Technology in the Service of Art

Lately I’ve been experimenting with Ableton’s Live software, which allows me to create interesting arrangements, construct new pieces from scratch, and generally play with music. Live lets me lay down every single layer within a track… by myself… fast… with thousands of different sounds at my disposal. It’s fantastic. Best of all, the anal retentive freak in me is able to go back and revise music I record to make sure that in the “saved” version of the piece, I hit the note smack dab at the beginning of the third thirty-second of the beat, rather than the hairs-breadth off that I actually played. Far from weaning me off traditional music making, Live has deepened my respect and love for the craft of artistry. I find that when I’m fiddling around with the digital manifestation of the music, trying to bring down the volume on the pedal point tones, or simply arrange the notes into a harmonic minor scale with just the mouse, I’m incredibly impatient with a task that should just HAPPEN under my finger tips.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology is wonderful. With Photoshop I can manipulate my images without investing in a full dark-room setup. With Illustrator I can create versatile graphics that can be used just about anywhere. With Live I can be an entire orchestra without leaving my home. And technology is especially wonderful when it enhances rather than detracts from art. When it allows me to do things that aren’t otherwise feasible. When it lets me experience things I can’t normally access.

Like the use of technology in Lois Greenfield and the Australian Dance Theater’s new performance, Held. For this work, Greenfield photographs the dancers mid-movement and the images are instantly projected onto a screen. This is a perfect exemplification of the Technology in the Service of Art principle. Greenfield notes in the Telegraph that in these images “you are seeing something you couldn't without the benefit of the photograph. I capture 1/2,000th of a second and our brains can't register that. But we can see it on a picture."

Held uses technology to intensify our ability to cherish and appreciate the craft of the artists. It’s a beautiful marriage of media because it respects the strengths and limitations of every component involved, from the camera to the artists to the audience.