Sunday, June 14, 2009

Music Technology & a Few Sucking Sounds ... Part II

In my previous blog entry, I mused about the possibility that Music Technology itself may contribute to a "suckage" factor in today's music. This mental excursion was the result of listening to Joe Chiccarelli in an interview on Electronic Musician's monthly podcast where he stated that he felt that the low barriers present for artists to record, produce and distribute their music has deteriorated the overall quality of music you hear on radio these days.

Well, I must say, I've had a lot of great response both on my blog and on Facebook (I have my profile pick up my blog and post it as a note there...).

I wanted to touch on one more thing before I let it rest - give a bit of a real-life example that I came across that frustrated me a bit.

For those of you who know me, or tune into Derek and I on the Inside Home Recording podcast, you'll probably have heard me mention that I've been teaching a theory course at the Art Institute of Vancouver.

I'm about to mark the second of two assignments for the term. Their first effort was good overall, but there were a few instances where folks were ... well a little TOO reliant on technology. I'd asked them to piece together a "song" using stuff we'd covered in class: 8-bar verse, 8-bar chorus. Be as simple or complex as you want. I gave an example of what I was looking for too...

I got some interesting stuff back, but I think the most irksome bit was getting back stuff that was printed off Logic and other notation modules from DAWs that were ... unplayable as written. I asked these folks to at least play me what they were thinking and found it to be quite simple.

There were odd double-dotted 64th rests at beginnings of bars, sixteenth notes tied to dotted 32nds over bar lines... some of these scores were simply unreadable. What they'd done was play their creations into a DAW with a click, look at what came out on the screen, added in chord analysis as I asked, and pressed print.

Interesting, I thought ... why would these folks - and they're all intelligent young dudes (and a dudette) - not go ahead and double check to see if their work actually worked out? They've shown me that they understand notation rules and the like to be able to verify the validity of their work. Was it laziness? Were they pressed for time?

Maybe. But I also feel, now looking back on the first assignment, that these kids rely so heavily on technology to finish their music and put that "special sheen" on it, they don't find the need to even question what comes out the other end.

The next class, I gave them a half-hour primer on how to actually go into the piano-roll in conjunction with the score view and use tools such as quantization to line things up, stretch notes out so that what you get something that will be playable by a musician.

Regardless, I changed up the second assignment to force some good old fashion pencil sharpening and thinking ...

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