Robot musicians

Yesterday, I had interesting discussion with a fellow musician about the state of modern music technology. He was filling me in on a number of developments that I was unaware of. I think we all know that there are these modern vocoder type vocal effects which can autotune your voice in real time (most famously used by T Paine.) This guy was telling me there’s also some kind of guitar effects that can quantize your rhythm playing in real time, so if you are ahead or behind of a beat, it will correct the error.

As I walked away from his conversation, I wondered, “what’s the point of even playing live anymore?” If an audience is watching a live act with zero confidence that the musicians are actually creating the music in a meaningful way, then what’s the point?

I think this dilemma only applies to pop music. For styles like jazz or blues or country and certain forms of rock I think both the audience and the performers will demand that performances are done “without a safety net.”

My point isn’t to bemoan this turn of events. In a certain sense, this could be very liberating. Frankly, it’s always seemed a little stupid to watch some guy playing a keyboard part the same way every time; you might as well just replace him with a computer. And if the show is no longer about watching people play, the performance architects can focus on the visual aspect by employing dancing girls or 3-D holographic dinosaurs flying around the club. I’ve long felt that this quintessential idea of a band performance — four or five guys standing on stage, possibly rocking out or possibly being immobile — is very limiting. It’s high time we redefined what a music performance is.

Milli Vanilli may have had it right all along.

2 Responses to “Robot musicians”


  1. John Saleeby

    A genuinely gifted performer (Musical or otherwise) unconsciously creates a personal relationship between the audience and himself which transforms any expectation of “Give Or Take” which may have been present prior to the performer taking the stage.

  2. Larwence

    I married a robot.