The influence of music technology and its effect upon contemporary musical composition

Ever since music was first recorded advances in technology have been used with and around music to make the production, recording and performance of music much easier for the artist(s) behind it.

As more and more technology did, and is being released onto the music scene, creation of genres and new instruments has been great. Ranging from new types of stringed instruments, to virtual instruments which have made a massive impact on music in the past 30 years. A lot of genres depend on virtual instruments and computers to even exist such as Hardstyle and Hardcore (not to be confused with the metal ‘hardcore.’)

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For 100’s of years music in the western world has been following a set example of rules. Such as, how a piece sound be composed and what notes can be used with which notes and chords and what not. It was always a very large focus on tonality. But, due to the introduction of synthesized sound these rules have been indirectly rewrote as a lot of electronic music uses its own rules and is more focused on the sound they create rather than their musicality. Although, this being said, they do not completely ignore the previous rules that have been set up, it is better said that they bend the rules of musical composition.

Speaking of the Electronic side of music technology, i.e. advancements in studio technology. The work of a producer and artists has been drastically made less time consuming and easier to manage. Tasks such as mastering and composition can all be done digitally, which makes them a lot quicker and more efficient thus saving time and money. Another advantage of music technology in the studio of recent years is the ability to add effects to any sound you want; reverb, distortion, delay and an abundance of new effects can be applied very easily which can make the most mundane and boring sounds into something much more spectacular and interesting.

A massive stepping stone in music creation was the introduction of MIDI which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This is the industry standard electronic communications protocol which all software and studio equipment recognize. This has completely sped up the recording process because MIDI can replicate sounds of many different instruments which can be programmed directly into the computer. MIDI can expand into an even further depth by applying VSTs to the MIDI pattern which would produce a sound from the VST sound bank rather than the MIDI sound itself. If a live instrument was to go for the same effect it would take much much longer to get a desired sound. However not only instrument players can have an advantage with this technology. Vocalists can too. There is a lot of Vocoder and Auto-Tune software which is able to manipulate the voice if it is not in key with the rest of the track. This saves a lot of time, because the vocalist would not have to resing the song again until he or she got it right.

The advancement of music technology has made massive differences on how music is created and perceived in modern day, however, it is to be noted that not everyone have benefited greatly in the advancement of music technology. Performers lost out because they are not in high demand any more, especially if they specialized in a very uncommon instrument because in modern day they can be replicated very easily and for a lot cheaper!

It has been said that live performances have been affected because a lot of performances always include a computer or two in the setup which takes away the realism of the event. Although, the same could be said by saying that the age of the live performance is quickly becoming outdated and computer performances with a lot of visuals is slowly becoming the future.

Music Technology has shaped music to what it has become to day, it can be argued for the good and the bad, but it cannot be denied that Music drastically changes form and sound every year due to new gadgets and programs coming out that can manipulate any sound, any time, any where. It has been so powerful that it has been the death of genres, but also has been the cause of other genres.

I chose to do the sonic re-composition rather than the multi-tracking as I enjoy working with sound and modifying it into other interesting sounds using an array of effects and techniques that software allows. After reading through the task and recording my musical piece that I was going to use for the re-composition I knew that I would attempt to do a psychedelic / sci-fi soundscape that had a large open space feel to it.

Although my original record is 2:09 minutes long I only used small samples of the track that I found to be the most interesting and the most workable. I selected parts of the track that did not have the clicking sound in the back which was due to the performers clothing knocking on the guitar slightly as I thought this would jeopardize the sound of my re-composition when trying to apply different effects and techniques.

When producing the track I didn’t use standard timing that is recognized in modern day music because I wanted the soundscape I created to have a more relaxed, spaced feeling and initiate imagination with a listener rather than a track that would stimulate a listener like any modern day music. This is why all except for 1 of the separate parts of the track are faded into each other using the volume levels; the other is brought in using a small filter.

To create a large sounding spacious sound with my audio samples that I had cut from the original track I used effects like Reverb and Delay which I applied and formatted to the appropriate sound that I wanted to be captured. The end of the track, I do not fade out the sound, but rather let it run the reverb and the delay until it is not able to be heard. I think this slight touch really adds to the spacious sound and the character of the track.

Although making a spacious relaxing track, I did however keep two samples of the original track pseudo-instrument sounding, to give the track a slight ‘trippy’ feel which enhances the space, atmospheric and relaxing feel that was intended. Around 2 minutes and 20 seconds a more robotic bass sound is panned to the left, which almost suggests a sort of ‘returning to the atmosphere’ image which at the same time marks the song is coming to an end, all most as if you’re returning from your trip to space!

I think the use of panning was vital in my re-composition as it can create a stereo and 3 dimensional sound which I think is essential for capturing the visual image of space. There for I panned the two most defining and robotic sounds to the very far left and right, then worked my way to the middle panning each track slightly left and right. This also helped with the overall sound of the composition as frequencies where not being cancelled out with other sounds that where also on the same frequency band.

Overall I am pleased with my re-composition as I think it captures what I was intending to capture which is a feeling of relaxation and a near floating in space experience.

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