Open letter to Paul White
Birmingham, 22 September 2003
To Paul White, Editor in Chief, Sound On Sound magazine
thank you for your leader column on the October 2003 issue. You have simply and beautifully put into words something we all feel when working on a music project in a technology-dependent environment, be it on a lone laptop or in a complex project studio: our creative energy is often held captive by the incredible amount of big and small technological problems we have to solve all the time.
Music software (almost ANY music software, unfortunately…) is the classical example, where hundreds of features are there to mask essentially flawed designs. Or how else would you describe technology that requires you to spend anything from 25% to 50% of your working time fixing things?
I worked for 5 years with the late Luciano Berio. One thing we disagreed upon was the role of technology in music: he was still convinced, like Stockhausen and the other great masters of his generation, that technology should be the result of musical thinking, the answer to a compositional problem; musical ideas triggered and in a way generated and justified the development of technology. My argument on the other hand was – and still is – that today music technology is more like a sea of possibilities, a huge expanse where composers wander and pick cherries at leisure. Musical ideas cannot influence technology developments anymore. Technology is already there. We must learn to choose and select what we really need for our musical projects. Sadly, the advances in technology have not made the choice any easier.
Which brings me to the last point: have you ever thought that SOS articles – with their unrelenting focus on new products and technologies irrespective of the human/emotional/musical value – are fostering a culture of technology for technology’s sake? It is maybe time for you to take a stance, and focus only on those products/technologies that show a real concern for the workings of the musical mind and the needs of the creative process. The risk of course is that you’re probably going to end up with a very thin magazine…