The debate and struggle in the school system over music education may get a little twist. Students from the Stanford Laptop Orchestra create music with their laptops instead of instruments. Ge Wang, the orchestra’s founder, has worked with students from music to engineering to develop their own software language, Chuck, to create and generate the unique sounds and equipment necessary to build a sound unlike anything you’ve heard. This musical group has been performing at colleges and city parks as you’ll see on YouTube. There’s a performance at Macworld and Apple has even dedicated a page on Musical Macs. Although the sounds they produce may not be a symphony or pop tune you can pick out, it goes to show you that even the most technologically minded people get together to be creative, they might call it music.
The real reason I wanted to write this blog was not to share yet another link to YouTube or Apple. I wanted to pose the question to encourage thought about musical expression and how you may define it. It goes without saying everyone has a different idea of what good music is but we usually agree that it’s music.
So what defines music? Does it require an instrument? What defines an instrument? Can a computer or software program replace an instrument like a piano or a flute? I would challenge the assumption that music requires an instrument at all. Child prodigy August Rush heard music in a field of grass and created sounds I’d never heard from a guitar he didn’t even know how to play. Yes, the movie is fiction but the message is very real.
Music is an art. Art is interpretation. You may interpret what you hear differently one day to the next but the vehicle that produces that sound isn’t restricted to only the ones you know today. Sound can be a means of expressing a feeling or a tone whether it is in the form of a song or simply the inflection of your voice. So it must mean that like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sound is music to the listening ear. So what have you heard from your toaster today?