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Do you consider the laptop to be a musical instrument?

  • Yes

    Votes: 73 40.8%
  • No

    Votes: 106 59.2%
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm curious to find out what you all think on this matter.

Whatever your opinion, why not give us an insight into why you feel the way you do?
 

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Not really, but that is just my opinion. To make a laptop play music it surely needs software, which is not already there. So without the software can it play music?


Margaret
 

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This is a touchy subject... it makes one think about what a musical instrument is. However, I think laptops aren't musical instruments for the most part because they aren't really used as such. Sure, composers may use them to compose, but that's composing. And some weird person may well use them as percussion instruments, but that's giving your computer a very short life expectancy. So I'd just as soon say "no" and get on with the more tried-and-true, effective instruments.
 

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A laptop? Why a laptop particularly? I think a PC can be a musical instrument, in the sense that it can be an instrument for creating music.

I do MIDI versions of renaissance dance music, which are orchestrated unauthentically but creatively. It is probably a pretty low-grade kind of music, but music it is. :)
 

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This is an interesting question indeed and sort of similar to "are stereo speakers instruments"? Well, obviously they emit the organised sound closely matching that... of original instruments used in a recording.

I actually suspect that this thread was inspired by seeing some videos of music actually composed for speakers used as instruments (with interference applied to them or whatever) or the one with a laptop used with a chamber orchestra to "mix live" baroque pieces or something like that.

Well, I shall give a twist to the thread by saying this: I think the true instruments are acoustic instruments. The electronic ones are just artificially creating something which may match the original acoustic ones. I have no intention of igniting an endless "ping pong" of argumentative posts. Just use it as an example of a way of thinking, not necessarily right or wrong. However, I have come to some interesting points in this area and would be more than happy to see your comments on the following:

1. electronic pianos

They can also play the sounds of "violin" etc. are an obvious attempt at closely matching the "original" in one box and yet are no match for a separate instrument with its subtle individual colours and richness - so even though you can learn how to play piano using such devices or imitate the sound of symphonic violins, it still is no match for a Bosendorfer or a Stradivarius :)

2. things like theremin etc.

They can imitate eerie soprano-like sounds as well as cello-like etc. and still - do not fully reflect a real human voice or a real cello

3. acoustic vs. electro-acoustic

Come to think of it, many cultures around the world developed very similar instruments - regardless whether Chinese, Japanese, Native American, African etc. - there are many similar flute-like instruments, guitar-like instruments, harp-like etc. So I tend to believe that the instruments themselves are just physical representations of some higher order of more abstract and universal things like harmonies etc. However, these abstract things gain their perceivable shape and richness only when physical objects interact with the air whereas a stream of electrons coming into the equation will only give an additional twist or an approximation lacking depth and multidimensionality.

Just to give you an example for the last hypothesis: electric guitars are loved by metal fans for their ability to create powerful "heavy" sound - and yet, the cello section of an orchestra can give you something as heavy and intense, and yet a bit more complex and perhaps more pleasant to the ear. Similarly, guitars are loved for their "rough" sound but this is also something you typically get from a wheel fiddle (also called the hurdy gurdy):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurdy_gurdy

I generally believe the common misconception that electronically you can create more varied sounds is somehow incorrect - in the way that there are a lot of forgotten or only regionally known instruments (wheel fiddle, daf, cajon etc.) which can offer a lot in terms of variety.

And yet there is another twist to the story. Having said all that, I rarely listen to live instruments playing. So, I am listening to an approximation generated by means of the speakers or earbuds combined with the circuitry of a computer, home stereo system or portable media player. And therefore, the question could be: in our daily listening, do we actually listen to instruments?
 

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Completely ruins Turangalîla-Symphonie - absolutely amazing piece, but it just sounds like a childish bird type whistle whenever that horrible contraption plays. Haven't heard it other pieces. Plus, it lacks the expresivity and subtlety of wind similar sounding/played actual instruments. The theremin is limited in it's expression, but at least it does have some.
 

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I think on balance a laptop CAN be a musical instrument, if it is used by someone in a
musically interesting way, not just dial twisting or 'tapping' emptily. In general, I'm not a great fan of electronic/electric instruments, but I think they can be effective at times. I guess I think more of those in the context of jazz or even some exploratory pop overall though. But some of the laptop effects by skilled player like, say, percussionist Ikue Mori, I find very interesting & appealing.

Ed
 

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Let me reword what I mean:

If everyone in the world played trumpet or oboe the way I did, I would not consider it an instrument. Now relate that to a computer.

Also, it MUST be creative, as said above, adjusting the volume of a track you pre-created (I know it is much more involved than that...), does not constitute enough creativity in my mind.
 
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Well you know what my answer will be, ;) but just to make sure I have tried blowing it, bowing it, plucking it, I have tried playing the keys and hitting it with Drum sticks, in desperation I even tried sucking it, So NO IMHO it is not a musical instrument that is not to say that it can't be used to make notes into a melody etc and I have heard a few examples i.e. Douglas Lilburn, it is a tool, just that.
 

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Well you know what my answer will be, ;) but just to make sure I have tried blowing it, bowing it, plucking it, I have tried playing the keys and hitting it with Drum sticks, in desperation I even tried sucking it, So NO IMHO it is not a musical instrument that is not to say that it can't be used to make notes into a melody etc and I have heard a few examples i.e. Douglas Lilburn, it is a tool, just that.
As much as I agree, I don't see your reasoning. I don't see how not blowing it makes it not an instrument. And for the record, all instruments are just tools for producing and expressing music, including the voice.
 
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Yagan you are being pedantic so if you agree with me but not my reasoning pray give your reasoning. btw if it went over your head I was trying to be humorous.
 

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The only electronic device that is an instrument (be it limited).
I take it you have never heard an ondes Martenot?

Ah, I see you have. Ok - it ruins the Turangalila Symphony and, presumably the many other Messiaen and Honegger works which incorporate it. I wonder why those composers insisted on using it then? Perhaps they lacked your own superior musical aestheic.
 

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So NO IMHO it is not a musical instrument that is not to say that it can't be used to make notes into a melody etc and I have heard a few examples i.e. Douglas Lilburn, it is a tool, just that.
I thought this section was where you were being serious, and the other you were too, but using humours aspects. But okay.

Yagan you are being pedantic so if you agree with me but not my reasoning pray give your reasoning.
Never said I had any. Maybe later in life, when I devote some time and effort into it I'll give an opinion.

Perhaps they lacked your own superior musical aestheic.
Maybe indeed. Nazis probably injected Messiaen with a drug to make him aesthetically retarded in assessing whether an obscure instrument is exceptional or not.
 
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