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 Reich’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. Roulette’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 Arnó, Marina Rosenfeld, David Behrman, Angie Eng, David Linton, Julia Heyward, Koosil-ja Hwang and Aki Onda.

The fascination with high tech is not new… about thirty years ago, Jerry Hunt had performances in which he suggested the use of high-tech devices he didn’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 Cage’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 man’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 it’s ‘in’? In fact, is Tech still ‘in’ as a goal onto itself? Starting a piece from the technical standpoint: the equipment designs the project?

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