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Has Technology Had The Opposite Effect With Music?


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I often think these days that technology with music, beyond notation programs, has had the opposite effect that technology generally does on any given thing.

With most technology and software, it takes workload off an individual. If you're a digital painter with a Wacoma tablet and photoshop, you can make paintings without having to worry about mixing different paints and botched canvas or cleaning brushes. If you're an architect, engineer, city planner, etc. AutoCAD is obviously immensely useful.

But with pretty much everything regarding music technology, it is designed to put MORE workload on one person.

The problem with this, both in a professional and hobby context, I believe, is that it has changed what it really means to be a songwriter or composer and has put increasingly-absurd demands upon an individual.

When I started, aside from my guitar and piano, the most-advanced tech I had was Guitar Pro 5. It was just tab/notation software with general MIDI playback. It did not allow you to create a realistic mockup, record or do any of that. I often look back fondly on those times because I could compose a piece in one day and say "It's gonna sound great one day, when I can get the band together and play this and go to a studio and record it." and then move on with life.

Once I started using DAWs and sample libraries, it was certainly great to be able to home record and have access to all these instruments, but the problem is, especially once I started composing for money, the time investment skyrocketed. Now you have to do everything: You're the recording guy, the mixer, playing every single instrument and screwing with MIDI CCs, and so on.

To be the one-stop music shop isn't just an expectation of clients; it's also become an expectation of listeners

In the 90s, everyone was using stuff like Romplers. These weren't going to fool anyone into sounding "real", they were basically just keyboard patches, but tons of great music was written with them; no one really cared that they didn't sound realistic. Before that, in the 80s, on video game consoles and arcade systems, the composer just wrote a MIDI file which the game would then play back with on-board sound chips. These were little more than beeps and boops for instruments, but no one seemed to have been terribly bothered by it.

You can't get away with that now because everyone is so accustomed to hearing work that was done in a home studio, multi-tracked, with tons of virtual instruments worth thousands that you can now get from something like the composer cloud for 30 dollars a month that they won't accept anything less. Post playback even from Noteperformer on YouTube, and you will be hearing about it unless it's just for education purposes. The tech has allowed a single person to do incredible things musically, sure — but it has also put a huge workload and demands on them and no one questions if this is fair or even the best way of doing things. There is no more division of labor where everyone in the process, composer, orchestrator, recording engineer, etc. focuses on what they do best to make the best end results; just a legion of jack-of-all-trades, masters of very few.

 What I would like to see is more companies take strides toward making virtual instruments more intuitive and playable; perhaps with AI assistance. If I didn't have to mess with MIDI CCs, keyswitches, multiple tracks, etc. it would save a lot of time — but no one aside from Wallander seems to be taking that seriously. Everyone else just keeps making VSTs the same way they've operated forever. There should also be a conversation about how many of the "old ways" of doing things might've actually been better.

 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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As far as the composing stage goes, particularly for someone who sketches out a few ideas and has to change things while progressing, notation software is so utterly slow. Not just the time it takes to input notes, but when changing things one often wants to leave the original there but crossed through in case of a mind-change later. No notation software allows anything like the graphical capability needed even to cross things through, let alone add more home-made directions.

My initial sketches are usually closer to a timeline than official note durations. I don't use barlines, preferring the mediaeval 'comma' above the staff where I want a break.

Notation software may be fine for the traditional - a time signature, fairly simple voice lines not needing differing tuplets and stuff, and for someone sure of the tune they're trying to notate.

Where it comes into its own is engraving and ripping parts. Once you have it in a notation program the more painstaking you are with engraving the less you have to work on parts. Getting it into the program is a different matter.

That's where the daw comes in even if you can't guarantee you won't have a pile of work editing an xml that the notation can't interpret properly. (I very nearly gave up the notation software after the messes it made parsing xmls incorrectly, finding a multi-track midi file did a lot batter.) 

It seems far quicker transcribing paper manuscript into a daw than a notation program then sending it across.

The advantages with the daw are that if your aim is to write orchestral music you can experiment with orchestration as you couldn't in pre-daw/sample days...as long as you don't cheat. Which means you need to know a bit about the instruments you're writing for. (This is where score study of the greats, not-so-greats and your favourites comes in.)

If the aim of so-called orchestration is just to bulk up sounds without prospective live performance anything goes - and I suppose that's all right, it's contemporary, useful for film and with their seductions, sample houses keep the economy going, selling to wannabes. They'll think they're composers but most of the work has been done for them. Plug together a few pre-orchestrated lego bricks, press a button and hey presto! An instant masterpiece.

The only problem is there's no human in it the delivery of the music itself. You can say that of an orchestra. It's a machine. This is why I prefer the smaller ensemble, writing and playing, because individual players have their gestural foibles and the performance is as visual as musical. Most of my orchestral stuff will never be performed live much as I take great care in an artificial rendering. Perhaps once every couple of years something gets aired. But more of the ensemble music gets performed if not broadcast. As was said in another topic recently the audience is likely to be friends and relatives, students we know and local people who fancy a night out. We hope to give them something absorbing.

So technology is a mixed blessing. Ever since invention of the record music has become available to the masses. The concert ritual is still there and perhaps not so diminished looking at the prom and South Bank bookings, though still mostly the preserve of the elite. It can help composers, even contemporary ones as repeated listening can bring familiarity if it's bearable at all.

As for composing and the fakery of modern production techniques, yes, a mixed blessing. It can save tracts of time (writing out parts; improving a flawed recording) and it can be irksome, sluggish and a source of frustration when composing during which times those inspirational ideas could vanish. And it's usually horrendously costly to get decent manuscript.

 

 

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I think the absence of more comment comes down to most 'young' young composers take the technology for granted and many will buy pre-orchestrated bundles to put together their "epic" 3-minute scores. How many young orchestrators intend to push to have their works performed by an orchestra? How many have seen or heard of manuscript paper?

There's always a case for such things being compositions and perhaps music for live performance of any genre has become just a clique, doesn't matter what genre. The way forward seems to be the dehumanised background or incidental music (just happening to use orchestral timbres) staying in a virtual performance world. 

.

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On 7/16/2021 at 1:29 AM, AngelCityOutlaw said:

 What I would like to see is more companies take strides toward making virtual instruments more intuitive and playable; perhaps with AI assistance. If I didn't have to mess with MIDI CCs, keyswitches, multiple tracks, etc. it would save a lot of time — but no one aside from Wallander seems to be taking that seriously. Everyone else just keeps making VSTs the same way they've operated forever. There should also be a conversation about how many of the "old ways" of doing things might've actually been better.

 

@AngelCityOutlaw and @QuinnI take what I do very seriously, and if you both want to help me with my goal (to create a much better music notation software, that is flexible, looks beautiful, takes care of the recording and realism, etc), I urge you to join my discord server and be a part of my initiative, to create a viable software (for the cloud initially, desktop later).  I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2022 and would love it if you can help me get the word out there.  Just have a chat with me, and you will see how much progress I've already made.  Please don't just think of me as your "typical developer" trying to sell something.  I am a composer, and a voice for this community who can help create this software that can handle the flexibility issues and the painful note entry issues.  I can help because I experience the same problems as you.  It's so sad, but I unfortunately stopped composing music because of the lack of choices on the market.  And both of my favorite software have stopped being supported.

 

On 7/16/2021 at 12:35 PM, Quinn said:

Notation software may be fine for the traditional - a time signature, fairly simple voice lines not needing differing tuplets and stuff, and for someone sure of the tune they're trying to notate.

 

I promise you that Music Jotter will handle all tuples, and beautifully too.  The reason why I am just as passionate about this as you, is because my compositions make liberal use of odd tuple combinations.  Tuples in other programs are not intuitive, they are an afterthought, and they don't group intelligently without a lot of intervention.  I've solved this problem.  I'm also going to solve the problem of robotic sounding compositions.  For all of my own compositions, I had to spend hours trying to make the composition sound like a human performed it.  Such an annoyance.

 

On 7/16/2021 at 12:35 PM, Quinn said:

My initial sketches are usually closer to a timeline than official note durations. I don't use barlines, preferring the mediaeval 'comma' above the staff where I want a break.

 

So this is something I can work on as a future development.  Because I've built the Music Jotter engine from the ground up, adding new features like this will not be that costly.

 

On 7/16/2021 at 12:35 PM, Quinn said:

Not just the time it takes to input notes, but when changing things one often wants to leave the original there but crossed through in case of a mind-change later. No notation software allows anything like the graphical capability needed even to cross things through, let alone add more home-made directions.

This is an interesting problem to have and not something I would have built out of the box.  However, like I stated previous, Music Jotter is built from the ground up, and adding a feature to handle crossing out errors and maybe adding them back in later, is not something that would be that difficult to do.  Jotting down ideas without a time signature is also something I can add as a feature.

Bottom line is, I understand midi quite well (it is just a series of timestamps), and I know the problems because I have them myself!  You can help me fix these problems by joining my discord, and have an active voice in my initiative.  Maybe you can also help spread the word about my Kickstarter campaign!

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23 hours ago, chopin said:

@AngelCityOutlaw and @QuinnI take what I do very seriously, and if you both want to help me with my goal (to create a much better music notation software, that is flexible, looks beautiful, takes care of the recording and realism, etc), I urge you to join my discord server and be a part of my initiative, to create a viable software (for the cloud initially, desktop later).  I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2022 and would love it if you can help me get the word out there.  Just have a chat with me, and you will see how much progress I've already made.  Please don't just think of me as your "typical developer" trying to sell something.  I am a composer, and a voice for this community who can help create this software that can handle the flexibility issues and the painful note entry issues.  I can help because I experience the same problems as you.  It's so sad, but I unfortunately stopped composing music because of the lack of choices on the market.  And both of my favorite software have stopped being supported.

 

I promise you that Music Jotter will handle all tuples, and beautifully too.  The reason why I am just as passionate about this as you, is because my compositions make liberal use of odd tuple combinations.  Tuples in other programs are not intuitive, they are an afterthought, and they don't group intelligently without a lot of intervention.  I've solved this problem.  I'm also going to solve the problem of robotic sounding compositions.  For all of my own compositions, I had to spend hours trying to make the composition sound like a human performed it.  Such an annoyance.

 

So this is something I can work on as a future development.  Because I've built the Music Jotter engine from the ground up, adding new features like this will not be that costly.

 

This is an interesting problem to have and not something I would have built out of the box.  However, like I stated previous, Music Jotter is built from the ground up, and adding a feature to handle crossing out errors and maybe adding them back in later, is not something that would be that difficult to do.  Jotting down ideas without a time signature is also something I can add as a feature.

Bottom line is, I understand midi quite well (it is just a series of timestamps), and I know the problems because I have them myself!  You can help me fix these problems by joining my discord, and have an active voice in my initiative.  Maybe you can also help spread the word about my Kickstarter campaign!

 

I joined the thing

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I'd be happy to take a look but I still can't enter as a visitor. As I'm no great internaut I don't belong to many sites at all. Is there a way of getting in without joining up initially?

As you doubtlessly gathered from this thread I rely on technology only reluctantly. Paper and pencil doesn't crash. They don't run out of battery. But orchestras expect neat looking scores and part sets and its here that tech excels. Also, the quality of samples now lets a composer experiment with timbral combinations (as long as they're aware of the characteristics of each instrument and don't cheat) without relying too much on the inner ear and crossed fingers.

Even so, I keep an open mind on these things.

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