emilemenasche Posted August 14, 2001 Share Posted August 14, 2001 What is the nature of collaboration in the digital age? When it comes to the composition of music, the term collaboration is about as clearly defined as Tony Soprano's abs. In one sense, anyone who participates in the performance of a piece of music is a collaborator -- even if all the parts have been written out beforehand. How else would those parts come to life? Some would even argue that the audience is part of the collaborative process. Their energy -- their mere presence -- drives the music and gives it meaning. If two composers sit together and work out a melody and chord changes to create a song, they are obviously collaborating. But what if one writer has the basics of the song together and the second only comes up with a harmony for the chorus -- a harmony that makes the song catchy enough for radio airplay? The original song existed before the collaboration, but may never have reached an audience without it. In a traditional work situation, the two composers would be in the same room together. Hopefully, they would be able to work out a sense of "ownership" that would satisfy them both artistically and financially. In a band situation, this could get even trickier: is the drummer's funky groove really part of the song or part of the arrangement? What about the guitar riff? You'd better work that out before the big record deal comes along or you may never make it to VH-1's "Where Are They Now?" These days, we often collaborate with people who are not present as we work -- folks we may never actually meet. Commercial loop libraries are one example of this type of remote collaboration. You might use a loop because the performance is just what you need to complete an existing idea. Or a loop can break you out of a compositional logjam and jumpstart you into a new idea. You may use loops because you're pressed for time, and the loop provides the closest and quickest way to get your song going. You may even compose an entire piece of music using loops created by others; by selecting and arranging the loops, you take possession of the work in much the same way a classical composer might take possession of a traditional folk melody by incorporating it into a symphony. Tools like the Rocket Network allow you to collaborate with people the world over. It's both remote and immediate. You could create a virtual song circle among friends who happen to be far apart, or you could use it to forge relationships with players you'll never get to see in the flesh. As a collaborator, you might put your own ingredients out into cyberspace for others to use without you -- just like the people who create commercial loop libraries. Or you might simply provide your expertise as a player, producer, or arranger to someone else's composition -- or have them do the same for you. You may even work in a back-and-forth collaboration, where you and partners create a melody, chord changes, and lyrics as though your were in the same room. This kind of communication may require a different definition for collaboration and ownership than we've been used to. So I submit the question: what is the nature of collaboration in the digital age? Please feel free to visit the Track Exchange forum on this site and share your thoughts there as well. We're looking forward to hearing from you. Emile Menasche Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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