To the profane, ordinary computer user or classically trained musician, high technology is often viewed as an impenetrable realm of wizardry, mystery and ‘magick’. The new God of a somewhat faithless society is High Tech. For creators, technology can just about compensate for lack of inspiration or be its own springboard.
I noticed that lately, many chamber ensembles actually request a technology component such as electronic/computer-generated tracks. It has become more popular to use electrified classical instruments. At a recent performance, the synth track I scored as part of the percussion group of the orchestra created a fuss, but was not dismissed as I nearly expected! A few years ago, the premiere of Steve Reichâ€™s Different Trains by the Kronos Quartet, with the interactive tape element, was a step forward. But as I remember, a tape component in a chamber music piece used to discourage performance.
Production companies such as Harvestworks have been catering to technology-driven projects for years. Rouletteâ€™s upcoming program, the Festival of Mixology 2005 (Location one, 20 Greene St, June 16-26), will feature artists who use various degrees of high tech: Nic Collins, Gill ArnÃ³, Marina Rosenfeld, David Behrman, Angie Eng, David Linton, Julia Heyward, Koosil-ja Hwang and Aki Onda.
The fascination with high tech is not newâ€¦ about thirty years ago, Jerry Hunt had performances in which he suggested the use of high-tech devices he didnâ€™t have, cleverly creating an illusion, like a magician. About 10 years ago, Laetitia Sonami amazed audiences with an interactive glove with which she would control various musical elements of her performance. On the other hand, John Cageâ€™s forays were essentially of low-tech nature such as transistor radios, pieces of strings, mushrooms. Low-tech/high-tech, low-brow/high-brow, classy/cheap. Is that right? Do these opposites match? Nowadays choosing high-tech or low-tech for the design of a piece can significantly affect its outcome and scope.
Does ‘tech’ mean ‘hip’? One element to consider, though, is that technology-intensive projects are costly and accessible to a privileged few. Are we creating an aristocracy of tech? The High Priests and High Priestesses of Tech? Or is the technical savvy the poor manâ€™s revenge, and a tool of democracy? The integration of new technical elements into a piece is a question to be addressed, but do they have to be there just because itâ€™s â€˜inâ€™? In fact, is Tech still â€˜inâ€™ as a goal onto itself? Starting a piece from the technical standpoint: the equipment designs the project?