Groups like Pink Floyd heard it a lot in the early 1970s. “You’re relying on machines!” Maybe not articulated exactly like that, but the technology-heavy music groups of the time were often confronted with the widespread assumption that technology functions as a crutch.
You’ve probably heard the cliché before. Right? We’re not contesting the general idea here. Sometimes technology can be a crutch. But it can also be something else entirely.
Autocorrect, calculators and GPS-systems are some of the more recent examples used in the technology-is-a-crutch theory. “Why would you ever want to learn how to write, do math or read a map properly?” the logic goes.
Touché. It’s a fair point, but the argument is missing one important fact: When used in a creative way, technology doesn’t function as a crutch. It functions as a stage prop.
An actor portraying a character that has difficulties walking, will most likely have a crutch with him on stage. But it’s not because he really needs it.
If anything, he has practiced walking around with the crutch for many hours. In case he’s a hardcore method actor, he has walked around with it for days! And in the heroic ending scene he may just start to tap dance as he throws the crutch up in the air (like he just doesn’t care).
Yeah, it sounds like a terrible play…
Never mind, the point is; it takes a lot of time and practice to use stage props properly. Especially when it comes to performing music.
This video is a great example of that. Born and bred Londoner Neil Thomas creates a live looping performance of his original song “Home”. His props include:
-A Stratocaster equipped with a bridge mounted MIDI-converter
-Computer with plenty of DSP and a DAW
-A VoiceLive 3 Extreme
With this he creates one of the most well sounding one-man performances we’ve ever heard. He makes it look easy, but there has gone some serious work into preparing everything:
First of all, he has to set up the MIDI-conversion system and assign specific functions to individual strings. Secondly, he has to create all the relevant vocal presets in the VL3X. Then he has to lay down a perfect beatbox track, alter his playing-style in order to keep all of the base notes located along the low E-string and – of course – sing perfectly while triggering the right effects at the right time.
Indeed, using complicated technology to create music is more like walking around on stilts than leaning on to a crutch. What we musicians won’t do to put on the perfect show.