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Mendy Smith

What Jobs did for Music

October 6, 2011 at 4:57 AM

 It was a bitter-sweet day: my birthday and finding out about Steve Job's passing when I got home from lessons.

I remember when the "Walkman" was the ultimate portable music machine.  Imagine being able to take your cassette tapes with you where-ever you wanted!  It was bulky, heavy, only carried 1 hour of music at best,  and you had to carry a pencil with you all the time to fix the tape windings.  But for the first time, you weren't bound to either the turn-table at home or the cassette deck in you car.  The upgrade several years later was the CD walkman, still bulky, a battery drain, but no need to carry a pencil.

Then enter the the iPod.  Suddenly you could store a day's worth of music on something not much larger than a credit card.  That format shrunk to the size of something no larger than your thumb at lightening speed.  Extensive personal music libraries became completely portable.  The technology didn't stop there.  Now you can record videos with your iPhone, share them with friends and even download apps for metronomes and tuners - all in one device that can fit in the palm of your hand.  When the iPads first came out, I saw some of my musician friends use them to store their sheet-music and use them in place of their traditional paper sheet-music.

While Bill Gates focused on the business world of computing, Steve Jobs made computing a truly personal and integral part of our lives in a profound way.  He will be sorely missed.

From Liz O´Neill
Posted on October 6, 2011 at 4:00 PM

 Certainly, the digital age has transformed the way us musicians play,listen and interact .   I can still remember my parents  fragile,scratchy 78 rpm records and the cumbersome turntables they used to play them.   A few years later and this mode of sound reproduction did become more sophisticated but 'LP's' were still relatively expensive,as was the latest  'HiFi' equipment.    Only those who listened to the radio regularly were able to enrich their musical knowledge to any significant degree,whether it be in the classical or the pop world.   

    Important too is the way the development of computer assisted machinery has accelerated the mass production of instruments,strings,etc even the music we play from.( counter to your ipad  reference,I remember hearing a story about how all the old Johann Strauss waltz parts were all hand written by a little old gentleman in Vienna.).  

   However ,along with this metamorphic series of changes there are, in my opinion,many down sides.  It is too easy now to replace the professional musician in favour of a synthesized (but poor) imitation ,which of course costs the record producer little...and when they are employed the art of 'multi-tracking' means that far fewer strings,for instance are required.    It's also tempting for producers to only use half the time formerly used for recording sessions because they can 'tweak' everything later using the latest digital aids.   

          The concert going public have changed too in what they expect  to hear. .  The digitally enhanced product we hear on CDs and downloads these days is a dehumanised level of attainment that even the Berlin Philharmonic would have trouble matching.  It goes without saying that the struggle for perfection ,whether from the perspective of a young conservatoire student or a seasoned 'pro' becomes  increasingly harder .  

     When any product becomes too readily available, it is not only its financial value which becomes cheaper.  Music these days has become such a disposable commodity...young people for instance download track after track without really listening properly .  They are too fired up about the next song  they are going to buy (for peanuts) rather than learning to savour that which they already have.  

   To conclude. While I whole-heartedly embrace the massive transformations that have taken place,thanks to Jobs,Gates,et al,  I think we should tread very carefully as we do so.

From Liz O´Neill
Posted on October 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM

 Mendy,  sorry,meant to say 'Happy Birthday'  :)

From Andrei Pricope
Posted on October 6, 2011 at 7:47 PM

On my iPhone and iPad, in my studio, in my practice room, or on a plane, I can: listen to music, record and email videos for students, take pictures, follow along scores as PDFs or Sibelius files, write exercises for students, watch videos of the greats for inspiration, tune my instrument, practice with drones, use a metronome with endless possibilities, research pieces and composers, do aural training (intervals, chords, scales, etc.), etc., etc.

To say the life of the musician has been transformed by Steve's direct or indirect influence is a huge understatement...

The man himself – an inspiration, the tech guy – a legend...

RIP Steve

PS  Mendy, hope you had a great birthday!!!


From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 7, 2011 at 12:57 AM

 I'm so saddened by his passing. It's a real comfort to come to this site and see him mentioned here. Thanks, Mendy. 

And, on a less somber note,  happy birthday to you.

From Christina C.
Posted on October 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Amen to that. Years ago I bought the 1st generation 80 GB iPod so it's a bit clunky, but I do love it. I just finished one part of my Bach project - loading all of the Canatas onto my computer & then putting all of my favorite movements on my iPod... adding to the thousands of tracks already there. I include a 40 minute walk as part of my morning commute so my iPod is indispensable for that. If I'm doing an unfamiliar piece for a chamber music workshop always make a point of adding it to my iPod & often spend my commute home on the bus following along with the score. My iPod is also what I use to record my violin lessons with a little voice recorder attachment.


Happy B-day!

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on October 7, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Just a remark...

MP3 was invented by the Fraunhofer Institut in the 80s, and the first MP3-players were out in the late 90s. Apple hasn't invented this technology, they only made it popular (and made a lot of money). They even twisted the minds of the common people so much that everybody is saying "ipod" when actually meaning an MP3 player...

(written by a longtime apple fan)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on October 8, 2011 at 3:07 AM


I realize that.  However Apple made that technology user friendly and accessible to the masses.

(coming from a professional IT Geek)

From bill platt
Posted on October 8, 2011 at 8:11 PM

"While Bill Gates focused on the business world of computing, Steve Jobs made computing a truly personal and integral part of our lives in a profound way.  He will be sorely missed."


I don't see how Jobs was any more important or influential than any one of scores of people, most of whom are anonymous.  The first computer in the modern sense that I interacted with was a Commodore Vic 16. Then an Apple ii plus and a IIe, then a Tandy TRS-80, then a dec vax mainframe, a whole line of 8088 and 8086 machines, then some Macintoshes concurrently with the IBM and Dec, then Macintosh by itself for about 3 years (92-95) and then a 486 exclusively going forward from there.

I have not seen *any* good reason to waste money on an Apple since then. All of the Apple "innovations" really aren't so original, though they did successfully make them work and wrap them in tidy-looking wrapping paper.

I have never gotten over the irony that to me, my first encounter with Microsoft was on early Macintoshes--word, excel etc. On  the 8088 machines, we used Lotus, Quattro PRo, Word Star, Word Perfect, LEWP, various basic compiliers, Turbo Pascal etc.... and Word Perfect was soooo much better than the Word Program, and quattro pro was more versatile than excel.

In the past few years, while Apple has seemingly boomed along, their real relevance has slipped even further, in my experience. They are expensive, monopolistic, controlling, creepy, and did I mention expensive?  They control your mp3 ownership. PITA in my opinion.

Ironically and counter to your point, in my opinion, the central reason for the Ipod success and therefore the opportunity for the iphone, was a *business* savvy--not a "personal experience" aspect. MP3 predates Apple's iPod by approximately 10 years. It was Apple that pulled off the miracle of getting the record labels on board with MP3. Before that, it was the WAR against NAPSTER. Jobs convinced them that they could make boatloads of cash through the Apple portal known as iPod. That's business savvy, not innovation in my opinion.

I found tapes and records and CDs easier to deal with. You had a physical piece of media. It was harder to lose. And some company couldn't rip it off of all of your computers on a whim.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on October 11, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Nice to hear from another Amigaphile.  I've been a professional programmer for 40 years, eagerly followed the first personal computers.  My first computer (as in ownership) was an IMSAI 8080 running CP/M.  When the IBM PC came out, I was unimpressed; it didn't do enough new to make it worthwhile.  But in November 1985 I saw a demo of the Amiga, and by March 1986 I had scraped up the bucks for an original Amiga 1000.  Although my work now demands that I have a Windows box, I still keep an Amiga 2000 running to edit my program source code and then ship it over to the Windows box for compilation and testing, since CygnusEd is (IMHO) the best text editor ever written.  For play (including music) I have a Linux box.  I never did get into Mac; both it and Windows try too hard to take ownership of your data away from you.

Having said this, though, I still find Steve Jobs' passing to be a sad thing.  He kept many dreams alive.  Even if they're nothing more than an alternative to the Microsoft monopoly, that would be enough - but I think he provided a spark that we need.

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