Musical Implications of
Philosophy of Technology

What is Technology Doing to Music?

Momilani Ramstrum

In the twenty-first century, technology plays a dominant role in our relationship to music. Not only is our primary interaction with music mediated by recording playback, but today music may have technology as a core part of its production, aesthetics and presentation. Has this altered our relationship to it?

To examine this question, I began by looking at philosophy and sociology of technology. After digesting how these social scientists perceive technology and its relationship to humanity, I could extrapolate to technology and its relationship to music.

As I researched, I found that my questions changed. What had started out looking at what technology was doing to music, became 'what is the basic nature of technology and what is the essence of the human relationship to technology?'

In returning these issues to music technology, I found my questions transforming again. Now I asked 'what is the nature of gesture and how does music adapt to the contingency of the lack of physical, dimensional movement in computer music when performed by computer operators?' As I studied how technology and humans co-evolve one another, my understanding and aesthetics began to change shape. Although I was looking for answers, I found the inquiry was equally important. While trying to discover what the impact of technology on music was, the significance of this research for me was in discovering the questions. At each moment of uncovering a specific question, I realized the direction of the answers. If I find no answers, at least I am moving in an exciting direction.

In researching and thinking about the issues raised surrounding the use of technology in music, I conceived and collected twenty-five questions of interest.

In the musical investigation, I am limiting my scope to art music of the last 50 years.

Momilani Ramstrum is Ph.D. student at UCSD working in Critical Studies and Experimental Practices, a branch of the music department. She is focusing on Philosophy of technology as applied to music, electronic opera and spatialization.