Revolution Or Evolution?
As Richard Aaron so rightly says in his review this month of the Sony DTC55ES DAT recorder, you can't stop progress. You can, however, ignore it — at least for a while. On the whole, manufacturers are pretty good at bringing us the latest technical innovations, in the form of new and better products. Staying ahead of the competition requires some sort of 'edge', be it technological (highest quality, most number of effects at once...), price-related (same quality or features for less money), or ergonomic/practical (easiest to use).
But once these products are on the market, it is the buying public, the consumers of hi-tech music goodies like you and me, who decide which innovations and products survive and develop, and which fall by the wayside. It's a bit like natural selection really — people talk about 'revolutions' in the way we make music, but most changes are evolutionary. The interesting thing about all this is that there really is no accounting for taste, and it's quite possible for good ideas to be ignored. MIDI Time Code is perhaps a case in point, where many people overlooked a good idea for quite some time. Although the necessary hardware and software have been available, it has taken some time for many UK musicians to start taking advantage of MTC. It's use is still not all that widespread, but things are starting to change.
The lack of interest in some ideas is just... well, bad luck. Public taste can be hard to predict, and what you think is a great product may seem nothing of the sort to others. (Interesting sidetrack: the producers of Arachnophobia, which was intended to be one of Hollywood's smash hits of 1990 in the US, totally failed to consider the fact that just as many people are scared of spiders, so a huge number of people might actually be scared of seeing a film about spiders. Consequently, all of the UK publicity for the film avoids using the word 'spider', and you won't be seeing any 'spider wranglers' on Wogan explaining how they persuaded an Amazonian bird-eating spider of nightmare proportions to do what the director wanted.)
However, most such collective oversights are due to the way in which innovations are often introduced — small companies quite often take the lead rather than the major players, and it is only when market leaders follow suit that all of a sudden everyone is using and talking about a certain feature. (There are probably two reasons for this: firstly, if you're not a market leader, you have to work harder to make an impression on the public; secondly, there are inevitably more small fry than market leaders, so some of them are going to come up with great ideas.)
This is most true in the case of software. Algorithmic composition is nothing new — Intelligent Music's M first offered such a facility around three years ago — but it seems that most people are only getting excited about the idea, or even realising for the first time that it might be quite a useful technique in composition, now that it is available on Cubase as the Interactive Phrase Synthesizer.
So, here's to variety, and the proliferation of new ideas and the companies that produce and market them. After that, it's all up to you...!
Editorial by Paul Ireson
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