on, on-your-butt music production

Some are quite critical about the tools available to enable one to create music with one’s computer. I had to wonder about it - as i’m inclined to about everything else.

First thought...

Should Stephen Hawking not be allowed to wonder about the stars because he’s wheelchair-bound? (btw, these Hawking guy is truly remarkable. He’s built a skyscraper rivaling the tower of babel with nothing but the bricks of determination and the mortar of imagination. Someone make this guy a saint - of the intellectual class.)

Perhaps these critics want to maintain the integrity of their understanding of the term ‘musician’ - that is, one wielding a tool to create music, be it a guitar, a tambourine, or a couple of spoons.


Perhaps they just want to maintain the integrity of their understanding of what a musical instrument is and don’t think that a keyboard ought to be able to emulate the sounds of a sax or a guitar.


perhaps they think it quite an anti-climax that, for instance, a particular ‘rock’ tune was actually constructed by one sitting on her/is butt in front of a computer, cross-legged, with a cup of hot coffee, and ‘smoking’ an e-cigarette. They’d rather imagine that the tune was whacked out whilst some overpaid ‘rock star’ was prancing about the stage in an overlong moment of self-glorification in front of flashing lights, and complemented by a swooning, weeping, and screaming audience of ‘fans’ - i’m inclined to think that this description serves as quite an argument for re-terming concert halls and venues as musical asylums.


Perhaps they don’t want to be forced to focus on ‘just the music’ as they get a kick and a half from living vicariously through the passionate hip-swiveling and crotch-thrusting antics of a star on stage. And if you think about it, such antics are the remnants of the rebellious and passionate rantings of the great thinkers of the past, i.e. Marx, Rousseau, Paine, Bakunin, Goldman, et cetera. When people lose their brains, all that is left are these body jerks and jitters. Something like a goat jerking around on the ground after its been recently relieved of its head. That might explain why people might prefer their ‘stars’ jumping and scampering around on stage instead of creating similar or even better music in front of their computers. In that sense, such onstage bravado is not a sign of the life of the masses, but rather the last vestiges of it.


another, but related reason why people might not like this computer-generated music is that people aren’t going to get much from vicarious-living when sitting in front of a computer listening to music created by another whilst sitting in front of a computer. There is too much ‘equality’ in this. We can’t love the other more because the person is no different from ourselves, as opposed to a ‘rockstar’ who is elevated by both stage and adulatory screams of ‘fans’. And also, the fact that another might be able to create some great-sounding music on a computer might simultaneously serve as a reminder that the listener could do more than just sit in front of her/is computer, or use it, to listen to music.

That said,

i’m not against traditional music instruments. I too dabbled in quite a few in the past - guitar, violin, blues harp, bamboo flutes (both Chinese and Indian) and recognised that different types of instruments tend to inspire one to produce certain kinds of tunes simply because of the physical feel of the instrument, its construction, and the kind of music that had been produced on it by more skilled and publicised others. You could even say that the variety of these instruments might serve to ‘chisel out’ varying aspects of one’s personality, and hence, bring to the fore that which might otherwise remain hidden. In that, variety in instruments might be preferable to a simple keyboard.

Butt, on the other hand,

the simple keyboard is not really that undesirable an alternative. Yes, i could appreciate its deficiency when attempting to do guitar ‘riffs’ as i felt that the freedom of movement that one might have with a guitar can actually inspire one to produce more tunes. In that, you could say that the kind of movement allowed by a guitar - to be able to hold it, in a particular pose, swiveling around, arm movements (like Pete Townsend of ‘The Who’) - can itself be inspiring.

But, you could also say that these physical aspects of music production, whilst being an advantage, also serves to maintain the kind of mental deficiency it takes to require such movement to produce music. I suppose both dependency on solely imagination, and recourse to different instruments to enhance it is a good thing. We need both to come together in a dialectical relationship. But if we don’t have the means to have both, or, say, we can’t have access to the right kind of people to produce a variety of styles and temperaments of music - i’ve always felt this constraint in singapore since it turned religiously confucian since the 90s - then, the simple keyboard moves from being ‘simple’ to being a ‘saviour’. That is when we might actually enjoy more ‘mental’ freedom to do what is truly ‘our thing’, whilst attempting to make our own minds even more ‘mobile’ despite the movement-compromising keyboard, or an aesthetically and intellectually Orwellian society (refer, George Orwell’s ‘1984’). That is when the problem with a tool might indicate an existing deficiency within our minds.

So, it is from the vantage of this perspective that i was gradually able to appreciate the simple keyboard for the saviour that it is over the past couple of months of my dabbling in music composition and production for the first time. Of course, that doesn’t mean that i’m not itching to hook up my Fender ‘strat’ (60th anniversary ‘sunburst’ edition), or an electric violin - which i saw going for 99 quid(GBP) in ‘cash converters’ not too long ago, to my home music production studio (i’m still very much a novice at it all) so that i might benefit from the perspectival advantages of both these traditional instruments and a digital ‘midi’ keyboard.


eds backalley band


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