous aesthetic problems were now encountered, however - the concert environment at programmes of electronic compositions consisted, not of an audience listening to, watching and experiencing music-making, but of a surreal audience staring at a stage which contained two loudspeakers, through which came a pre-recorded series of sound events, which would be identical in every performance. It was realised that the audience could have the same aural experience by staying at home and hearing a recording on the gramophone or radio. Simultaneously, preconceptions about sound, performance and appreciation were all challenged. One multi-media solution was Poème Electronique by Varèse, which was commissioned for the Philips pavilion at the 1958 Brussels exhibition. The work was relayed through many loudspeakers placed all over the interior walls of Le Corbusier's building. Stockhausen's solutions were twofold: in the 1960s his Kontakte was produced in a version for tape, piano and percussion, where the tape, although unchanging and pre-recorded, was a part of an essentially live presentation with two musicians; in Mikrophonie I, two performers play a tam-tam in a variety of ways while two others control live electronic manipulations of these sounds. Two later and highly successful orchestral works combine orchestra with live electronic transformation (Mixtur) and orchestra with tape (Trans). Thus one of the many unexpected results of electronic music was a heightening of awareness of the role of a musician in performance, and that of an audience, both of which had naturally been taken for granted, but now aesthetic debate would have a more crucial part to play in artistic development. The synthesiser in its original incarnations had no direct relationship to any conventional instrument, but it was possible to produce definite pitches (ie relative to conventional instruments), and keyboard controllers were used for precision and familiarity. The use of synthesised sound in rock music was for many years entirely driven by keyboard controllers, to the extent that "synthesiser" implied a keyboard instrument. In the 1980s, and particularly after the

Jazz. Aspects of the development of jazz at the end of the century can be heard in Return of the Brecker Brothers (1992). the use of extracts from previous music recordings and even those of celebrated speeches (the postmodernist approach encompasses anything from Martin Luther King to Kenneth Wolstenholme). Aristoxenus and Philodemus propounded their theories. while philosophers and aesthetes debate the precise nature of communication and expression.the melody is played live but recorded digitally. has simultaneously opened up new areas of artistic development and threatened a crisis in the copyright system. and joined by an array of other digital percussion. In return. notably those of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Taking rock rhythms in the 1960s. see above). Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew (1969) was an early example of static patterns overlaid by fragmented melodic and harmonic textures. guitar controllers and drum/pad controllers became more common. the performer will play. samples of seminal jazz recordings have influenced dance culture. Aristotle. Therefore orchestral performances can now be transformed in a highly detailed way similar to pop recordings. the electronic inter-active potential is one of the most exciting in contemporary music. The confusion between "live" and "electronic" editing takes another turn with the use of "live electronic" editing in the 1999 album Drawn Inward by Evan Parker and the ElectroAcoustic Ensemble. Following the development of analogue to digital recording devices. or much later. What of the performer and that process which delivers music to the listener? The aesthetic debate between "emotionalism" or heteronomous aesthetics and "formalism" or autonomous aesthetics has continued for centuries since Plato. Expression within music is a very powerful factor. at the discretion of the live electronic controllers. Digital drumkit and other percussion sounds. repeated extensively as a backing riff via digital recording and editing. while not having the huge commercial appeal of popular music.invention of midi. The same player overdubs the later saxophone melody. has exchanged contemporary ideas frequently with classical and rock musics. and in a positive artistic way. jazz performance and pop recordings embraced digital technology willingly. Repetition is very powerful and ideal for rave culture where trance-like states are enjoyed by the participants. all acoustic signals can now be stored digitally -. Rock/pop music was a prime candidate for digital editing. along with keyboard driven band effects (most commonly string section "washes" and brass "stabs") are present on almost all commercial pop recordings. The use of digital technology for inter-active musical creation is also prevalent in contemporary classical or art music. and digital sounds and editing in the 1980s and 1990s has been an essential part of jazz development. Over this the opening melody is played on a midi wind controller (digital breath-driven synthesiser) . Mikrophonie I.and consequently edited digitally. where the track "Song for Barry" opens with a short rain-forest Pygmy melody played on a (digital) marimba. The obvious comparison here is with the visionary works of Stockhausen (eg. Repetition in dance tracks and others is very easy to produce. either simultaneously. wind controllers. or with a short delay. Thus the worlds of classical music creation. recorded and edited via digital processes. Sampling. again either for simultaneous use or for storage and polyphonic layering later in a piece. preferring for the most part not to delve too deeply into his/ her own mind for fear of losing the direct contact with sound and its manipulation. where instrumental musicians are joined by engineers controlling electronic transformation. This is genuine inter-active music. transformed and fed back into the live mix to create another musical line. where digital technology becomes a live participant in a spontaneous performance. Elements of the free improvisation are captured (sampled). Dance tracks in particular are often made up of entirely digitally created sounds. such that a whole piece of music can be devised from the raw material of short "patterns" on drums and bass. The debate has continued through the stages of . Digital editing technology has had a profound effect on the development of rock and pop music in the use of sampling and ease of repetition. as many of the original sounds were digital.

and doesn't drink as much). utilising control of finely weighted keys. yet artists need income from their work in order to survive and continue to be creative. This is the biggest revolution in musical economics since Haydn the court composer became Beethoven the market place composer. which has to be learnt on its own terms. and does emotion remain? In the case of the midi wind controller. In actual fact. thanks to digital technology. and out to the listener via speakers. The breath and finger messages are transformed into midi note numbers and other information which is passed to a digital synthesiser. as the digital revolution picks up more and more speed. is cheaper . the commercial relationship between listener and composer/performer is in a highly confused state. fingers and tongue to activate the live tube is probably more complex in terms of brain activity than the digital method. movement of fingers. string overtones. in just the same way as an acoustic instrument can be played with or without expression). If. The listener. Due to curiosities of perception and experience. the general answer is. This has featured much more in experimental classical music than in the commercial field. Just as the composer needs the performer. As recordings are published on the internet. The listener today is faced with the results of a barrage of technological devices in recorded music. Synthetic sound production. as with other synthesisers. much as the experience of playing in different room acoustics requires thought and preparation. this destroys many of the acoustic features only available to the ear in a live situation therefore by the time the sound comes through the speaker it might as well have originated from a digital source. This is because most people's experience of a piano sound is from recordings.viewed player instead of four . but whether science can produce imitations of music itself. but that it can generate completely new sounds and combinations of sounds. It's quite fun to observe the situation.the acoustic piano produces a sound world many times more complex and interesting. immediately available with no international boundaries. and often in live musical performance. gradations of tongue attack) result in a sound from a loudspeaker. and pedalling for further overtone control. Because most of us hear acoustic pianos through a recording process. but it is easier to mix. This in turn produces the electronic tones as audio signals which are sent to an amplifier. hearing and feeling the immediate sound within the head cavities. Debates rage over whether a synthetic brass section is as effective as a live one (it isn't. the listener can create the album of their choice. the listener is placed in a room with an acoustic grand piano and a digital grand piano with amplification. and its mimetic possibilities. This journey of information would appear to be rather cumbersome and alienating for the performer. participating artists . is not that it can imitate existing orchestral instruments.not whether music is legitimately imitative of nature. the difference is astonishing . One of the many wonders of digital sound creation is that it has made musicians reconsider their own working processes within traditional music making . natural resonance from the piano and within the given room acoustic. the wind player no longer has the sensation of activating a column of vibrating air directly connected to the body. but which has the potential to be very expressive (this can only be driven by the performer. at the beginning of the nineteenth century. yes it is. Copyright and the laws of intellectual property are enjoying open season at the moment. instead of buying commercial CDs at the local music store. the acoustic combination of air. the same method of sound initiation (breath activation. the order of tracks. the performer needs the listener to complete the process of music making. Instead.electronic music development (for instance the problem of recorded sound and its use without a live performer). the truly exciting aspect of the midi wind controller. The acoustic tone is more interesting because it is more complex. however. using either a digital piano or an acoustic piano transformed into electrical signals. now has the power to revolutionise the dissemination of musical ideas via the internet. So in many ways. Now. this is just another instrument. possibly through a reverberation unit. have created a sub-section of debate . The most interesting teaser is whether a digital grand piano is as good as an acoustic grand piano. yet is quickly mastered.

But other establishments. with small flags next to each display so customers could tell which countries they came from. play a piece whilst simultaneously recording and editing. can also alter the working environment and creative sequence. The composer. including eating and drinking and leaving their infant by the salad bar. It Changes Your Drinking Habits Did you ever wake up in the back of a taxi after a long night of tossing down cognac and prune juice and wonder how your pants got replaced by a thick but clumsily applied coat of colorful body paint? Well. They then played some unobtrusive international music in the background. so patrons will do everything more quickly. relaxing music. particularly upscale restaurants. This of course still continues. Not many years ago a composer would write the score of a piece. or the "speed" at which your nervous system operates. The score may be printed out afterwards if required. Elsewhere in music education the use of computer technology for play-alongs (accompaniments) made to order has provided an enormous amount of material for instrumental tuition. OK. and vice versa. How the hell does music do that? Did you know you can make a person buy more expensive wine just by playing classical music? Experiments prove it.or at least. believe it or not. Fast music heightens arousal (heh). prefer slow. When German music was played. in another study researchers placed German and French wines in supermarkets. Which is good for a restaurant owner if he's just concerned with getting you out the door so he can serve more (and presumably better) people. We've pointed out before that bars and nightclubs often play fast music to increase alcohol-based profit. It makes people feel like they're in a wine commercial or in a movie depicting refined. present it to musicians who would read it. This wasn't because customers thought to themselves. But in another blind study. different types of music playing in the background caused drinkers to change how they'd described the drinks they already had. now there's something to blame it on besides your bad childhood: music. Ah! Germany! I will celebrate the Fatherland with some nice wine! Questionnaires showed that customers couldn't recall what type of music was playing and thought they'd chosen a particular wine simply because they'd felt like it." Even stranger. play it and record it. the technology will be embraced along with a continuing sense of wonderment at the analysis-defying beauty of our traditional heritage of music making.we doubt anyone ever drank Wild Irish Rose while listening to Vivaldi. but nowadays the composer can sit at the keyboard. As digital music provides ever more genuine artistic possibilities for the composer. What they play in the bar doesn't just affect how much you drink. in an interesting alteration to the creative process only possible through digital technology. Richard Ingham is Visting Professor of Jazz at the University of St Andrew #2. The tempo of music is linked to your body's arousal level.and printed cover. the successful ones do. the percentage of German sales rose." and upbeat music resulted in more people calling their drinks "refreshing. The people selling you the drinks know all of this stuff -. that one sort of makes sense -. This alteration of sequence has already had a dramatic impact on composition studies within music education. . performer and listener. which. snooty rich people. Laid-back music led people to rate drinks as "mellow. at the same time producing many more potential composers and a concern over musical literacy. but what you drink. can also make you drink more.

your musical preferences are a done deal. developing neural pathways to recognize the music of your culture. All this time passing means you're likely to buy more drinks every time the waiter comes around to ask. you start to bonk out the music that doesn't fit in with your recognizable scheme of "good" music. But when your brain is new and still developing. But there is one area where neuroscientist and music expert Daniel Levitin thinks we're permanently marked before we hit voting age: our music preferences. say. that makes up for any lost table space. Bruce Springsteen. don't look at us like that.On the other hand.cracked. one music critic points to the biggest music icons of the past 50 years to bear this fact out. When the Beatles hit The Ed Sullivan Show. for the most part.all permanently tattooed on your adult self for the whole world to see and mock.html#ixzz2MYRUuatk #2. a foreign language). we mature. . At age 10. http://www. slower music means that you eat at a more leisurely pace.anything is fair game to form the foundation that will be your musical taste. and both cited that exposure as the fuse that lit their world-changing careers. By 14. And your brain pays attention. Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel were all age 14. Maybe you'll even stay to chat with your companions after you're done with your meal. At age 12. Fortunately. Your Music Preferences Are Sealed by Adolescence Imagine if everything you said. and that stupid nickname you gave yourself -. presumably watching it on TV. How many of us would be walking around with lopsided Salt-n-Pepa hair and insisting that everyone call us "Spinderella Jr. So your parents' musical preferences. Both Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney were 14 when they were first exposed to Elvis. it's constantly creating new and different neural pathways to perform all the mental tasks that will be required of it throughout your life. As evidence. whatever is on the radio. Some restaurants go as far as to purchase a personalized selection of songs specially designed by "sound branding" companies. hairstyle and friends. Once again. Your clothes. which select songs based on whatever tempo or atmosphere the restaurant is aiming to you begin to use those newly formed tastes to figure out your place in the world ("You will know us by our SPIN DOCTORS T-shirts!").?" It's not a pretty picture. the rinky-dinky songs your preschool teacher taught you -. did or liked by age 18 was stuck with you forever. It's just a totally random image of music and voting. There is a point when your brain gets a little more set in its ways. You already probably know that there are certain things that are much easier to learn as a kid than as an adult (like. and at a restaurant that's charging $70 a bottle.

new instrument sonorities that were in agreement with current tendencies. cannabis and face paint as instruments.we're not that old (yet). Once you break down individual elements. The Music Industry Has Pop Down to a Bland. Dick Clark might be in the mix somewhere. harmonizing and swaying softly while poodle-skirted girls hula hoop in the background and Sputnik yo-yos. when musicians were literally using bell bottoms. a pattern emerges. and they're sounding more and more alike every year. #1. chord progression and tempo. Once pop reached its zenith in the 1960s. The music bot evaluates songs based on things like loudness. Here's the aforementioned chart. more loudness. Just as your grandparents suspected. And do you know who was the king of creativity in the music department? The baby boomers. But the fact is that pop music has grown more and more homogenized over the last 50 years. Loud Formula We would never try to make a judgment call about the quality of modern music -. but you probably haven't done a 180 and completely abandoned the genre of music you loved as a teen. What Musical Johnny 5 discovered was that musicians today are copycats. the trend is very clear: less variety. So think about 1950s music for a minute. such as rock. and there's science to prove it. The same generation that gave us yuppies. hip-hop and metal." or diversity of sounds present in pop songs since 1955: Those outliers are probably punk. In fact. music slowly got less diverse. . Even though the data set is examining a variety of pop genres. and no one has topped them since. that white bread music was still more imaginative than whatever you're hearing on the radio or streaming now. the Social Security crisis and polyester pantsuits were once on the forefront of musical creativity. they think we're so stupid that we won't recognize an oldie if it's updated and loud enough. But think back on what you were listening to when you were 14 ." That's right.Of course. The Million Song Dataset uses algorithms to analyze pop songs recorded since 1955. But according to analysis produced by the Million Song Dataset. depending on how much imagination you have. The only difference is that your music is probably louder. researchers have concluded that modern listeners have now been trained to associate loudness with novelty: "Hence. You might imagine guys in matching it that much different from what you listen to now? Maybe a little more juvenile. maybe a little more Limp Bizkitty. fashionable and groundbreaking. which shows "timbral variety. If you were a hip-hop fan then. an old tune with slightly simpler chord progressions. There's even a graph. rap and David Byrne just existing in a room somewhere. these could be chalked up as fun a point. note diversity. there's a good chance you still are one now. and recorded with modern techniques that allowed for increased loudness levels could be easily perceived as novel.

html#ixzz2MYWUmCAN .Now remember what we said about how your musical tastes are locked in early." They don't have bad taste. It's kind of hard to branch out and be experimental when your audience has been trained over the course of a generation to only recognize certain sounds as being "good. it's what you'll keep looking for the rest of your life outside of that narrow range of sounds seems weird or wrong. they're just slaves to biology. if this is what you were raised on. But at least that explains the success of __________! Read more: http://www.