Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Modern Music Technology for the Composer

Tools have have advanced drastically in the past decade than any other time period in history for composing music.  There once a time that a working composer had only their piano, writing materials and music paper.  Since the early 1990s MIDI sequencing and music notation software have become a major part of composing tools for the working composer.  

In the last decade music software, such as Logic Pro,  have come into the market.  The software makes it very easy for a composer to work.  They can use MIDI Software instruments to compose and attach to a MIDI keyboard controller.  A film composer can add video to the software.  Applications have time codes installed so when the video is added the composer can view and synchronize the music to the video.  With the use of the MIDI Controller, composers can create musical phrases to MIDI sounds that are similar to orchestral instruments.   After this part is done, the music can be exported as Standard MIDI files and imported into a music notation application.  At this point, the composer can now create music that will be prepared for live performance of the music.  This process has aided many composers to do their work fast and easy.

Logic Pro includes a collection of precomposed audio and MIDI files known as loops.  They are short musical phrases that can be put together to create a musical composition.  Many feel that this is cheating and that the composer is not actually composing.  The concept of composing is in general taking preexisting knowledge and putting them together, much like taking these loops and putting them together to create music.  In many respects, these loops can be an aid and tool for the composer.  These loops also when put into the software are put nicely into a key and time signature.  Therefore a piece of music can quickly sound good.  The benefits of these loops can be a tool or aid in constructing musical compositions. 

This then leads to the cons of the technology.  Anyone who has no musical background can buy Logic Pro and put all these loops together and create musical compositions.  Many have claimed to be composers.  This has become a growing problem in the musical world.  Many people who have no training and background in the structure of musical composition are trying to become composers.  One needs to remember that these loops are only there as a tool, NOT a replacement of musical training.  Musical training includes the knowledge of music theory, musical form and structure, knowing how to create a musical phrase and putting them together to create an organized sense of continuity.  The only way to be able to have this ability is to have musical training, either at an accredited college/ university or private training.  Many of those who have no musical background are trying to compete and “land the same gigs” as the composer who has studied and build their craft for many years.  At the end it can be seen from the results of the musical composition.  If the music is created in traditional harmony with no concept of what has occurred in music in the past 100 years then it will be transparent that the musical composition is resting and living in the past with no evolution.  Ignoring how music has evolved since 1900 and creating music with traditional harmony (which is how music is created in the loops) means that the composer has not done their job in understanding the development of musical composition.  

Technology has certainly helped the composer in aide of composer, but with all positives are the negatives.  I personally don’t think it’s going to be very challenging for the trained composer.  It does not matter how much a software is used for composing, at the end, the knowledge and skill (or the lack of it) will show no matter how advanced technology continues to grow.  If someone who has no musical background or training wants to become a composer they simply need to start at the beginning and work their way up instead of taking the quick and fast path.  We all know that the quick and fast path never leads towards development of knowledge.