DataPoint: Disruptive Technology (2)

Composing Music Using Apple Computer’s GarageBand Software

I’M not a musician, but I recently composed and recorded a song. More than that, in a Paul McCartneyesque fit of post-Beatles hubris, I played all the instruments and produced and engineered the entire thing, even though I have no experience producing and engineering anything more complicated than a Bombay martini.

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There’s just one thing: I didn’t compose “Eventide” any more than Ashlee Simpson sang “Pieces of Me” on “Saturday Night Live.” The song sprang from computer-sampled snippets of musical instruments that I stitched together using Apple Computer’s GarageBand software. GarageBand is a denatured version of industry-standard recording software that allows amateurs to cobble together a song using nothing but the program’s digital instruments. You preview the samples from a Chinese-menu-like array, drag them into a virtual mixing console, push them this way and that, and voilà! The software automatically renders the composition into a tidy audio file that can be posted to Web sites like MySpace.com, which teems with thousands of MP3 files from would-be Coldplays and Alicia Keyses.

The process is so seamless and absorbing that I can’t really recall how “Eventide” came together. […] It was like watching a Polaroid photograph develop, except that I could fuss with the image as it came into focus. By then I had stacked up seven instruments I didn’t know how to play into a song I didn’t know how to write.

Given my total inexperience at composing, the result should have sounded ridiculous; instead, it sounded pretty cool. […]