Computer Music and Testing?

After my last post on music, a reader emailed me and asked me about computers and music. They drew an analogy of midi files as scripted tests, and live well-interpreted music as a much better alternative.

This is an analogy that doesn’t work too well. I have heard “human musicians” play with no interpretation at all – it’s one of my hugest peeves in fact. My skin is crawling just thinking about it – uggh!. It’s also quite possible, believe it or not, to create midi files that sound fantastic – I did some big band stuff once with fully sequenced brass and rhythm parts, and me playing all 5 saxophone parts (inspired by this CD, some of my stuff may have been even better due to better quality instruments - I can say that because I don’t have a recording anywhere. Lost recordings always sound fantastic).

Of course, there’s controversy in the recording world between people who do it the old way with tape and razor blades, and those who use computers (just like we have controversy in test). But in the recording world, I doubt there are many engineers (hey – they use that name too!) who like fixing timing issues with a razor blade and pitch issues with a carefully placed thumb. The issues are usually about the sound – both the differences between digital and analog, and the poor choices that the typical digital recording users make (the speed and ease of use of computer recording drives people with no business recording into the recording “business”).

Perhaps a better point to make about computers and music is that for better or worse, computers help musicians make music quicker and more efficiently. I think that’s kind of how testers use automation too. These days, just about everything you hear on the radio is done with protools or even some of the lower end similar software. Some parts of the recording process that used to take days, can now be done in minutes on a computer. Of course, what this has done is allowed bad musicians to make bad music faster (I’ve seen bad testers do this same sort of thing).

Again – the analogies are there – in this case they probably are a bit of a stretch. As far as midi files and automation as an analogy…you should probably move on to something else.

Comments (3)
  1. Zach Fisher says:

    "Of course, what this has done is allowed bad musicians to make bad music faster"

    Boy howdy, ain’t that the truth. Computers have affected every aspect of the industry: from the creation to the distribution. And the antiquated methodologies may seem quaint to the uninitiated.

    Computers have allowed higher level of abstractions in the creative process. In pop music, one can almost hear the loop library’s modular construction in the phrasing. Everything lines up in even, measured increments. The constituent elements are aligned at the behest of the "musician". Entire orchestras are virtualized and limited only by processing power and memory.

    In Nashville, we employ a number system that I liken to UML. Entire songs structures can be stream-lined onto one page – even less in some cases. The ability to hear a song once and reduce it down into a set of patterns has served me well in both the music and testing world. It is an art that may be lost on some who live can only exist at the level of loop libraries. Fortunately for them, quality music depends on the customer.

    I digress from my hi-jacking. Another great post that has me doing some evening thinking. Thanks again!

  2. Alan Page says:

    Zach – I owe you a beer next time I’m in Nashville for this quote alone:

    "The ability to hear a song once and reduce it down into a set of patterns has served me well in both the music and testing world."

    I do a lot of work with patterns – both design patterns and test patterns (and of course, I have two copies of patterns for jazz – one permanently implanted on each of my two music stands). This is a great analogy.

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