Cost-effectiveness of live electronics

Jamie Bullock has written an interesting blog post called Does live electronic music make good business sense?. While I follow his argument, and understand where it comes from, I think the topic could also be discussed from a different perspective.

His main point is that the benefit-cost ratio of working with live electronics is low. This argument holds if you are assuming that live electronics is being “added” to an otherwise conventional composition/performance process, and that the live electronics part would be an extra expense. But, turning the question around, why would you add live electronics to a conventional composition/performance process? Isn’t one of the points of working with music technology that you can think outside the box? Then it could also be argued that live electronics actually allows for better cost ratio. Here’s my reasoning:

Instead of adding live electronics, you could substitute it with something else, e.g. musicians or acoustic instruments:

  • Musicians are certainly much more expensive to have around than computers, so removing a few musicians from an orchestra and adding some computers would make for longer test periods and more flexible work hours.
  • Acoustic instruments are much more expensive than electronics. If you look at the cost of the acoustical instruments that professional musicians carry around, I am quite sure that laptop musicians with even the flashiest laptops, sound cards and speakers don’t even come close. True, laptops have to be replaced every second year or so, but buying violin strings or getting an overhaul of your tuba isn’t cheap either.

I am not trying to say that we shouldn’t have musicians playing acoustic instruments around, but rather that we need to start thinking about music technology as something else than just being “added” to the world of acoustic music performance. This also means that we need to get to a point where the development process of music technology is considered part of the compositional and creative process itself, and not something extra that you should add on after the piece is “finished”.

I also think that if we ever want to make music technology become an integrated part of music performance we also need to remove the distinction of performer vs. technician. The way these terms are used today implies that the performer is the one standing on stage and getting the name in the program, while the technician is (sometimes) mentioned in the acknowledgments. At some point orchestras will have to start employing music technology experts as musicians and treat them similarly. They may not have been playing violin for 25 years, but working with music technology for 25 years is a quite useful experience too. We are not there yet, but I do hope we will get there at some point in the future.

Music technology days 2008

Musikkteknologidagene, an annual seminar about music technology in Norway, will be organised in Bergen this year. I organised the first of these seminars in Oslo in 2005, then it moved to Trondheim as part of NoMuTe in 2006, then the Music Academy in Oslo in 2007, and now Bergen in 2008. The main idea of the seminars has not been to compete with the many international conferences in the field, but rather be an informal meeting point for various people working on/with music technology in Norway. The result of the initiative can be seen as more collaboration between people and institutions, and hopefully this positive trend will continue after this year’s event. More information in Norwegian:

Invitasjon til å delta på Musikkteknologidagene 2008.

Tema: Musikkteknologirelatert forskning og utvikling

Årets musikkteknologidager finner sted i Bergen 10. og 11. september 2008.

Siden 2005 har musikkteknologidagene vært et faglig møtested for representanter for undervisningsinstitusjoner, produksjonsmiljøer, kunstnere, forskere, studenter og andre interesserte som på ulike måter arbeider med musikkteknologi. I løpet av denne perioden har vi sett økende aktivitet i Norge, og det har oppstått nye samarbeid mellom ulike aktører i feltet. Flere av prosjektene innen Stipendprogrammet for kunstnerisk utviklingsarbeid er musikkteknologirelaterte, og aktualiserer samarbeid på tvers av grensene mellom vitenskaplig og kunstnerisk forskning og utvikling.

Vi ønsker med dette innlegg som på ulike måter presenterer og drøfter arbeid med musikkteknologi, og vil særlig oppmuntre innlegg knyttet til temaer som:

  • Presentasjon av vitenskapelige, næringsbaserte og undervisningsrettede forsknings- og utviklingsprosjekter.
  • Presentasjon av kunstneriske utviklingsprosjekter.
  • Tverrfaglig arbeid, f.eks. mellom ulike vitenskaplige og tekniske disipliner, mellom kunst og vitenskap, og mellom ulike kunstfelt.
  • Arbeid med lyddesign og interaksjon i lyd.
  • Arbeid med lyd i rom, akustikk, auralisering, spatialisering, o.l.

Presentasjonene er tenkt å være relativt korte, ca. 15 min., slik at det blir rom for spørsmål og diskusjoner underveis.

I tillegg til Musikkteknologidagene 10.-11. september vil det bli arrangert et separat halvdagsseminar med lokale aktører som drøfter behov for å etablere musikkteknologirelatert undervisning på høyskolenivå i Bergen.

Musikkteknologidagene 2008 arrangeres i samarbeid mellom BEK – Bergen senter for elektronisk kunst, BRAK – Bergens Rockaktører og Griegakademiet.

Reise og overnatting

Foredrag og diskusjoner finner sted i Gunnar Sævigs sal, Griegakademiet, Lars Hillesgate 3 kl. 10-17 begge dager.

Musikkteknologidagene er et “selvkostarrangement”. Det koster ikke noe å delta, men vi har heller ikke noe budsjett for å dekke reise eller overnatting for de som presenterer, og regner med at dette dekkes fra de forskjellige institusjonene.

BEK kan ordne rabattert overnatting ved Hotell Augustin under Musikkteknologidagene: Enkeltrom kr. 495,- og dobbeltrom 695,-.


15. juni:

  • Frist for forslag til presentasjoner. Forslag til bidrag (tittel + 200 ords sammendrag) sendes til bek AT bek DOT no.
  • De som ønsker å benytte seg av rabattert overnatting, bes kontakte BEK innen 15. juni. Ved senere påmelding må man selv ordne innkvartering.

1. september:

  • Påmelding som deltaker.


BEK – Bergen senter for elektronisk kunst
C. Sundtsgt. 55
5004 Bergen

Tlf. 55 23 30 80
E-post: bek AT bek DOT no

OLPC Sound Samples

I am doing some “house-cleaning” on my computer, and came across the link to the OLPC Sound Samples which were announced last month. This collection covers a lot of different sounds, ranging from the Berklee samples to sets created by people in the CSound community. Obviously, not all the 10GB is equally interesting, but the initiative is excellent, and along with the Freesound project, it makes a great resource for various projects.

Sensing Music-related Actions

The web page for our new research project called Sensing Music-related Actions is now up and running. This is a joint research project of the departments of Musicology and Informatics, and has received external funding through the VERDIKT program of the The Research Council of Norway. The project runs from July 2008 until July 2011.

The focus of the project will be on basic issues of sensing and analysing music-related actions, and creating various prototypes for testing the control possibilities of such actions in enactive devices.

We are organising a kickoff-seminar on Tuesday 6 May with the following program:

  • 10:15-10:30: Rolf Inge Godøy (UiO): The Sensing Music-related Actions project
  • 10:30-11:30: Marcelo M. Wanderley (McGill): Motion capture of music-related actions
  • 11:30-12:30: Ben Knapp (Queens, Belfast): Biosensing of music-related actions
  • 13:30-17:00: Workshop with various biosensors and motion capture equipment

Thus we will be able to discuss music-related actions both from an “internal” (i.e. biosignals) and “external” (i.e. movement) point of view. Please come by if you are in Oslo!