Saturday, June 19, 2010

Computers and Rock Stars

Quite a long time ago I helped to organise a conference in Harrogate for music software designers. 
It was fascinating. 
There was a man from Sweden who was in the process of designing, effectively, Autotune. He demonstrated the work-in-progress very humorously, turning a hideously out -of-tune and out-of-tone male tenor into a Pavarotti. 
My involvement was to try to bridge the programmers' skills with possible human needs: the human interface. 
I got the conference to invite the author David Toop (who specialises in writing about sound art) and Scanner, who made music from fragments of mobile phone conversations. 
Instead of doodling when they were bored, the delegates would sit with their laptops and design programs. 
At least one of them had been a military programmer before they became involved in music- one of them told me he had programmed tank missile software; at that end of science there appears to be no moral code, but plenty of computer code.
Some of them were rather dismissive of Scanner. They could not see beyond the technical aspects of his work, and did not value the ideas he had and the experimentation he did. 
Although they were there to acquire funding to develop ways of communicating with end users, many of them were classically trained musicians and wanted the money to compose their own music!
Being there was an education; I could see some of them needed help with communication. The bar was silent in the evening, with solo drinkers or groups of two and three sitting in near silence.
Rather like reading a newspaper with the opposite political views to myself, or reading a lad-mag, I got an insight into a totally different way of thinking and being.
One of the delegates, from the University of York, made a brilliant TV programme about a year ago; he was helping Indian people in call-centres to sound like British nationals by educating them about the cadences of British speech. He talked about Hitler's declamatory style and how he used the musicality of his voice to control people.
Bit like what some rock stars do.

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