Technology as a Starting Point?

A couple of weeks ago, on a long drive, I found myself listening to a show called Radiolab. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a radio show in which two musically passionate hosts discuss what interests them in contemporary music – styles, artists, or individual pieces.

This particular episode* featured a group called Dawn of Midi. They play acoustic music, contrary to what the name might suggest. As the hosts played bits from the album ‘Dysnomia’, they marveled at the sound – it was very electronic, yet was created entirely with acoustic drums, bass, and piano. I think I heard a guitar in there, too, but it’s hard to be sure. The longer it played, I, too, felt increasingly like I was listening to a modern electronic piece.

One of the hosts noted that machine-like music is clearly part of the group’s musical aesthetic, but what really sets the music apart is that it’s both electronic and ‘human’ at the same time. I’m paraphrasing, but he commented that this type of music could very well have not been made without machines – it took a machine to show humans the possibilities, but humans then took the idea and improved upon it, adding dimension and depth.

Naturally, I was led to finding parallels in design technology. Have you seen a great design develop with the aid of technology, only to become even better after tech has been abandoned? If so, what are your thoughts on that? Is it because technology has a limitation in design, or have we not figured out how to use it most effectively?

*If you’d like to listen to the Radiolab segment, you can find it here: http://www.radiolab.org/story/313542-dawn-midi/
(Image credits: Autodesk community forum user diagodose2009/ Gerard Petersen/ muzikdiscovery)

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