The difference between real music and what’s on the radio today is all about seeing it performed live. On one side, you’ve got talented people with instruments, playing—actually playing—songs in real time and uncovering subtle nuances with each note. On the other side, you’ve got some guy behind boxes of wires and knobs who just pushes a button.
That’s the most simplistic prejudice against the value of electronic music, at least when it comes to what’s popular now. But what does it say about the state of music today when the new director of LSU’s School of Music specializes in computer music? When his current research areas include virtual music instruments and he’s part of an orchestra that doesn’t play real instruments at all, but rather, music created on laptops?
This is 2012, and for every musical instrument and possible sound in the world, there’s likely an app for that.
Stephen David Beck took charge of the School of Music this June. He holds a joint appointment at LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, and was the director of that office’s AVATAR Initiative (short for Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research) until this year. In other words, he stands on the virtual bridge between music and technology.
And putting him at the helm of the School of Music seems to signify the university’s interest in exploring the possibilities of electronic music and digital music (often referred to as EM/DM) outside the novelty of pops and beeps.
“There’s a real interest here in being at the forefront of what’s next in music making,” Beck says. “We are a traditional school of music, but we do have a significant number of people here who are very interested in creating new music as our field evolves over time. The fact that I’m in this position, it gives our school a little bit more authority to say this is a direction worth investigating.”