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Interface

by Glenn Stallcop

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1.
Buttons 06:20
2.
Traffic 10:53
3.
4.
Eggshells 07:18
5.
Nested 08:55
6.
Delete 05:12

about

I have a love/hate relationship with computer technology. It has triggered a transformation of human society on par with maybe industrialization, the printing press, or maybe even writing itself. To live through that change has been both exciting and stressful. The changes to music have been mind boggling at times. I have adapted as well as I can, trying to take advantage of the new technology in creative ways. But my musical standards and ambitions were nurtured in a different time, and some of them are nearly unrecognizable anymore.

I was still a teenager when I first became aware of the media philosopher Marshall McLuhan. His "Understanding Media" and "The Medium is the Message" were difficult to grasp at first, but eventually made me sensitive to the effect new and different ways of communicating had on how we perceive and formulate ideas. McLuhan considered electricity to be an extension of the human nervous system, but computers are extensions of the brain itself. One of his patented phrases was the “global village,” which was a result of electronic communication. The internet was the true arrival of that idea. The internet connects everybody much more intimately, but also amplifies our human frailty and weaknesses. It also extends our senses to the point where we can become overloaded and insensitive.

The music I create would be very difficult to achieve without computers. The internet allows that music to connect with people all over the world. However, the music is conceived in private. It is not assembled from existing parts, it is spun out of a single consciousness and a single experience. Though spontaneous experience is a contemporary reality, it is the older habit of examination and reflection which brings a depth to that experience beyond that of floating atop gigabytes of superficiality.

Music connects people. It provides empathetic points of reference. It both filters and focuses our emotional experience. It is a nexus that nourishes human interaction. It is an interface of intention and intrigue.

BUTTONS. “Click here” is maybe not the source of our obsession with instant gratification, but it certainly doesn’t thwart it either. “Pushing buttons” has become a relationship cliche, of course, so maybe the computer is not only modeling our expectations, but our reactions as well.

TRAFFIC. It is a constant technological crisis to keep the internet flowing freely, and we become more and more impatient as that technology gets better and better. We should remember how our own production becomes slower when we are troubled or bombarded with many things at once.

DOESN'T ANYTHING GO? I don’t believe anybody would say that our nearly limitless access to information has pacified any of our frustration. It was Cole Porter who said that nowadays “anything goes,” boy, did he get that wrong!

EGGSHELLS. I remember a youth orchestra conductor saying that playing Mozart was like “walking on eggshells.” He was referring to how careful you have to be while playing such delicate music. I think of that when I am trying to negotiate through sites with lots of bugs. Why is all the bad programming on the “refund” pages?

NESTED. As we all integrate computers into nearly every aspect of our life, our thinking has become a series of loops, if/then decisions, and subroutines. There are other ways to think and solve problems! Maybe it's all those nests that are the source of all those broken eggs.

CELETE. Exactly. But unfortunately, that’s not happening any time soon. And when it does, we won’t know what to do!

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released December 1, 2023

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Glenn Stallcop Phoenix, Arizona

Glenn Stallcop is a composer, pianist, and a long-time double bassist with the Phoenix Symphony. He has recorded many albums of piano improvisation over the last 20 years. He is a well-established composer with over 100 published works for orchestra, chamber music and vocal works, solo piano and double bass. ... more

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