Technology and the Artiste
(Published in "Studio Systems"
In the last issue of Studio Systems, I highlighted
the role of the songwriter in the current Indi Pop Scene and then, quite by
accident I came across these fantastic articles on Song writing on the Internet.
It's in the Archives section, under "Creative Options" of the Keyboard magazine
site and there are three articles which sort of cover the entire gamut! I would
love to email these articles to any potential songwriters as my contribution
to the great Indian Pop song. As for those of you without the net or are intimidated
with technology, what can I say! The future belongs to those who embrace this
technology as it is sooner than later going to be an intrinsic part of our lives.
The faster we accept this, the easier it will be to clear the hurdles that have
obstructed us for so many years. In fact, the subject of this issue's article
is just about that.
Since years, the world of artistes have grappled with the technological age.
Somewhere along his growth, an artiste has always looked at technology as his
enemy. They seem to be working at cross purposes where technology seems to belittle
the achievements of the artiste. I will never forget the arrival of the drum
machine in our lives. Also the synthesisers, the multi track recorder and now,
all that software, which even makes singing in pitch unnecessary!!! Where is
all this taking us? Where does technology end and art begin? When will all this
stop, so that we can realise the thousands of hours that we have spend, slaving
at our art? These are the thoughts that should rightly torment the minds of
the intelligent artiste. But, is technology really the enemy of the artiste?
From time immemorial, people slaved other people by depriving them of the
basic necessities of life i.e. food, clothing, shelter. A far more sophisticated
way of enslaving people was also used and most effectively! This was to starve
people of knowledge and technology. The people were always kept uneducated and
always in awe of people with that power. This was the way, the king ruled as
not only did he have economic means, he, more importantly knew more than anybody
else or had the means to do so. He could bedazzle his subjects with these powers
and could thus rule over them for centuries.
In the Indian context, the British ruled India not only economically, but
they saw to it that we were constantly in awe of their technological advancements
which we were unable to understand. Also they made it difficult for us to do
so and the educational system was designed to produce more efficient slaves(babus).
Anything of importance was handled by the English and made in England, while
they looted our country of it's natural resources. It was in their vested interest
to keep the people of India uninformed so that they continue to rule over us.
Unfortunately, the similar mindset continued after Independence and still continues
today. The politicians have replaced the British and a similar movement to keep
the people poor, uneducated and ill-informed continues so that the rule of these
politicians will go on, their power intact and merit will never count.
]The artistes of this nation, surrounded by the corruption cannot be expected
to be immune to these influences. We have lived decades without being exposed
to the advances from the west. We have got used to be secure in our talent,
in our knowledge that took years to accumulate, in our experience which we share,
if we so desire! The rude shock that we receive when we hear the technical finesse
of the music produced by the kids of today is disconcerting, to say the least!
In the early eighties, I remember slogging for hours in the studio to get
that elusive thumping bass drum sound that one heard on so many recordings from
the west, yet all I heard was something resembling someone banging on the door!
Those were frustrating days in the studio in Bombay, yet today, all that you
have to do is to pull out a sampler and you have a collection of hundreds of
bass drum sounds, all great sounding, played on the best instruments in the
world, by the best musicians in the west and recorded in the best studios in
the world. Is this technology powerful or what! Yet for so many years, drummers
in India hated drum machines like their biggest enemies. In fact ,even today,
in 1999, there are some that still do! Sure, this allowed people like me who
never slogged on a drum set for years, to come up with a decent drum track,
but this never stopped me from hiring a dedicated drum programmer to do my drum
tracks. There was no way I was going to outdo the skill, experience and talent
of a trained drummer. All that the drummers had to do, was to invest in the
best that the drum machine manufacturers could come up, just like they would
have bought any new acoustic drum innovation because that what it precisely
was! It was just the technological aspect of it that threw the drummers in the
other direction and the keyboardists, who were already familiar with synthesisers
and therefore technology, took over the drummer's chair. All that the drummer's
had to do, was to embrace the technology and who knows where they would have
reached. Thankfully, better late than never, a lot of drummers did and today
we have a fantastic pool of drum programmers to rival the best in the world.
Some feel that the use of technology will rob the artistes of their skills
as instrumentalists and they would only be pushing buttons. In fact, the opposite
is true. This technology helps people, who do not have the skills, to actually
achieve a musical performance which was impossible before it's use. And there
is still no substitute for musical dexterity and MIDI controllers are being
developed and improved every year whereby musicians can use their own instruments
and skills and take advantage of the enormous resources available to them. In
fact, technology is still struggling with trying to capture every nuance of
artistic expression that a good artiste can create with his instrument and has
a long way to go before it can successfully do it. So even today, there is no
substitute for a good musician.
However there are still many artistes in India who continue to be intimidated
by technology and refuse to use the enormous resources available to them. It
is true like all things, technology can be abused and used in the wrong way.
But this is not the fault of Technology but of the people using it. All good
things (e.g. drugs) have been abused by people but the good far outweighs the
bad and in the hands of responsible creative people, the artiste can blossom
as never before. The drudgery is greatly reduced and more time is available
for real creation. New possibilities emerge as we stretch our imagination to
accommodate this technology and the artiste's creative growth is assured as
he is constantly challenged.
It is also time that the artistes stop feeling that the sheer knowledge that
they possess of their art, is enough to captivate the audience. It is only the
fakes that can be impressed by this, as the true audience is always in touch
with their feelings and aware of what moves them. This appreciation of pseudo-intellectuals
can only mislead the artiste into further frustrations and down the wrong path.
The artiste has to constantly look for ways to reinvent himself and it is here
that technology will help him. Today the Information Age is finally dawning
over India and the artiste cannot allow himself to be left behind because of
this unfounded fear. Information is soon going to be available to the common
man at the touch of a button and the artiste's complacency will guarantee his
One thing is certain, mediocrity has no place in today's workplace. It is
no longer enough to be OK, you will have to excel in order to succeed. People
say that computers have made life easy for musicians. In fact what they have
done is expanded our horizons tremendously and shown us such incredible possibilities
that we have just not been able to stop working on it.
I guess, long hours and hard work will never go out of fashion!!(sigh)