I had a keyboard synthesizer in high school with an onboard multitracker so I could layer recorded sounds. It was pretty sweet technology in its day. In college I told another composition student about it.
“Don’t use it,” he urged.
Don’t use that toy, was the idea, because you’ll think less like a composer. You’ll get caught up in trendy cut-and-paste patterns and write shallow music.
I sympathize with that observation, but I’m reluctant to accept fixed dichotomies in the music-making process. Sometimes we speak of popular music as being here while classical music is there. Commercial music on the one hand, artistic music on the other hand. Pen-and-paper note drawing versus digital track layering. Certainly there are gradations of quality in music just as there are in other art forms, but I don’t think one can paint bold strokes between styles and methods to separate the keepers from the rejects.
Something can be appreciated in most genres and trends. Popular music has long inspired classical works. Classical technique elevates the performance of popular music. Electronic looping beats make people smile. Even Christian radio is refreshing after listening to melancholy Christian indie.
Technology like that found in my old keyboard is bread-and-butter today (a Mac user can get it just by downloading GarageBand). Digital recording is standard, and electronic music in particular is flourishing.
I’ll take it all or, at least, a piece of everything.
Moreover, for someone like me with certain limitations, today’s digital tools simply make it possible to develop music to share with you. That’s why I just picked up a mini MIDI controller. I can’t keep a keyboard set up for long in my small house, so when I want to work on an idea before the kids are awake, this little guy makes it easier.
Plus my eleven-year-old can lay a beat to “Picnic on the Seine.” (Slide 3)