I love technology and I love how it has enabled so many musicians to create great sounding music and then get it heard through services like MySpace as well as via podcasts and music blogs. I distinctly remember being in a band in the early days of the cassette- based Portastudio “revolution” and I am not quite sure if those early 2 and 4 track cassette recorders enhanced or hindered creativity due to their convoluted inputs and the requirement to “ping pong” recorded tracks. But today, bands have a lot of amazing, relatively inexpensive and easy to use options to help the creative process along and one such program, Apple’s Garageband software that comes bundled with all Macs is coming under a bit of criticism.
According to Trading guitars for software: Today’s garage bands are more likely to be one person and a computer author Emily Young laments that the days of a bunch of friends getting together in somebody’s garage and banging out some rough and ready rock and roll may be over as musicians trade in the family garage or rec room, as well as their buddies on bass and drums for a laptop and some software. Now there is no doubt that the range of backing loops available for something like Garageband opens up the sonic possibilities considerably for a musician but the fear that this will replace performing with other live musicians, I believe is a little off the mark. Rock and roll has always been about playing live and the feedback and interaction you get from both the crowd and your fellow band members. Being a drummer, the buzz that I would get from just making eye contact with the bass player as we locked into a groove could never, ever be replaced by any software. As Janet Meyer argues in her response piece Garageband: Harmful to Musical Creativity? software like Garageband will “continue to be a good tool to enhance creativity” but anybody who locks themselves in their bedroom to create a 64 track rock and roll opus by themselves to be released only online will miss out on why we tend to make music in the first place, that it is a communal act best experienced in the company of friends (in the band) and strangers (in the crowd).
While software and laptops will increase in capacity and quality and more and more musicians will use them to jot down their ideas in a more fully realized form that they might have been unable to do in the past, the fear that we will all revert to our bedrooms to make music is a bit unfounded in my book because it goes against our nature. Even interacting on something like MySpace, as sociable as that is leaves something to be desired as you tend to miss that all important physical interaction that really makes life worth living. We are social animals and while there will always be those of us who will retreat to their lairs and shun all human contact, most of us will realize that the joy of music is best shared with other people. Anything less just demeans the power and impact of the music and its effect on us as people. Just ask Brian Wilson.