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rhythmboy

Definition of a "musical instrument"

26 posts in this topic

Another theoretical chinstroke-fest if you're that way inclined...

A particular take on the basic question of "can a computer be a musical instrument?" - to which pretty much all of us would automatically answer "yes".

I just read this, and I quote from "Music Therapy" by Juliette Alvin, 1975

"Man's body can be considered to be a resonant as well as a rhythmical instrument, sensitive to music. The musical instruments he has invented are in essence a prolongation of his own body and activated by his physical impulses. His body and his instrument are not separate entities, they complete one another. This characteristic enables the player to identify physically with his instrument through a perceptual contact which is indispensable to create an emotional response. Irrespective of the emotional motivation behind it, singing or playing a musical instrument is a physical process. It requires the use of muscular and motor control, and spatial judgement. At even the lowest level it demands some auditory and tactile perception without which there cannot be any emotional outlet."

On first reflection I thought "well, maybe a computer doesn't really qualify then". But thinking about it more, maybe its just about degrees. The tactile spatial aspect of playing a computer is still there, just on a micro level - the mouse click, the finger tap. And more and more we see tactile, hardware-based controllers and remotes that attach to the computer to make these gestures more 'macro' and 'physical'.

But it seems an important aspect is that the human body is directly connected to the sound generation of an acoustic instrument. Finger plucks string, arm throws stick at drum, lungs push air into reed, etc. Not only is it physical in its actions, but the physicality itself is responsible for making sound. Truth is electronic instruments cannot do this. We control a series of electrical or digital processes but the sound comes out of a speaker that is disconnected from our body.

So are they still instruments? What is an instrument? Is it enough to say it is something I simply play to control events, or must it be a sonic extension of my body as well? Are Juliette's thoughts just outdated?

:(

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i'm of the belief that an instrument is just a tool for speaking a chosen language.

so yes, a computer could be considered an instrument if it was used to express creativity.

i'd like to see what itm do with this tho... nice thread RB

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I think the computer totally is; because creating music on the computer invokes a physical response, which we in turn react to by making alterations. So i think that is where the interaction lies... whilst it doesn't really require much physical co-ordination it does possibly require more mental co-ordination...

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This is kinda like the topic in the VU Sound Tech forum.

I still think that as long as its not acting as a CD player in a way (That is: not everything is pre-recorded and the 'musician' is just standing there) Its still an 'instrument' of sorts.

As long as they are actually doing something to alter the sound or create sound.. its still live music..

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in response to can a computer be a musical instrument, i think this is a kind of in the middle question

yes i agree it does help a lot, and musically it is an advantage to have one, especially a mac book.

but i think musical instruments are your pianos, guitars, voice, etc..as for computers i think they assist musically

quite a bit but i dont think they are a musical instrument.

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I don't think computers are real instruments.

I consider a real instrument to be able to do this:

Produce an musical note as a result of 2 elements coming together for eg air moving through vocal cords or pressure on a guiter string.

Produce a noise when anyone plays it without being tutored eg a baby touching a piano

I do not believe that a computer's click of a mouse causes this reaction nor that putting pre-recorded noise through systems that change what the noise sound like is producing real music thus a computer is not a real instrument. (unless you hit it with a drum beat)

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Aren't synthesizers  a form of computer in some way or another? Look at all the modern digital pianos for starters.

I think the problem lies with trying to define an object that is nothing unless in the hands of a skilled practitioner. Only then is it a musical instrument.

I've heard saucepans in water be used as instruments. And well, enough to convey melody + rhythm

lustmyeyes - i like all the little pictures you have in your signature. Looks like some sort of communique...

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Well, technically a computer is any device capable of completing a mathematical calculation. Given that maths is used to represent pretty much every musical principle and mechanism for transport of sound... i'd say it's a sure thing that a desktop or laptop computer can be used to create original music. If an instrument is used to create music, i'm thinking a computer would thus qualify as a musical instrument.

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I don't think computers are real instruments.

I consider a real instrument to be able to do this:

Produce an musical note as a result of 2 elements coming together for eg air moving through vocal cords or pressure on a guiter string.

Produce a noise when anyone plays it without being tutored eg a baby touching a piano

I do not believe that a computer's click of a mouse causes this reaction nor that putting pre-recorded noise through systems that change what the noise sound like is producing real music thus a computer is not a real instrument. (unless you hit it with a drum beat)

fairlightcmi.jpg

http://www.retrothing.com/2005/09/fairlight_cmi_a.html

The Fairlight certainly gives the whole musical instrument thing a pretty good shot.

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wow , imagine lugging that around to gigs ..  loading up patches from floppy disks between tracks

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semantic jibber jabber

the computer isn't an instrument it is the musician B)

unless you mean this - click clack

Ss0qcaCjx80

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anything can be used as a musical instrument .... as CT said  saucepans can be used as an instrument .... i think your only limited by your imagination .. by having boundaries of pre conceived ideas  you limiting yourself to those boundaries and therefore cannot explore or expand any further.. any electronic instrument is relying on the same method of actually creating sound as a computer is .. what is the difference between someone playing a nord stage ( a completely valid instrument even for the person with totally traditionally restricted ideals) than a laptop with a controller playing ev 88 electric piano soft synth?    both are needing a specific set of DSP instructions to generate the sound and a human to interact with a keyboard to organise the sounds

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I don't think computers are real instruments.

I consider a real instrument to be able to do this:

Produce an musical note as a result of 2 elements coming together for eg air moving through vocal cords or pressure on a guiter string.

Produce a noise when anyone plays it without being tutored eg a baby touching a piano

I do not believe that a computer's click of a mouse causes this reaction nor that putting pre-recorded noise through systems that change what the noise sound like is producing real music thus a computer is not a real instrument. (unless you hit it with a drum beat)

Raises the question what is real music? Is 'real' another term for 'acoustic'?

Or is 'real' music actually more a function of the composition and not the instrument? A lot of electronic music would be deemed 'real music' by everyday listeners if it has a catchy melody, a nice chord progression and a beat they can tap their foot to. At the same time, one could hear Taku Sugimoto's "Dotted Music No.1" for vioin and cello, and claim "That's not music!" because it is so atonal, dissonant, sparse, 30-sec gaps of silence...

Indeed much of what determines the answer is our cultural background, musical experience and education. Those with limited exposure to only one kind of music (or instrument) will of course argue that the music and instrument they know is 'real', and unfamiliar music is not. The more one learns about the history and ethnomusicology of music, the more one learns that music has an extremely wide palette of possibilities. You also learn to differentiate between what is real and what you like. There is lot of music I don't like, but I'm not so arrogant as to say it is not real music. To someone else it definitely is - what gives me the right to refute this?

It would interesting to pose to a physicist - what is more real - the waves in the air created by vibrating objects, or the waves of electrical current created by exciting electrons? Is electrical energy less real than vibrational energy? Are waves themselves real at all, or just a by-product of energy transference, essentially the leftover junk of other actions?

There are some who would say no music is real, or at least musical sound - it is merely an abstract entity that we as humans have tagged with meaning in order to make sense of it. According to this philosophy, acoustic instruments thus generate nothing more real than a loudspeaker does.

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anything can be used as a musical instrument .... as CT said  saucepans can be used as an instrument .... i think your only limited by your imagination .. by having boundaries of pre conceived ideas  you limiting yourself to those boundaries and therefore cannot explore or expand any further..

Agreed - you can use just about anything as a musical instrument. Percussionists do it all the time! The point at which it stops being an object and starts being an instrument is when we compose or improvise a musical work with it.

A power drill is a building tool in the hands of a carpenter. But it becomes an instrument when Les Claypool or Steve Vai drag it across the guitar strings...

So in theory any device used in a musical composition, that creates sounds in that composition, as a direct result of actions made by the performer on that device, is an instrument.

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It would interesting to pose to a physicist - what is more real - the waves in the air created by vibrating objects, or the waves of electrical current created by exciting electrons? Is electrical energy less real than vibrational energy? Are waves themselves real at all, or just a by-product of energy transference, essentially the leftover junk of other actions?

I'd be more interested to see their reaction to such a question.

I'm more interested in hearing the definition of "music" by an esteemed music lecturer. Now where would i find one of those ???

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I'm more interested in hearing the definition of "music" by an esteemed music lecturer. Now where would i find one of those ???

Easy - anything that goes

oontsie oontsie doof doof onstie oonstie doof doof woop woop wah wah dugadugadugadugasweeeeeeesssshhhhh

Repeat for 5'30"

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Easy - anything that goes

oontsie oontsie doof doof onstie oonstie doof doof woop woop wah wah dugadugadugadugasweeeeeeesssshhhhh

Repeat for 5'30"

Brilliant - my washing machine is a psytrance musician!!

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i got in a debate in one of my college classes with some girl that told me a drum pad was not an instrument.... i got kind of upset and asked, well would you consider a keyboard an instrument?

she says,"yes, because it's like a piano"

i told her they are "literally the same thing"... so i said "what about playing the piano with a drum pad controller???"

she says, "uhhhh"

then i say "what if i played a drum kit with a keyboard?? what then??"

still replies, "ummmmm"

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Sorry to dig that topic out again, but I had to laugh so hard at the part about "drummers being musicians" ;-)

I think that is an interesting debate. Yes, a computer can be a music instrument, but it depends what we use or abuse it for. If it is really used to create sound in real time with an action by the user creating a sound played by the speaker then it is more or less doing what a keyboard would do. I still don't know what to think about hitting a button on your computer to make him play a lengthy, pre-recorded sample. Is it still a musical instrument then, or is it only a big mp3/wave-player? If we distinguish between these two cases, where do we draw the line?

It would interesting to pose to a physicist - what is more real - the waves in the air created by vibrating objects, or the waves of electrical current created by exciting electrons? Is electrical energy less real than vibrational energy? Are waves themselves real at all, or just a by-product of energy transference, essentially the leftover junk of other actions?

With my little bit of physical background, I wouldn't say, that one is "more" real than the other. It's just two different things. Two different ways to transfer energy. And if the soundwaves are the "leftover junk of other actions" is rather a philosophical question, right? ;-)

I'd be more interested to see their reaction to such a question.

:-) A BIG BROAD smile :-) Because everytime a smart question is asked everyone has the opportunity to learn something and that question clearly made me think about it!

Finally back to the question if a computer is an instrument: The answer is YES! You always can use it as part of your Percussion-Kit, next to your saucepans and wastebins ;-)

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I think if you can make noise with it in time and in has rhythm and pitch assosiated with it then definitely. This is a clip that I've just found on you tube of a guy playing a drum machine with his fingers only. If you still think that drummers are essential then think again after you see this guy. He has a lot more compact setup than a full drum kit and can probably play a lot better than a lot of drummers out there that I've come across and is far from being a traditional kit.

Hope you dig it!

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Anything that makes a sound can be classified as an instrument, can't it?

Well I wouldn't call a horse a musical instrument.

A musical instrument should be something that can be 'USED' to create music; therefore almost anything could become a musical instrument, i.e. a rock is just a rock before it is hit against another to create sound. Yes drums are an instrument watch this clip of Terry Bozzio where every one of his drums are tuned to a separate pitch with half of the chromatic and the diatonic scale and say he’s not playing an instrument.

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