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Old 03-24-2010, 07:25 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Hi there,

This indeed is a very interesting question.

After dwelling on this for well over 10 minutes, here's my take on it.

To me, the computer is an artificial brain and so we could also ask, " Are our brains musical instruments" ? The answer would be no, but without our brains there would be no music. I see the computer more as a storage device,(like our brains), and also a controller. It allows us to control the information stored in it's brain. Sometimes making music,other times might be drawing maps, whatever. It becomes a musical tool once a musician gets involved.

The main difference is this I think:

A computer has the potential to create music but without a musician, it is just a computer.

A guitar or saxophone is still a guitar or saxophone even without a musician present,... or is it ? ?

Very thought provoking, Gordon.
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:32 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Daktari View Post
Hi there,

This indeed is a very interesting question.

After dwelling on this for well over 10 minutes, here's my take on it.

To me, the computer is an artificial brain and so we could also ask, " Are our brains musical instruments" ? The answer would be no, but without our brains there would be no music. I see the computer more as a storage device,(like our brains), and also a controller. It allows us to control the information stored in it's brain. Sometimes making music,other times might be drawing maps, whatever. It becomes a musical tool once a musician gets involved.

The main difference is this I think:

A computer has the potential to create music but without a musician, it is just a computer.

A guitar or saxophone is still a guitar or saxophone even without a musician present,... or is it ? ?

Very thought provoking, Gordon.
Instrument (n)

1. A means by which something is done; an agency.
2. One used by another to accomplish a purpose; a dupe.
3. An implement used to facilitate work. See Synonyms at tool.
4. A device for recording, measuring, or controlling, especially such a device functioning as part of a control system.
5. Music A device for playing or producing music: a keyboard instrument.
6. A legal document, such as a deed, will, mortgage, or insurance policy.

Strictly speaking, yes it is.

What an object is is defined by our approach to it and its context, for sure, but really that could go on forever and go nowhere.

It is an instrument, and I'm sticking to my guns on that one.
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Old 03-24-2010, 09:15 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I've been thinking again, that's twice already and it's still a.m.

Ok, following the logic of the above post, virtually anything could be classed as a musical instrument. It all depends on a musician to manipulate the computer, guitar, oil drum, watering can, hose pipe, telephone, saucepan, electric food mixer....on and on...

It takes a musician to turn any of these objects into a musical instrument. The difference being as I mentioned earlier, a saxophone is still a musical instrument and a guitar is still a guitar even without a musician present. We know that a guitar is really just wood and steel strings and a saxophone is just some curved pipe with keys and a reed but they are still musical instruments.

An oil drum is a potential musical instrument but first and foremost, it is a drum for holding oil. Same with a saucepan and a hose pipe.They are all 'potential musical instruments' .They become musical instruments when in the hands of a musician.... same with a computer.

Just my two thoughts for the day, gonna have to take it easy now.. Gordon.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:26 AM   #14 (permalink)
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A saxophone isn't a musical instrument, its a hunk of brass and pipes and valves and stuff.

The CONTEXT makes it a musical instrument. That context doesn't mean a musician, it means expectations. Look up Marcel DuChamps 'readymades' - Items that are only art in context. Elsewhere they're mundane items, but given space in a gallery, they acquire new meanings.

Same with a saxophone. Its only a bunch of brass until someone uses it to make music and CREATES THAT ASSOCIATION IN OUR MINDS. Same as an upturned bin isn't a drum until you see a street musician playing a bunch of them. They're not bins anymore. They ARE drums. What they WERE isn't important, they've now become a drumset and nothing you can say changes that, even if the drummer gets up and walks away for a shady pint, you still see a drumset in front of you.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:53 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Hi again, I'm ok now, had a quick snooze at my desk.

Sounds like you are agreeing with me there.

Like I said, a computer is a computer until a musician comes along and decides to use it's musical potential. And, as I said, almost anything can be a potential musical instrument. I do disagree with the saxophone thing though. You are correct, it is just a mass of metal bent into a particular shape that has keys attached which I already said. But, it is bent that way solely to produce musical sounds ...unlike the oil drum which is designed first to hold oil but can be turned into a drum when a musician decides to drum on it.

I have changed my mind slightly: The way I'm thinking now is that a computer solely designed to produce music, a sequencer for example, is a musical instrument. I would see a regular pc/mac as a more general tool which can be used to produce music with the help of the right software and a musician pressing the right buttons...

By the way, I remember studying all that Duchamp stuff when I was art college back in the 70's... He displayed a bike wheel as a 'ready made' piece of art. The bike wheel though was still designed first to be part of a bike like the saxophone was designed specifically to play music, that was the whole point. The computer however, is designed to be a multi tasking tool which has the potential to be a musical instrument if used that way by a musician.

Interesting. Gordon.
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Old 03-24-2010, 12:49 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Hi again, I'm ok now, had a quick snooze at my desk.

Sounds like you are agreeing with me there.

Like I said, a computer is a computer until a musician comes along and decides to use it's musical potential. And, as I said, almost anything can be a potential musical instrument. I do disagree with the saxophone thing though. You are correct, it is just a mass of metal bent into a particular shape that has keys attached which I already said. But, it is bent that way solely to produce musical sounds ...unlike the oil drum which is designed first to hold oil but can be turned into a drum when a musician decides to drum on it.

I have changed my mind slightly: The way I'm thinking now is that a computer solely designed to produce music, a sequencer for example, is a musical instrument. I would see a regular pc/mac as a more general tool which can be used to produce music with the help of the right software and a musician pressing the right buttons...

By the way, I remember studying all that Duchamp stuff when I was art college back in the 70's... He displayed a bike wheel as a 'ready made' piece of art. The bike wheel though was still designed first to be part of a bike like the saxophone was designed specifically to play music, that was the whole point. The computer however, is designed to be a multi tasking tool which has the potential to be a musical instrument if used that way by a musician.

Interesting. Gordon.
I disagree. DuChamps was trying to make the point that nothing is ANYTHING until it is given CONTEXT.

A bike wheel to a caveman is not a bike wheel, its an interesting metal and rubber object. To an alien its a primitive mode of transport used by a species who haven't yet mastered antigravity propulsion.

the CONTEXT is key. What the object actually IS is largely irrelevant, the thing that makes a bike wheel a bike wheel is that its on a bike. It could just as easily be used as a mechanical pulley, by simply taking off the tire. It could even be used as a 'sports model' or the old victorian hoop and stick. The fact that YOU see it as a bike wheel is based solely on the fact you know its NORMAL context is on a bike.

Same with the saxophone. Its not a musical instrument by default, because there IS no default. Its a musical instrument by CONTEXT.
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Old 03-24-2010, 12:54 PM   #17 (permalink)
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i'd say it CAN be as much of an instrument as a synthesizer, but like Janszoon said, that's all due to software.
Surely (digital) synths are just computers?
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Old 03-24-2010, 01:45 PM   #18 (permalink)
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"I disagree. DuChamps was trying to make the point that nothing is ANYTHING until it is given CONTEXT".

I remember taking part in a long, long discussion about this very subject. What had sparked that off was a visit to the Tate Gallery in London to see the famous pile of bricks which the artist had sold to the gallery for about 60,000.00 pounds I think at the time. The artist's angle that he quoted at the time was that he was trying to bring attention to the beauty that surrounds us in everyday life. He was saying that art is all around us and we should not have to go into a gallery to see it.

Others thought that the actual 'art' involved was the fact that he had persuaded the gallery to part with all that dosh for a pile of building bricks. A pile of bricks on a building site ,maybe worth $10.00. A similar pile of bricks in the Tate Gallery, thousands of dollars.

I think Duchamp was trying to make folks notice that 'art' was not only in galleries but all around us if we were just prepared to open our eyes and minds to it and it was not necessary to be an artist to produce art.

I believe that everything is something by the way. Whether we attach labels to it or not......


Anyway, more back to the subject: My own belief is that there are two categories here.

1) The musical instrument which is something designed specifically to play musical sounds.
2) The potential musical instrument which could be anything that is capable of producing musical sounds but not specifically designed to do so.

Where the computer falls is up to you I guess.

All the best, Gordon.
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Old 03-26-2010, 08:12 AM   #19 (permalink)
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The computer is a musical instrument because it is the means to produce music, that's what an instrument does; it provides a way to express ourselves and the computer makes that easier.
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Old 03-26-2010, 08:43 AM   #20 (permalink)
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The computer is a musical instrument because it is the means to produce music, that's what an instrument does; it provides a way to express ourselves and the computer makes that easier.
Do you actually read any of the previous posts in the threads you visit on your posting spree or are you just emptying yourself however way you see fit?

About Duchamp, I think he liked to use his status as an artist to trick people. What I mean is he could elevate ordinairy items like toilets or bricks to a higher level where people suddenly appreciate it as art. I don't think he necessarily thought of these things as worthy of that regard, but he did it because he wanted us to confront ourselves with questions like "what do I really think is art?" and I thought he liked the controversy .. and I think he got some satisfaction when he managed to use his power this way, "tricking" people into appreciating toilets and so on as high culture.

In other words, I believe what Guitarbizarre wrote is more correct. He wanted to confront us with the fact that art is up to context and trying to define it beyond that becomes almost meaningless. It makes more sense to me than him having so much love for ordinairy things like bricks. He was the dadaist after all and they made "art" out of all kinds of silly and surreal things and I don't think the beauty of the ordinairy was the essential theme there.


I agree that a computer is a musical instrument when used as such.
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