Is The Computer A Musical Instrument?

Is The Computer A Musical Instrument?

There are many different posistions when it comes to technological advancement in music, some praise how far we’ve come, others reject the modern methods as inferior ways to make music, but there is no denying that computers are a big part in music today in many ways, the question in this article is, can we consider the computer an instrument?

Ongoing Debate

The debate of whether computers can be considered as musical instruments is a debate that has been brewing in the background as computers have become more powerful in their music capabilities. With the growth of digital music, the shift towards a digital and connected lifestyle, and the constant need to do things better and faster, for proponents, it is but a natural flow of things for the computer to have music capabilities in the process. These people believe that as long as there is artistry behind the music production process, any medium behind such production can be considered a music instrument and that includes the computer with all its softwares and plug-ins.

That being said, it’s important to note the argument of those who oppose this idea of considering computers as a musical instrument, which is that it’s impossible to replicate the feeling and soul of a human being making music. However what if the idea is not to replicate but to find something new?

When you play a guitar you don’t try to copy the sound of a piano, or anything like that, the idea is to make the most of the possibilities that the guitar offers as an instrument, when that is the approach with a computer, the results can be quite impressive.

Sampling and Manipulating Sounds

Aside from all the copyright issues associated with sampling and using another musician’s sounds, there is a sort of magic surrounding this particular aspect of making music with a computer. While sampling comes from way even before the 80s, it peaked when the digital era established itself in the world.

The idea is that any sound can be changed and molded into whatever the musician wants it to, you can record a few steps or a dog barking, or both, and make a song out of it. People may argue that this doesn’t really make a computer a real instrument, maybe a very advanced recording tool but not an instrument but, what is a musical instrument?.

Make Music With A Computer

A musical instrument is simply a device used to make music, so by those standards we could say that a computer is indeed a musical instrument, however there is the idea of imitating other instruments, but this is true at some degree, since you can make sounds and music that would not have been possible if there were no computer and digital work stations.

There is however another argument about the relationship between a musician and a computer, which is the performance.

Some observers have felt that the elimination of the performer as interpreter, while it may enable the composer to realize perfectly his intentions, is nevertheless a serious loss. Performance, it is argued, is a creative discipline complementary to that of composition itself, and varieties of interpretation add richness to the musical experience; moreover, the physical presence of the performer infuses drama into what would be otherwise a purely aural, intellectual, and, by implication, somewhat lifeless event.

One could also argue that this only happens on the imitation aspect of things, because how could someone say that there is a loss when a techno artist makes his music, it doesn’t make sense does it?

There is a very gray area with technology and music, because art cannot be objective and technology is, so making the most of technological progress to make new music sometimes feels like uncharted territory, and in many ways it still is. A computer can be meny things, and in the it can be in fact a musical instrument if used correctly, not a recording tool, or a digital sound imitating a piano or a violin, an instrument to make new sounds. The best way to approach this issue is to never think about computers as a way to replace other instruments or types of music, it’s just something new.

Arturo Riera
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