Technology has been advanced enough to make music for a while, and now it can even mimic the sounds of traditional instruments so closely it is nigh impossible to tell it apart from the real thing, especially for the layman. Where does the modern musician fit in?
I want to start out by letting you know I am all for the use of technology for producing music, and other art for that matter. Not only has technology given us access to new ways of making music and new sounds to make it with, but it also has given us different systems to create in. All of this makes creating music accessible to more people than ever before. One of my favorite examples of this is the programming environment Sonic Pi. Sonic Pi allows you to create music using code and has been used in schools to introduce young students to programming and music.
With technology's ability create any music we want, it really opens the possibilities for composers and creators. The ability to have your idea represented exactly as you want it is at your fingertips. There is less need for the human element, and there are no concerns about your instructions not being followed exactly. You have the ability to add and control every nuance in the production of your piece. What need is there for physical musicians? Some would answer that live performance is the answer, and while this is close to the truth, it does miss some important aspects. Imagine sitting in a large concert hall, but instead of an orchestra on stage, there is a state-of-the-art sound system, set up just as the composer desires and intends, and the compositions are played through this system. Before you dismiss this as absurd, I've just described an electronic music concert, or a rave, or one of any other kind of concert that is exactly this set up. Stretching that to performances of what might be more accepted as art music isn't that farfetched. What is the value of the live performer?
The value of the live musician does not come from the faithful replication of the composer's intentions — how the musician interprets the notes and instructions from the composer is part of the future of live music. Live music should be a collaboration between the composer and the musician, a conversation. This approach can be applied to larger ensembles as well. For the orchestra, or concert band, the conductor decides on interpretations and then conveys them to the ensemble. Now, some of this is already being done, but I think it needs to be done more intentionally from the side of the composer. There is a beauty in simplicity. As a composer, if you find you want something to be performed an explicit way, every time, work with a computer. There is nothing wrong with this. Electronic music is great! Having exact sounds in mind is wonderful. But the future of live music is collaborating with the musician to make something unique between the two of you. Simple instructions create complex results.