Digital vs Analogue デジタル対アナログ



I invest a lot of time (and money) in maintaining my professional and music websites. It’s so important these days not only to be visible online, but also for there to be place where my students, work & musician colleagues, and followers of my musical activities know they are hearing directly from me.

But I confess to having something of a love—hate relationship with computers and the Internet. In many ways they make our lives so convenient. But nothing raises my blood pressure more than computer troubles (crashes, software not working, being locked into what operations the OS thinks I “should” do). Meanwhile, in my academic day job I see constantly how the Internet facilitates (mis)information overload and makes us vulnerable to trolling, hacks and invasions of privacy. There are days when I think the world was a much better place before computers. In many ways I remain stubbornly analogue. I much prefer paper books to ebooks, and I have never been tempted to write music for electronic instruments. Nineteenth century musical instrument technology works best for me.

But, as a composer, I have to admit that computers and the Internet are my lifeline. Having decided not to earn a living as a musician, I think I would have stopped composing altogether 20 years ago without computers. Getting concert performances of one’s pieces, publishing sheet music, and selling recordings all require strong contacts within the professional musical world, and if you do not inhabit that world day-to-day as a performer the contacts are difficult to make. But now, the latest composition software allows me to produce professional-looking sheet music myself; the Internet allows me to promote my music worldwide; and online communities allow me to keep in touch with amateur and professional musicians despite great geographical separation.

I am realistic, however, about the limitations of these new “opportunities” for composers created by computers and the Internet. A great opportunity for me is also a great opportunity for everyone else. In the analogue world, the difficulty was getting my sheet music, concert flyers or cassette tape recordings into the hands of someone local who was interested in them. I had to find people and reach out to them. My potential audience was the proverbial needle in the haystack. But, now the situation is reversed. With so many aspiring musicians online these days, I am the needle in the online haystack of hopeful musicians.

Furthermore, a little part of me says that computers have removed a lot of the romance from the composition of classical music. Somehow the image of a composer at a laptop cannot resonate with me in the same way as an image of a composer at the piano marking a score with a quill or fountain pen. I noticed recently that an autographed score of Elgar’s Enigma Variations was valued at £100,000, precipitating a row over who could claim ownership. In the digital age, I don’t imagine anyone will pay such an amount for a PDF or USB!

All this makes me glad that when I started writing music, I did everything by hand from writing the scores to producing the performance parts. It was a wonderful learning experience to start composing just before computers came along and made everything “easier”. One day, maybe my hand written scores will be worth a few pounds. But, to me they are a priceless reminder that however digitized the composition, recording and promotion of my music is now, the notes and performances should always remain 100% analogue at heart. The technology of staves and classical instruments has survived almost unchanged for hundreds of years. I believe that being analogue at heart gives me the best hope of my music still being listened to in a distant technological future I simply cannot imagine.

17 July 2018