Monday, August 08, 2005

Programming ain't what it used to be......neither is music.

A bit o' background:

You might say I'm young old-school. I was first bitten by the technology bug in the 70's, in my teens.The first personal computers came out, and I was fascinated by them. I was never able to actually AFFORD one, but I followed the trends and read articles about everythign computer-related that I could find. I even did a paper on what a system-analyst did!

I took a couple of programming courses in college at UTC (Tennessee-Chattanooga) - PL/1 and Fortran. The Fortran class was done using punched cards - the jobs were sent up to Knoxville and we waited hours for the results of our little programs.

(There was something satisfyingly organic about punching cards. I still remember the feel of the CLUNK when the card was punched as I hit a key on the keyboard.)

Back then, programming was on a much lower level language-wise. Great programmers could do assembler so their stuff would run faster or have additional features not easilyimplemented in the upper-level language they were using. I knew people did that, but I never got into spending hours twiddling bits so a routine would run faster. I had music to make!

Nowadays, things are different. I read a piece a few years back about how programming was becoming just connecting pieces of pre-existing code together, and lamenting the loss of "real" programming". Modular coding is a great thing overall, because it allows many more people (and talent types) to create code. It also allows a developer to easily add features to a project. For example, I don't really care to learn Javascript in-depth - but because of the modularity of the language when used in a webpage, it is easy to grab a script off some website and pop into my html. A few tweaks here and there and poof - added functionality!

There is also a parallel in music production. It used to be normal for composers to write their pieces line by line - making sure one line fit with the previous line, or one part with the other. Now, so much music is created by loops - let's use this loop, mess with it a bit, then add this other loop to it, etc etc.

This has the benefit of allowing mroe people to create music. The downside, just as with programming, is that the music created is often not very good - or at best is merely derivative. This is ok if that's what you WANT, but it isn't a long-term viable thing - people get bored listening to the same mediocre stuff after a while.

Any conclusions to this? Hmmmmmm.........I'm willing to bet this is just a phase we're going through. The techniques - both programming and in music production - being used today will spark yet another way of working - and the creative people (no, the REALLY creative people - the ones willing to work at it) will take what we do now and make up something new.

Some of them might actually do it away from the computer!