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Friday, May 20 • 5:45pm - 6:45pm
Mastery is Dead

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Mike Butera of Artiphon talks on the concept of virtuosity in the digital age.
Traditional instruments with prescriptive, perfectible techniques have increasingly been replaced by new tools and methods in music production that do not presuppose a "right" way to play. From nonlinear looping to expressive grid controllers to modular synthesis iPhone apps, we're seeing instead the rise of open systems of expression and the (dangerous?) potential for a shift toward electronically-mediated but otherwise unbounded creative process. The centuries-old notion that an instrument can be learned and mastered, that there is a goal or plateau of skill and achievement, is vanishing. In place of fingers on strings, musicians are increasingly enlisting automation and black-box software to create and organize the sounds they imagine. Does this trend threaten our concepts of skill and creativity, displacing them onto the machine? Is the death of mastery an opportunity for more expansive creativity for even more people, or a reduction of musical process to fiddling with predetermined algorithms? And will the still-emerging technologies of 21st Century music production eventually create their own master-able norms, where students of the future will be taught Ableton and grid control techniques with the same specificity as Suzuki violin students of many prior generations?

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Mike Butera

Mike Butera is the founder and CEO of Artiphon. Butera’s background combines a PhD in sound studies, expertise in consumer electronics, and life on the road as a touring musician.

Program Themes
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Instrument Innovators

Since the first humans stood upright, people have been compelled to make sounds and compose them into rhythm and song. Humanity progresses, societies evolve, and expressions, representations, and tastes shift wildly, but the drive to make tools that produce music has, and will... Read More →

Friday May 20, 2016 5:45pm - 6:45pm EDT
American Underground @Main - Bullpen