The landscape of music has changed drastically since the introduction of computers into the mix. It started with digital recording – more freedom was passed on to artists because they had the ability to multi-track, auto tune, and copy and paste sections with ease. What this means for the industry as a whole really depends on who you are, and your point of view. From a puritanical perspective, something about the human intimacy of music is lost with digital manipulation. From a modernist perspective, it is simply an embracement of the changing tide of technology.
The relationship between music and computers has become deeply engrained, and symbiotic. With programs like Ableton and Fruity Loops, entire songs can be composed, recorded, and structured without an instrument every being touched. Sounds can be created out of nothingness, and with the right amount of practice anyone can be a producer of industry level material. The music industry and music itself has undoubtedly been turned on its head by these technological advances.
Although there are many courses in Australia specialising in digital musical production, the instrument that is the laptop equipped with Ableton has been left out of many music courses in the country. That is, until 2017. This year, Monash University have unveiled their first laptop ensemble to sit beside their other musical ensembles. Side by side with their jazz, guitar, and string ensembles will be a group of students armed with only computers as their instrument.
The groundbreaking concept being championed by Monash involves students in the ensemble using only their laptops to create unified music together. This opens entirely new doors in terms of musical collaboration, and creates broad sonic and connective opportunities for students.
It is unclear how this revolutionary concept will play out, or if it will be adopted by other educational facilities moving forward, but it is certainly an intriguing and bold decision which is representative of Monash’s standing as a forward thinking establishment. Rather than only applying archaic ideas of music performance to their syllabus, Monash are looking towards the future.