Integrating music and technology

Jules Addison

Jules is a composer and music producer based just outside the city of Bath. He runs 4 Part Music which provides location recordings for musicians throughout the UK. Recordings 4 Schools is a specialist division of 4 Part Music that provides professional location recordings to schools and academies nationwide.

Using his musical background and composition skills, Jules is able to add a full orchestral accompaniment to school choir CDs, which were originally recorded with just a piano.

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It is apparent that over the last few years more and more schools are investing in technology to enhance their music department. Back in my day as a student we were lucky to have an electronic keyboard and pair of headphones in order to try and cobble together a GCSE music composition. Nowadays, a lot of school music departments will have a plethora of keyboards all connected up to computers most likely running Cubase, Logic Pro or something similar.

As a result some might argue that creating music has become more about how skillful you are using computers than to do with any ability to play a musical instrument. You could of course respond to such an accusation with the question, does that matter? Music is an expression made by the composer. Yes, perhaps 100 or more years ago, music was very structured and only the style of the day was acceptable. I would be shot down in flames for saying that Mozart sounds like Haydn, and Bach is just a clever version of Vivaldi. But nevertheless, up until the latter half of the 19th century, each preceding period had its own relatively unique musical style and form. Charles Rosen’s book, “The Classical Style”, is clearly evidence of this relating to the 18th century styles of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

During the course of the twentieth century, this all changed. Aside from the Second Viennese School, as the century has worn on, it is difficult to see how one style has dominated a particular period. Twentieth century has essentially evolved along with the emergence of new technologies in both the recording of music and ways in which it is now distributed.

To summarise, the last 100 years has seen a rapid development of music to the point where almost anything goes. Even to the point of John Cage’s 4 Minutes 32 Seconds (I don’t propose to get into a discussion here whether that is, or is not music, otherwise I could end up opening a whole can of worms!)

For schools, this presents an opportunity to embrace these developments and is one of the main reasons we are seeing the introduction of technology into school music departments. What we are seeing is not so much a move away from the traditional teaching of 4-part harmony and musical style, but the incorporation of new ideas and methods. There is nothing stopping a pupil harmonising their Bach chorale with the aid of a computer. Indeed, with the use of Piano Rolls, it is easier to make small corrections before the final score is presented.

Other than the next generation of aspiring recording engineers and producers, there may be limited value in learning how to operate Cubase, but it does teach young people how music today is produced and distributed. That in itself opens doors into the world of marketing and publishing, not just in the field of music, but in the wider digital revolution that we are all now part of.

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