Creativity and Technology

by Sam Watson

This weeks reading really stood out to me in terms of one particular creative medium: music. One of the insert boxes in the article detailed the evolution of music and the ebbs and flows from loose creative structure to more rigid structures and back again.

I was interested by the observation that early music was not written, there was only performance and the artists had a lot more range to act creatively and at their own whim. With improved technology, the interface between composer and performer was standardized. While this constricted the performance aspect, it also allowed composers to expose their music to a much broader audience through other performers ‘covering’ their music. Recording then allowed the performance to be captured, and the balance swung back to more improvisational styles like jazz, blues and rock. The article then dealt with the idea that the computer can now be the performer due to the technological advances in the music industry. This is the aspect that resonated most with me.

Electronic music is currently one of the most popular styles of music, and the most commercially successful. Performers now use software programs like FrutyLoops, Sony Acid, Apple Garageband, DigiDesign Pro Tools and a host of other programs to piece together digital sounds into music. Producers in a range of genres use hardware such as MPC machines and Roland Drum Machines. This can be seen as a democratisation of music performance, and allows people who otherwise would not have had a chance to have their music heard be heard. As the article says “interactive computer programs can participate in the performance, producing and manipulating sounds in response to a performers actions.”

Modern DJs now also have a lot of freedom to create music by layering and mixing, creating a fluidity of performance similar to that of improvisational jazz. However, a modern DJ also contains elements of the structured style of those performers who performed the music of great composers, as they take songs from popular artists and remix them. Yet, in remixing the songs live they are creating a new piece of art in the process.

Making ties in the hip hop world: The 19-year-old at a Ciroc party in Atlanta with P. Diddy, Jermain Dupri and Alex Gidewon on February 5

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The other key way that technology has allowed for the democratisation of music performance is through internet gateways like Soundcloud. Artists with very little funds or access to conventional music industry channels can now upload their music online and share it on their Facebook fan page, for example, and attract a following that can lead to recognition from more conventional sources and present the opportunity for a ‘big break’. This allows a much larger array of people to be involved in music as performers, and allows those people access to a much wider, more international audience. A key example of this is Justin Bieber who came to fame after a record label talent manager saw his performances on YouTube and approached him with the possibility of a record deal. Now he has sold 15 million albums and made millions of dollars. None of that would have been possible without access to open forums like YouTube where users can upload content for free.

The broader range of tools available to modern musicians and the platforms available for promotion are far greater because of technology, and that is an overwhelmingly good thing for creative individuals.


Advancing Creative Practices Through Information Technology. In W. Mitchell, A. Inouye, S. Blumenthal (2003). Beyond Productivity:  Information Technology, Innovation Creativity. Washington: The National Academies Press.

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