This is not an ad. Well, yes – obviously it’s an ad, but Microsoft have not paid me to place this here. I bring you this just to spark a discussion about the endgame of music performance and production in the digital age.
Because although this is absolutely excruciating (I struggled to make it right through the video) – and it might just be the FrontPage of music making (and you have no idea how much I detest FrontPage) – there’s certainly something to be said about the idea of Garageband or Logic in every home. Isn’t there?
This is not a discussion about Apple versus Microsoft (unless that’s what you’d like it to be). It’s a discussion about the place of music professionalism in the face of technologically-enabled amateurism. If it’s cheap and easy for everyone to make music, then what?
I know people who worry about this stuff. They believe that digital tools that take the dexterity, skill and hard-won virtuosity out of music is a catastrophic loss to human culture, and a significant threat to the livelihood of ‘real’ musicians.
But the idea of a resurgence in parlour music really appeals to me. The idea that kids will find it a normal part of play and not necessarily a career decision to play music seems like a good thing to me – and it’s something that’s been – if not lost, then certainly pushed right to the background.
Personally, I believe that music should be normalised, and not held up as some magical ‘either you have it or you don’t’ talent that excludes kids right from the moment singing with their friends starts to make them a bit self-conscious.
I love what Play It Strange do in New Zealand, for instance. Founder Mike Chunn, formerly of Split Enz believes that, like sports at school, kids should have plenty of equipment supplied and a place to play.
I don’t believe that shifting the ratio from professional music to amateur music ‘devalues’ music in any way – and I don’t think it’s a bad thing if music consumers start being producers of music too. Even – and perhaps especially – if it’s “bad” music.
Music creates meaning
Because I think that most of what stands a musician apart is having something to communicate. Musical technique is worthy and laudable – and great joy can be had simply by being in its presence – but music that speaks to you and has meaning… that’s a different level altogether.
And while it’s a different kind of meaning, there’s a really intense, personal and completely valid meaning that can be derived from music that you made yourself.
Just as the proliferation of word processors and those pieces of software that helps you construct narrative and keep character threads on track don’t particularly threaten novelists – nor should the rise of the bedroom producer (or the kitchen songstress) worry music industry professionals.
And if this Microsoft singalong nonsense could just be the gateway drug that gets kids into the hard stuff – then bring it on. Cringe-worthy it may be… but more music in the world is a good thing in and of itself, if you ask me.