Combining two of our main areas of interest, today we’re considering the technology of music.
Many of us are now familiar with the range of gadgets that enable us to listen to music. We also use programmes and companies such as Spotify that make listening to music on the move so much easier. This week, travelling without wifi capabilities, I was able to listen to all manner of music on my journey in and around London, as I’d remembered to tick the box that ensured my Spotify playlists were available offline.
Having such a vast range of music available through a minimal monthly subscription is manna to my musical mind. A world opens up and invites you in, if you have the ears to listen – and time.
Music is increasingly important in my life and I am gradually becoming more discerning in my choice of listening, whilst still proudly clinging to my eclecticism. Variety, as the phrase goes . . . .
For me, though, music has never been simply about listening, for all its brilliance. Having the ability to reproduce known songs and tunes has also given me immense pleasure over the years. Unlike my 3Di partner, I was given the opportunity to learn not one but two musical instruments at an early age. One instrument has stayed with me throughout, and I still don’t devote enough time to it – but when I do the satisfaction, stimulation and serenity I get from putting my fingers on the keyboard and creating a pleasant sound is still a source of wonderment. I still feel gratitude to my parents for enabling me to do this.
In today’s newspaper Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, says “I play the piano every morning for at least 20 minutes, Not just tinkering but forcing myself to concentrate on learning a piece – lessons and all. It settles the mind, calms the spirit, blots out the BlackBerry and generally sets me up for the day”.
There it is again – that word “spirit”. Of course, Alan Rusbridger is talking about spiritual intelligence through using other intelligences such as physical, intellectual and personal intelligence to reach that wonderful climax of musical appreciation – a real spiritual experience.
Nowadays though, our ability to reproduce music or compose is not restricted to owning a large piece of furniture that takes up considerable room. We can make music from our pockets – from our phones, from our tablet computers – and this opens an unexplored world of imagination for those who are prepared to persevere.
When I got my first smartphone, one of the first “apps” I downloaded was a simple and free piano keyboard. Immediately, there was the opportunity to play a simple tune wherever I was, and with the helpful addition of a set of headphones, nobody else had to listen to my tinkering until I was prepared to share my compositions. Not only that, I discovered that it was capable of playing notes simultaneously, so with my tiny hands I could now create chords that were much more difficult to manage on a larger keyboard, creating the scope for new sounds.
I added more “apps” to my collection as time went on – with a learning package for guitar chords as well as a more complex keyboard programme that enabled me to record what I was composing.
Before continuing, I should make it clear that I’m no musical genius. I was taught how to play, and as mentioned in a previous blog, I followed a format for learning that culminated in me being able to pass examinations. I have an ear for a tune and I have a decent sense of rhythm, but this is no different from many. Less than 5% of us are tone deaf, although many would profess to be unable to sing competently – another indictment on a school system that only encouraged those who showed a “gift”.
The point is that just because I have qualifications that imply some musical capabilities, I am no different from others as far as an ability to compose with the new technologies available.
Recently, I acquired another gadget that has taken the possibilities for musical composition to another level.
GarageBand is an application that allows a complete novice to put rhythm, bass, guitar, keyboard, percussion and stringed instruments together. Whilst my app is sadly lacking, at present, in brass and woodwind instruments (or more specifically a saxophone) it is the most incredible piece of programming, as the following YouTube clips will demonstrate. Other GarageBands with brass are now available!
Admittedly, tablet computers are still very expensive, but an institution such as an average school should really consider the value of investing in them since it would enable young people to work creatively, collaboratively and also independently and produce all manner of sounds and compositions that are unique to them. Independent learning at its absolute best.
Music is not and should never have been the preserve of the privileged. Music appreciation is available to all, and now the tools required for musical composition are more readily available, even to those who have not had an opportunity to learn a musical instrument – and you are never too old to start!
This weekend in Britain, it is horribly wet and cold. The weather forecast for the foreseeable future is quite revolting. Instead of dashing out to Ikea or other overcrowded and frightening places this weekend, we would like to suggest that you do what Alan Rusbridger has suggested, and spend some quality time with music. If you don’t want to or don’t have the equipment available to compose or play, then listen instead. If you have a tablet, smartphone, PC or laptop, consider buying a musical composition programme. It will be the best £3.00 ever spent and it will open a world to you that you didn’t know existed.
Ultimately, it is about an appreciation and a creative activity that leads to a serenity – which is surely what we all aspire to, in one way or another.