Art & Technology, Electronic Music & Sound Design
CREATIVE 2 PROFESSIONAL: 7 Things to Think About
Michael Bell-Smith | Wed Dec 4th, 2013 10:30 a.m.
\”CREATIVE 2 PROFESSIONAL: 7 Things to Think About\” is based on a lecture commissioned by Aily Nash and Andrew Norman Wilson as part of Image Employment at New York\’s MoMA PS1. Read the curators\’ afterword here.
#1: Scot Halpin
In 1973, the rock band The Who were opening their US tour for Quadrophenia with a sold-out concert at the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco.
Halfway through their set, drummer Keith Moon passed out on his drums, allegedly due to a mixture of animal tranquilizers and brandy. After unsuccessfully trying to revive him, the band soldiered on drumless for a few songs. Eventually, Pete Townshend, The Who\’s guitar player and main songwriter, asked the crowd if anyone could play the drums.
After some egging on from a friend, Scot Halpin, 19 at the time and standing in the front row, volunteered. He filled in for four songs before the show ended. In this moment, Scot crossed the threshold from audience to rock star. He became a bit of hero among rock fans, even earning a special award from Rolling Stone magazine in 1973 for \”Pick-up Player of the Year.\”
In a 1996 interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Scot said of the experience that it was \”one of the few times you could play royalty.\”
#2: A page from the 1977 zine Sideburns
This page from a 1977 issue of London-based punk zine Sideburns has become somewhat iconic as a distillation of punk\’s early ethos. The idea was one of de-professionalization: not only that you, the fan, could become a performer, with no divide between you and the musician on stage, but also that you should do so, that your voice was worthwhile.
This image and idea can be compared and contrasted with Apple\’s home studio software Garageband, and its marketing campaign. In text on the webpage for GarageBand, Apple states:
With GarageBand, you have all the instruments, bandmates, and talent you need.
You don\’t need a studio full of big, expensive amps to play like your heroes.
And further down the page, describing the software\’s \”Jam\” function: \”The roadies have set up. The band is ready to jam on a full-screen stage. Now pick your instrument and step into the spotlight.\”
Similar to Apple\’s promotional language around GarageBand, Beamz was touted as a device that let you \”be a one-man rock band\” and \”be a hero.\” The device allowed you to alter pre-recorded music by waving your hand across a light beam.
While your movements would do something, you couldn\’t play a wrong note or off-time rhythm. It was targeted towards people who wanted to feel like they were making music, but lacked the skill. It relied on a specific idea of agency in making music, one that was rooted in mimicking the physical act of playing, much like playing air guitar.
This infomercial and the original Beamz model debuted in 2008 to much internet-based public mockery. Since then, Beamz has shifted their focus and marketing campaign. They have enlisted pop musician Flo Rida as spokesperson for their \”Beamz by Flo,\” a version of the device that allows users to riff on \”20 interactive songs inspired by some of the world\’s greatest artists—Flo Rida, Adele, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood and many more.\”
They have traded in their original market of middle-aged males for young teens. In parallel, they have marketed Beamz as an educational device, \”An Interactive Music Experience That Enriches Learning and Promotes Healing,\” targeted towards early-childhood educators, those in the fields of therapy and rehabilitation, and seniors.