The Digital Verses Conventional Music Debate

If your a musician, or perhaps even an avid music enthusiast no doubt at some stage you have either had, or overheard the digital verses conventional music debate, which of course despite having different nuances, generally boils down to the conventional side of the fence claiming that the sounds are not authentic, don't express emotion and require no particular skill, the counter by the digital side being that the sounds are progressive, can indeed be emotive, and require an extraordinary amount of skill, all be it in a different context.


The opinions, often inflamed by personal ego and bias rage back and forth with no particular side on this debate ever reaching a truly universal conclusion, and this is actually not that surprising, given that the entire debate is actually pointless and ultimately, generally only truly ever prompted by a hesitation to change, diversity or individual ego, in many ways I suppose one could see it as “genreism” if such a term exists, and if not, you heard it hear first folks!

While certainly commentary of comparison can be made between the two styles, but in no different a manner than one might discuss the differences between blues and classical music, there are comparative comments that can be made, but this does not make one any greater or diminished over the other, they are simply different styles, with different expressive techniques and sounds.

Of course, there is no issue, none what so ever, in having ones own particular tastes, both in the compositional process, and of course when simply listening to music, this is of course normal, we all have our likes and dislikes, but when this notion of preference, or taste, becomes distorted and begins to manifest itself in the form of ideological superiority, this is a clear indication that some re-evaluation of musical philosophy may be required, and for musicians, an indication they may have lost sight of one of the key factors of music, creativity and expression.

The digital verses conventional debate is pointless, because in essence both spheres, are simply instruments within themselves, tools and resources used by the artist to create there music, because the music does not come from the instrument, the music does not come from the digital audio workstation, the music comes from the composer, so why should a composer of any genre, be restricted to there available range of resources and musical tools?

Would a painter not use a certain style of new brush, if it allowed them to achieve their visual outcome? Would they not experiment with new and emergent colours and techniques to create something expressive and beautiful? I would think not, and the same is true in metaphor of music and the use of digital.

There will of course always be this debate, and as always I respect the views and opinions of others, and there right of free speech to proclaim them, I simply feel in this instance, it truly is a short sighted and pointless debate, and one that only serves to limit the spectrum of musical creativity of composers, and in turn limit the auditory joy of music listeners.

Not to long ago in the eye of time, a man by the name of Tchaikovsky banged on a piano so loud and with such lack of conformity in method or style in his attended conservatory to his peers and was met with both confused faces and laughter, asked by many if it was just a joke…

And of course not to long ago, some young up start by the name of Jimmy started playing fast paced combinations of blues and traditional rock of the time on an electric guitar in a manner that had never been seen before, forming a band that as he was told by his peers at the time “Would go down like a Led Zeppelin” after all, you cant take that electric guitar stuff seriously, it was just a gimmick, a fad.

And not to long ago, a young man wandering around Seattle by the name of Kurt, with complete disregard for what he was told, slammed out iconic expressive chords in a rough, gritty and grungy manner so loud the whole world stood up and took notice…

yellow_djMusic is always progressive, and if you truly look back at history, always changing, always evolving, the only limitations that exist are the ones that the musicians emplace on themselves, there is no reason why a classically trained flautist cant then run there audio through pedals for effects, or work on digital tracks, and conversely, there is no reason that a digital producer cant sit down and write an opera.

There is no reason why Baroque cannot be done electronically, there is no reason why Jazz and Metal cannot mix, there Is no reason why country and dance cant waltz, there is no reason I'm sure you follow my progression…

Yes, rules of technique and style exist within music, but they are not empirical rules to be taken on board as an ideology, they are rules of framework for creating something in a particular genre of style, and certainly required to be used and adhered to when working within that style, I.e one can not create a traditional classical piece for French horn if they want to, or are commissioned to by doing so through a distortion pedal and an octave filter, however if they are simply expressing there own creativity, without a requirement for that particular sound, then they can in actuality do whatever they want.

Will it sound any good? Will it be relegated to the dust bin? Who knows, maybe or maybe not, that is up to the composer, and the reception of the piece up to those that have an ear to hear it, but while any artistic experimentation might have its flawed results, this does not mean that one can not conduct them, this in truth is the very nature of why music continues to expand, diversify and continue to develop in beautiful unique ways, because in the context of their own works, composers and musicians strive to express their own creativity and individuality in their music.

For In truth, there are no genres, at all, they are simply a categorization of the mind, music does not exist within a pre-defined set of rules and parameters but rather the rules and parameters are used to create a particular kind of sound, or particular kind of music, and this is why ultimately the debate between conventional music methods and digital methods is not only counter productive to the notion of expressive creativity, but a debate that I personally feel need not happen at all.  

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