Music Technology Lets You Create a Symphony - for a Song at the Annual Music Expo, Traditional Woodwinds and Brass Were Joinedby the Hot New Instrument for the Next Century: Computers

Article excerpt

Stop the music.

I have just seen the future of symphony, pop, and jazz.

Picture it: The strains of violins rise from your living room, as a computer performs your original concerto - complete with oboe and timpani. It's much simpler than trying to cram a full orchestra into your house. Other technology lets you hold a live jam session with guitarists in Denmark or drummers in Taiwan. You can even direct a music video from the privacy of your own home. And all of it can be recorded on new digital-quality, miniature compact discs - suitable for mailing to Grandma, or a record exec. Much of this technology has been available for years, but plummeting prices are putting such possibilities increasingly within the budgets of ordinary consumers, schools, and garage bands with dreams of superstardom. All it takes is a tune - and $50 to $2,000. And, music executives say, while computers may never put Steinway out of business, more and more musicians are turning to technology. "It used to be that computers and musical software were the smallest part of this show. Now they're pushing traditional instrumentation aside," said James Byfield, marketing manager for ThinkWare, a distributor that represents about 150 companies specializing in "next generation music technology." Judging by the buzz of buyers here at NAMM - the yearly exposition of the International Music Products Association - Mr. Byfield can't be far off. The world's top association of retailers and manufacturers of music related products, NAMM is a one-stop, carnival of an exposition for the worldwide music industry. Four days' worth of conferences, workshops, and exhibitions attracted about 60,000 insiders from the music industry. A large majority of those folks fall into two groups: those who wear three-piece suits, designer eyeglasses, and pony tails, and those who look like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards at 6 a.m. There is also the crush of crowds trying to hear sales pitches above the din generated by people sampling 12 football fields' worth of cellos, drums and Aboriginal didgeridoos. …