When first seeing this video, it’s normal to think that it is beautiful, and I still think so. The melody and harmony are perfect, the design of the robotic musical instruments looks real and everything that is presented looks doable. The same thing goes for watching a small, cute humanoid robot playing a guitar, or drums.
Everything is perfect!
The thing is that this famous video of animated robotic arms, incorporated in string instruments, playing by themselves was more or less accepted as a wonderful project, without any objections, which actually is, with one little, forgotten detail.
What would be the implications on society and the individual if robots and computers really changed people in every aspect of music?
First, for those that are a little more skeptical about this scenario happening, I must first remind all of us that computers playing (actually synthesizing) music is a reality for over 70 years, from the beginnings of Electronic Music, and even further, if talking about electronic devices, to the beginning of electrical guitars in 1930 and the first electrical instrument, the Telharmonium (Dynamophone), produced in 1897. Also, there are a lot of examples of pseudo humanoid robots playing musical instruments even now, although, playing only a given sequence and maybe not as good as a human. So, basically it’s just an extension of the expectations based upon the past that music would eventually be completely played by robots and computers. Or is it?
So, what would really be the implications? Can a person create as good a piece if only robots played it? Or, do we desire not to create music at all and let the robots and computers do the work for us? If it’s so, would that change society forever? What would a society looks like if there is no musicians left?
The first question is dubious, since similar thing happens even now and throughout history, because a lot of composers create the music and don’t play it themselves, but on the other hand, almost every composer knows/knew how to play at least one instrument. Also, some people criticize the electronic music producers as not being as good musicians as the acoustic/electrical ones, since they are not playing “traditional” instruments and can’t develop a genuine connection to the music, which is one of the subjects here as well. But, at the same time, there are those who state that because they don’t play the instruments, they can focus on other aspects of music and think even further and make a step beyond the rest of the musicians. All in all, the question remains open.
But, what happens if there weren’t musicians at all. What if the robots were developing music by themselves? Wouldn’t that alienate us away from music forever, or would that be the same as the counter critique for the electronic musicians? Could we just change our way of perceiving music and let someone else create it for us? Would that be desirable at all? Even though there might be some positive implications, I think most people would say no, yet still, the tendency is in that direction.
Should we and how could we stop that tendency?
So, before theorizing any further what the implications would be, the question whether that tendency would someday become reality should be answered.
To imagine a world where there is not a single musician in the “traditional” sense is almost absurd, since looking at the reality now in many aspects, we can find that though there is a tendency for some things, for example technological advance and improvement, there still are and I think always would be people who wish to live without technology, or at least with a lesser degree of technology. Making a parallel, I believe that no matter what happens, that there always would be people (no matter how few) that would prefer playing instruments themselves. Maybe the instruments would evolve, of course, but that doesn’t changes the point.
That means that the easiest solution for everyone who is concerned about the future of music is to take the control of the situation in his own hands. If you believe that “traditional” instruments are better than computer synthesizers, or that humans should play the instruments instead of robots, than you should show it by example. Prove it that it is so!