First off, music technology provides us with the tools to do the job. However, it is also true that solely relying on it produces less than optimal results, musically speaking. The market is flooded with composers for media and newcomers will only be diluting their voice in a sea of fellow music composers, if what they are saying is not somehow unique. For that matter, one of the problems that many composers face is actually finding their own voice. And then, more often than not, you hear variations of a musical trend that composers have learned to mimic. This can happen for a number of reasons, like a necessary harm to keep projects coming because clients insist in this kind of musical approach for their projects.
Apart from other considerations regarding this matter, it is also true that one should be able to imbue his/her work with their musical personality. One of the reasons why composers are sounding the same may also be because they lack the training and knowledge to push forward the boundaries of their creativity. One other reason, which is the focus of this article, may be related to the way we end up using and abusing of some of the tools available to us in music notation and sequencing software. Especially on quick and dirty jobs, the ‘cut and paste’ function that computers do so well can, in the wrong hands, aggravate the already repetitious music. But this problem is more endemic to the musical sound production software.
For composers, particularly inexperienced ones, it is all too easy to rely on the playback they hear and to believe that the ease with which instruments can play and balance each other at extremes of register will translate to the real world. The ease of access to ready-made samples, loops and even music sequences makes it easy to brush away, in some cases, the lack of talent. However, these resources in the hands of those who know what they are doing, are indeed powerful tools in a composer’s arsenal. With no doubt, technology has come to assist, but certainly it’s not meant to be a replacement for the craftsmanship and creativity expected from a good composer, acquired from the years of study and experience. All in all, these tools may help you run, but you won’t be able to hide behind them for long.
Nowadays, it is more important than ever to be up to date with what the latest music technology has to offer. From sample libraries to synthesizers, plugins or DAW capabilities that will speed up our workflow, all this matters to increase the quality of our work. Not to mention the production skills that you’ll have to hone so you can deliver your music with high quality standards. So, modern composers are using lots of hats these days, the composer, producer, editor, marketer… and while it seems differently, composing using such tools is no different from using a piano, pencil and paper from back in the old days. Different tools for different ends, one can say. Whatever works for you and whatever serves your music better is the right tool, and tools should hold no prejudice for the quality of your work.
It’s all too easy to use the copy and paste features to quickly bash out lots of notes without giving them due consideration, of form, intention and pertinence of the musical speech. Just because it sounds good it doesn’t mean it’s good enough or adequate. As said, there is a myriad of problems that using similar tools in the exact same way may cause and thus producing similar, and sometimes dull, results.
Ultimately, one can say that a composer’s voice is not only made by his vision and musical ideas but also that it is married to the way you actually use the tools you have at hand. Technology allows you greater possibilities and different ways of getting across an idea, and it is here for the good and the bad. Nothing has changed; composers still have to be good enough to make proper and meaningful artistic decisions, while no compositional tool will ever do such a thing on its own.
You still have to connect the dots. Undoubtedly, composers have acquired different workflows and ways of thinking and as a director, who would you rather hire? Someone who can give you a personal insight and add to your project in the unique way it deserves, or some random guy who can only do so much as mimic and spit out the same old stuff, maybe in a similar way that a musical software will eventually end up doing?
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