2.3.1 The role of music technology in music/the role of music in music technology


In the field of music technology and live electronics, new products and devices are being developed and presented all the time, both as commercial products (like most of my devices), and as a result of research and experimentation in a less commercialised, more academic and experimental field. (STEIM[1] in Amsterdam and IRCAM[2] in Paris are examples of important contributors, and also – as already shown ‒ the Music Technology Section, Department of Music, NTNU.) Digital electronic musical instruments today can be many things, for example: Wii-controllers and a computer (Alex Nowitz, (see 1.5.6), a suit or a glove with sensors (Rolf Wallin), a custom-made computer program with a conventional MIDI controller (Maja Ratkje ), Ableton Live or other DAWs, an Ipad/Iphone with various apps, a DJ-sampler …  ‒ there are numerous possibilities. One important motivate for developing new devices is rooted in the need for a stronger connection between bodily impulses and sound. Hyper instruments[3], new instruments, and the use of motion capture, are all important fields of development in this regard. Manynew contributions in this field were presented at the NIME Conference (New Interfaces for Musical Expression), 2011, in Oslo, which I attended (and where I also presented a project with my vocal ensemble, see Chapter 5). What struck me when presented with the range of new devices and techniques that were used in various concerts, was that I often felt a lack of musical coherence and ideas in the performances. Since this was a conference for technologists, rather than musicians, this was probably hardly surprising. Still, I think this experience reflects an important issue. This issue has often been addressed and discussed at conferences on music technology that I have attended, by my colleges at the Section for Music Technology, and also by my fellow musicians in the field of improvised music. It is a discussion about the role of technology in music on very many levels and from different viewpoints and angles. In my field of musicians this is often simplified with the question: “What comes first, music or technology?” (i.e.: is your motivation based on a musical idea or fascination for a technical invention? Does the technology deliver the premises for the music, or is it the other way round?). This question represents a rather polarised and also biased view on “technology” (especially “advanced technology”), but it also reflects some key issues that I will return to in the following.  I cannot go into all the aspects and perspectives of the discussion here, but the choice of tools and techniques in my work (and also the choices of other musicians in my field), should be seen both in the light of different approaches to the various musical tools delivered within the field of music technology, and as a basic consequence of different musical choices relating to aesthetics and personal musical expressions.

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[3] Traditional instruments that are expanded through the use of electronics, like the electric violin used by Victoria Johnson, former fellow in the Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Program

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