Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Going to Extremes

I sometimes wonder if making life easy is always a good thing. I have to admit that while I purchased not one but two hardware synthesizers and a whole host of software synths on the desire to program them, I have sadly not done much programming and have looked to presets to give me an easy way to get the right sound. Technology is a wonderful thing but I sometimes wonder that is musical ease has made us lazy.

I find myself wondering if anyone in this century or the past has produced works as great as Bach's or Mozart's or other great composers. I suspect not but I also believe that it was the limitations imposed on these composers that made them great. Bach may not have had the instruments that I do today. Consider the harpsichord which does not even have the dynamics of a piano but for which Bach wrote many works. Such composers put everything they had into the notes themselves and finding cleaver and innovative ways to create something new within those limitations. Even the genre of their time was more limiting than the wide open spaces that define music today yet I would suggest that these limitations did not limit but enhanced creativity.

In the same way I look to the electronic composers of the past such as Karlheintz Stockhausen who did not have modern synthesizers, but perhaps did more to further the development of electronic music than any modern artist with 21st century tools. Stockhausen though more about sound because my having to work hard to discover various aspects of sound he spent more time listening and finding new ways within the confines of his technology which today we would find very limiting.

Music should always be about exploring new territory. All to often technology has trapped us in narrow boxes because it helps the commercial music machine to crank out album after album and consider how much more prolific were Bach and Mozart for example then many artists today.

So am I going to throw out my synthesizers today and get a good piano or guitar? No, and I already have access to a good piano and I have a good electric guitar but I do think that I perhaps need to spend more time thinking about the subtleties of my music rather simply relying on the technology to do my work. I admit that I am often musicaly lazy finding a certain preset "good enough" without trying to explore and refine a sound. So I guess I rededicate myself to respecting the music of the past and perhaps realizing that despite our marvelous tools, there is something to be said for working with less and not more (and this comes from a gear adict hopefull reformed).

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