Pre-fab Music

It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that anyone I knew figured out how to do multitrack recording on a computer. Before then, we all played with broke-suburban-kid analog solutions: karaoke machines and dual-tape tape recorders attached to Radio Shack microphones, perhaps a church sound board or an ultra low-end four track if anyone could get their hands on one. We spent a lot of time — hours upon hours — building weird contraptions that combined pillows and cardboard boxes and odd amp configurations in order to get the sounds we were looking for, or at least to figure out what sounds were within our reach. Most of it was pretty primitive, but the results we got were, I think, far better than they had any right to be considering our total lack of professional equipment or training.

These days, though, making quasi-original music is as easy making a mix tape playlist. I put this together in about 90 minutes on my second ever attempt at GarageBand.

It’s not much — at very, very best, in fact, I’d say it’s thoroughly generic — but, unless my memory is mistaken, it sounds significantly better than projects that came out of a lot of decent home recording studios just a decade or so ago. The speed at which digital home recording technology has progressed is really impressive, and, just as Final Cut, Premiere, and iMovie have substantially reduced the barriers to entry for digital filmmaking, GarageBand and its more professional older siblings have made it almost effortless for reasonably computer-savvy folks to put together high-quality music very, very quickly. For a lot of youngsters, I suspect it’s going to end up second nature.

To me, that’s a potentially huge shift. And I frequently wonder if, perhaps even more than the social media revolution, it’s a shift that could produce huge changes in the way people communicate. We may end up seeing a generation as able and comfortable with audio production and video editing as my cohort is with web-browsing, blogging, email, and word processing.

UPDATE: Yes, yes, as Lasorda says in the comments, it’s terrible. The point isn’t Peter-makes-embarrassing-generic-technoish-song (I mean, sure, if that’s what you want to talk about, have at it — I agree!). It’s that, despite the crappiness of the composition, the recording quality is pretty good, and that I made it in an hour and a half using a piece of software I have virtually no experience with. Now imagine a generation of pop-savvy kids growing up with access to the rough equivalent of full-fledged recording studios and editing bays in their bedrooms, and then think about the way that’s going to change the way they approach creating media.