Music and Technology: Where is the balance?

There is no doubt that technology has an increasing presence in everyone’s daily lives. Through access to technology, music can be composed, shared, discussed, and listened to on a multitude of platforms. Back in Mozart’s day no one could have ever imagined YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Music. So how do we find a balance between music and tech in the modern era while still appreciating the roots established by the musical greats before us?

As musicians, the Internet provides more opportunities than ever before. It is now easier to find an ensemble or a gig, and with websites like the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) we can find sheet music online within a matter of seconds.

How does it affect how we learn music? The methods of music theory education are becoming more all-encompassing in today’s times. Teachers around the world can share their curricula with each other, and there are more platforms that students can use to fit their learning style. For visual learners, there are hundreds of music theory videos online, because not everyone learns very well with the conventional book and paper style. Almost any piece of music can be played back on command using the Internet, helping strengthen students’ aural skills with pieces that may be above their personal ability level.

Music history is now more accessible than it ever has been. Musicians can easily do research on a piece they are playing and understand the composer’s background as well as stylistic details from the time period to incorporate into their performance.

With the invention of MIDI technology (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), musicians can play electronic instruments and have their music transcribed or recorded into a computer rather than write all of the notes and chords by hand. This kind of technology allows for remixes, which reimagine songs and breathe new life into them.

The question may be asked, is all of this technological advancement drawing us farther from the musical traditions of the greats? Bach never got to use Finale or Logic Pro and he’s arguably one of the greatest of all time. Musicians today don’t have to go through the painstaking process of writing out all of their compositions on paper and seeking out others to offer help or critique. But that is more of a help than a hindrance. Technology is making all of the transcription processes easier, allowing for more effort to be put into the creativity and the musicality of a piece. With sites like SoundCloud, musicians who are just getting started can share their work with each other and actually have a chance at making a name for themselves.

So how do we keep this momentum going?

  1. Take advantage of the age you live in. Stream an album or two from genres you are less familiar with. Expand your horizons and gain a broader appreciation for all the music that is out there today.
  2. Share your own music with the world and accept the critique of others through the Internet. Be sure to check out other artists like you, you might be able to learn from them! Someone out there today is the next great composer. Maybe they’re in your SoundCloud feed.
  3. Find a balance. Continue to support your local bands and symphonies, but also use technology to listen to artists from across the world. Practice your instrument “in real life”, but also try your hand at MIDI instruments and mixing music.

How do you feel about technology and music? Comment your thoughts and we can keep the conversation going.

Katie Ball, MTMS Gahanna Computer Lab Lead

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