Listening to music = ear exercise
Since you’re reading this, you most likely create some kind of music. Even if you’re not, it’s interesting to consider music as exercise, as opposed to relaxation. Exercise and activity is good – both the physical and mental kind, and it doesn’t even need to be exhausting to be beneficial.
Being a music producer/composer, when you’re listening to music, you’re paying extra attention to all the details – melodies, rhythms, progressions, sound characteristics, et cetera. In a sense, music listening becomes more mentally straining, but of course, an enjoyable new dimension to sound comes with it.
In exercise, muscle growth happens during restitution. It’s not necessarily a matter of quantity either – a couple of short heavy strength training workouts a week can produce huge strength gains. On the other end of the spectrum, overtraining is an issue many struggle with, and is actually detrimental to the benefits they originally sought out.
Viewing music from this perspective, the importance of breaks becomes apparent. I’m sure you’ve been working on a track endlessly throughout the evening hours, only to wake up the next day, baffled at how astonishingly bad it sounds. Should have given your ears some rest.
Portable music (production)
Ever since the Walkman, people have been bringing their music with them. It differs from other portable music such as singing and instruments, in that it’s designed to be for your ears only. Voluntarily going deaf in practical terms (not hearing your surroundings), isolating yourself, and avoiding boredom has never been easier. Boredom is like the boogeyman, as if not getting exposed to media content every waking hour is somehow harmful. Does the thought of a day without your mobile device freak you out?
With laptops and then tablets, this portability has also been introduced to the production of music. It’s really mindblowing how the equivalent of hundreds of kilos and thousands of dollars’ worth in analogue gear can now reside in one single device. How many other 15-year olds could have had an orchestra and studio at their fingertips, like I did in 2004? It’s fantastic!
Just as making music on a laptop has become “legit”, I imagine towards the end of the decade, “In the Studio With” videos will feature some people exclusively using a touch device. At least this interaction won’t be as painful to watch as those who make music using their laptop’s touchpad – I’d rather watch old people double-click ads.
Up until recently, we’ve kind of been stuck inside our houses, dependent on electricity for composing music. It’s a rather dull and uninspiring environment, which doesn’t do our music justice. Now you can compose music outdoors! Technology to the rescue!
On the other hand, when you’re out in majestic, engaging and health-beneficial surroundings, should you really be picking up your app gizmo and make beats? It’s like people’s obsession with taking pictures of everything – life should be experienced, not recorded. Going by the exercise analogy above, perhaps these occasions serve better as restitution for your ears. Besides, silence and calmness sound really fantastic.
Your other senses are important assets in your creative endeavours, and they need training as well. If you’re blasting your ears with music 24/7, you’re doing the sensory equivalent of skipping leg day. Give your ears some rest, and strengthen the other senses as well – there is definitely more inspiration to be found in Owsey’s image gallery, than in that of Computer Music Magazine, for example.
Why are people so uncritical towards technology? Politicians rave about it, and it’s the future, and of course anything new is good. It will save education, revolutionise health, promote innovation, save us from paedophiles and terrorists, and bring peace to the Middle East!
All this uncritical acceptance of imagined needs that have come out of thin air is weird (leaving your house without your phone was how pretty much everyone on the planet used to live 20 years ago). Do we want all this delegation of things that we’re capable of doing ourselves? What are we trying to achieve here? It would certainly be nice to see a more conscious way of relating to technology, and seeing more people acknowledge it as very useful, but not essential.
People are great at solving problems, but it doesn’t seem to be very common to question the basic premise of the problem – what’s the purpose and consequences of solving it? Just because you can, does it mean that you should?
How did people solve problem X before modern technology came along to save the day? How did people make good music on Cubase 1.0 on the Atari ST in 1989? How did people make good music before computers? How did people make good music before orchestras? How did people get information about others before Google Glass?
I’m really not discussing all this out of grumpiness – I find the thought of technology as optional tools rather than mindless necessities to be really exciting and liberating in this day and age. Technology isn’t going to save the day – people are.