13 July 2009

Art and Technology

I'm just in the middle of reading a biography of Stravinsky, and thinking how difficult it was for such an artist to hear his work performed. He composed by writing on paper, usually sitting at the piano; then had to transcribe what he wrote (using an amanuensis) for realisation by an orchestra. This needed to be assembled and paid for, which usually required a huge dontation from some patroness or another - and then further expense was incurred if the work was performed in public.

Today a composer needs only a simple laptop and a bit of software - both virtually free of charge. The results of composition can be reproduced at every step of the way - at zero cost. Of course not many major artists have gone down this route. But the process has begun.

For instance, film directors Mike Figgis and David Lynch work with digital cameras which cost no more than a few hundred pounds, And the Internet is now packed tight with musicians offering samples of their music via sites such as MySpace. Some have bypassed conventional production and distribution routes altogether. They've gone straight from back bedroom recording and mixing to podcasting and their own sites.

Most writers continue to use the very low-tech materials of pen or pencil on paper. Some have migrated to the word processor - and others might even, unbeknown to me anyway, be experimenting with voice recognition dictating software.

Either way, the results can easily be assembled in digital form for editing and processing. Moreover, unknown writers can make their work available to unlimited numbers of online readers via blogs and web sites. They can also advertise their hard copy products if and when they make it into print - or meanwhile use print-on-demand.

I know very few who have found fame in this way (apart from the Belle de Jour case, which I continue to regard as dubious) but many creative writing sites exist, and the medium is brand new. Something may emerge before too long.

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