Q:You are definitely one of my main inspirations with regard to my own playing. With all of the cool gear you have used over the years, what do you think of some of the newer technology?—Don
It's fulfilling to know that my music created such a good effect on you. You're quite welcome, as it's one of the effects I prize most.
As to the newer technology you mention, I assume you're referring to keyboard, recording and audio technology in general. It's an interesting subject and often a controversial one.
I have two different opinions of electronic and computer technology used in music. I'll tell you the most important one first, as it helps me understand all else to do with technology of all kinds. It's that music's purpose is to communicate its creator's message and emotion to the listener. A favorite quote of mine from a book called Art by L. Ron Hubbard is: "Art is a word which summarizes the quality of communication." In my experience with music and artists and audiences, this has always seemed to be the basic simple purpose of music and art forms of all kinds. Even if I'm just making music for myself or for a friend, the purpose is still the same—to communicate, to create an effect—and to communicate in a way that is pleasing.
When musical instruments and computers used for music are thought of as "tools," the physical means of communication, and are used that way, then all the mechanics of techniques and technology are in their correct importance. Technology should always serve the idea or the message of the artist. When it does, it works. When the technology itself becomes the point of interest, it loses its art.
Here's 2 definitions of "instrument" from my computer dictionary:
So, an "instrument" is something that is used by the musician, and the musician's intent and message (his communication) is the guiding thing.
My second opinion about technology is that when computers and pianos and audio gear are developed with the intent to make music for people, it's the best use of "technology" I can think of. In my composing, I've come to appreciate the computer for the whole act of composing. I use Logic to put my compositions onto a computer score, as they're easily managed that way. I can edit them into any form I need.
For instance, I just took the Logic score of a Bill Evans song I'm currently playing with Hubert Laws, Eddie Gomez and Airto Moreira, and after Hubert told me that he'd like to try it on the alto flute (transposed a fourth up), I put up the piano part on my computer, transposed it up a fourth and in 2 minutes had a clean alto flute part for Hubert for the night's performance. I'm always curious about the use of synthesizers for color, and the new developments in keyboards are really very creative—with soft synths offering whole new vistas of ways to make sound.
When the musical idea comes first and the technology is chosen to support that idea and make it happen—that's when it works the best—that's when music is made.
(Please don't use the comment field for questions)