Impact of technology on music education. How digital musicianship could change music-making at schools

Hausarbeit, 2015

20 Seiten, Note: 1,0




1. Introduction

2. Recording technique and the history of turntablism
a. Early ideas and experiments with the gramophone.
b. Pierre Schaeffer and 'musique concrète'
c. Fluxus Movement
d. Hip-Hop DJ's and turntablism
e. Digital revolution

3. Implications of technological change
3.1 New technology and music
a. Musical material
b. Common authorship and democracy of sound.
c. Digital musicianship
3.2 New technology and music education
a. Rethinking music making at school
b. Creativity
c. Learning environments

4 . Critical review
4.1 The student's perspective
4.2 Creative technology and music education: a question of ideology?

5. Conclusion

1. Introduction

'Die Schallplatte ist ein Gegenstand jenes täglichen Bedarfs, der durchaus den Widerpart des menschlichen und künstlerischen ausmacht, denn dieser wäre nicht beliebig zu wiederholen und einzuschalten, sondern ist gebunden an seinen Ort und seine Stunde.'[1]

Adorno claims that the invention of the record disc alienates the nature of music from human ontology. According to him, human life and music can not exist apart from time and space. However, globalization, web 2.0 or social networking has shown, that human social life is increasingly involved in international interaction. Even students' life has changed. The JIM study[2] found out that 92% of German students (between the ages of 14 and 19) own their own smartphone(s). Due to that fact, students are able to share information with friends and consume media wherever and whenever they want. Moreover, students transform everyday life contents (in form of pictures, videos, recordings) into narratives, by publishing and interpreting personal information on social networks. In comparison to that, turntablists transform musical contents (in form of records) into narratives, by interpreting and manipulating existing records. Consequently, media–technology has turned from a reproductive tool into a productive one.

The technology-based formation of content became part of every students' social life and determines the way we listen, perform or compose music. Why did it no become part of German music classes?

This paper aims to determine the impact of technological progress on music education. The purpose of the study is to outline how music education could adopt music culture, which is increasingly driven by technological change.

The following investigation is based on the assumption that new possibilities of technology–related music production can not only be taught theoretically. Consequently it is necessary to probe how technology–based musicianship can be implemented at schools. Unfortunately, the limited access to empirical data (concerning schools' equipment etc.) does not allow to develop concrete teaching concepts. Nevertheless, the developed conceptions may serve as approach that can be shaped according to different education–settings.

Chapter two exemplifies the impact of technological change on music history by referring to the progress that has been made in recording technology. The chapter spotlights the importance of sampling technology and its relevance for DJ- Culture, turntablism as well as the use of 'creative apps'. Creative applications, such as GarageBand, stick to the idea of turntablism. In this work, the term 'digital musicianship' is introduced to distinguish between turntablism and 'app-based music making' and refers solely to the usage of GarageBand - software. This work does not intend to analyse GarageBand's technical features. The following chapter analyses the changing role of musicianship and its implications for music education. These considerations will demonstrate that technological and musical progress can only be understood in relation to social discourse. Chapter four reflects already made findings critically by weighing and integrating views from different perspectives.

2. Recording technique and the history of turntablism

a. Early ideas and experiments with the gramophone.

In 1887 Emil Berliner invented the first gramophone device being able to play back sounds engraved on record discs. From now on music could be materialized in the form of record grooves - sound became tangible. However, the new technological possibilities had not only been used to transcribe live performances. Contemporary composers considered the technology as compositional tool and live instrument. During the New Music Festival in Berlin, Paul Hindemith presented his work ´Zwei Trickaufnahmen´ (Two Trick Recordings) including the piece ´Gesang über vier Oktaven´ (Four-Octave Song). The ´Four-Octave Song´uses gramophone technique in order to transpose the sung melodies one octave higher or deeper by doubling or halving the playback speed. In addition to that Mark Katz states that Hindemith explores another technological possibility: ' the ability to record sounds produced at different times 'on top' of one another to produce harmony and counterpoint'. The used method of overdubbing multi-track records emerged to one of the basic principles of DJ turntablism. John Cage attended the premier of Hindemiths 'Zwei Trickaufnahmen'. Later on he claims that the role of gramophone has to be refined. In his view the turntables has to be regarded as independent instrument offering the possibility to integrate noise sounds as new source of musical expression:

'I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. […]. Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise and so-called musical sounds…. Given four film phonographs, we can compose and perform a quartet for explosive motor, wind, heartbeat, and landslide.'[3]

In 1939 Cage published his first electronic piece using the turntables – Imaginary Landscape No. 1. The piece is written for two turntablists accompanied by piano and cymbals. Every turntablists plays the record of constant sine tones. Through changing the playback speed the fixed frequencies turn into glissandi. The turntablists' actions were determined using traditional notation technique.

b. Pierre Schaeffer and 'musique concrète'

During the late 1940s Pierre Schaeffer came up with a new method to manipulate recorded sounds. Therefore he extracted sounds from already existing records. In contrast to 'concret music', being notated in traditional scores, he introduced the term 'musique conrète', which is made up of pre-existing material. Schaeffers first piece of 'music conrète' 'cinq études de bruits' was published in 1948. In comparison to Cage's 'Imaginary Landscape No.1' the work is not aimed to be performed by live musicians. Consequently there was no need for notation. The turntable itself determined the compositional process as well as the performance. Pierre Schaeffer adopted the manipulation techniques used by John Cage. He distorted the material on the record player by changing the speed, overdubbing sounds as well as playing sounds backwards. In addition to that Schaeffer explored methods of preparation made on the groove in the disc. For instance, he created locked grooves, what kept the needle and the tone-arm from driving into the next groove. As a consequence of that the record player repeats an endless loop of a short excerpt of the disc.

c. Fluxus Movement

Fluxus Artists emphasized performance concepts and open concert forms. By combining different kinds of media (music, video, collage, poetry etc.), fluxus performances (as well as happenings or exhibitions) blur the line between high - culture and popular culture. Fluxus performances implicates the audience. Passive spectators are turned into performers of the work. In doing so, the movement breaks down the distinction between composer, performer and listener. Nam June Paik installation 'Schallplatten – Schaschlick' (1963) exemplifies the interactive and sculptural usage of turntables. Paik forms a sculpture consisting of spinning stacks of records. A movable pick-up arm allows the visitor to switch between records or grooves. Hence, the spectator decides on his own performance. At the same time he or she is becoming a part of the work itself. Consequently it becomes clear that 'Fluxus Art' establishes a new culture of participation: 'Fluxus was dedicated to the democratization of art practice and to the use of the 'everyday' as the material of art.'[4] Other fluxus artists introduced destructive processes into performances and compositions. Milan Knížák has been one of the first artists transferring destruction methods into turntable music. His composition 'LP Broken Music Composition' (1979) consists of new sounds created by manipulated or broken turntables needle as well as damaged, burned or reconstituted record shards.

d. Hip-Hop DJ's and turntablism

The early use of turntables was meant to accompany rap music performances. The DJ's task remained limited to play back tracks. Beginning in the 1980s DJ emancipated themselves from rappers and developed independent playing techniques like 'scratching' or 'beat-juggling'. Many credit 'Grandwizer' Theodore as being the DJ who invented scratching. Theodore, born in New York City 1963, states, that he found scratching by accident in 1975:


[1] Adorno, Theodor W., Die Form der Schallplatte, in: Tiedemann, Rolf (ed): T heodor W. Adorno. Musikalische Schriften VI. Band 19: Gesammelte Schriften, Frankfurt am Main 1984, p. 531.

[2] Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverband Südwest (ed.), JIM-Studie: Jugend, Information,

(Multi-)Media. Basisstudie zum Medienumgang 12- bis 19-Jähriger in Deutschland, URL:, Version 15.03.2016, p. 47.

[3] Cage, John, Silence. Lectures and Writings. Middletown, p. 1961.

[4] Storrie, Calum, Delirious Museum. A Journey from the Louvre to Las Vegas, New York 2006, p. 80.

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Impact of technology on music education. How digital musicianship could change music-making at schools
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Technology, Music education, Garageband, Ipad, Turntable, Change, Impact, Digital musicianship
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Anonym, 2015, Impact of technology on music education. How digital musicianship could change music-making at schools, München, GRIN Verlag,


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