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My Experience at Burning Man 2010

I once went to a B.B. King concert, not because I'd ever owned a single song of his or had any familiarity with his music or his genre, but because I knew he was the best at what he did. In that same vein, I've always wanted to experience Burning Man, not because I care about hippies, techno music, drugs, or art, but because it's the biggest and best event of its kind in the world.

For years I intended to go to Burning Man, but the problem is that Burning Man requires a huge degree of preparation. As I found out firsthand, it's located in one of the least hospitable areas of the United States, which means that you need more stuff than you're used to needing (goggles, water, etc.), and you must provide it all yourself. So each year passed by with my intentions dissolving into the reality of a fast approaching deadline and not having prepared at all. But this year was different. A friend of mine took the initiative to rent a huge RV, recruit a Burning Man veteran to come with us, and generally organize the trip.

"Well," I thought, "it's never going to be easier than this. I may as well go."

Music, Tech and the Future

On Ryan

Music, as a manmade phenomena, goes back at least thousands and thousands of years to when we've found artifacts of the first flutes and drums. Music has always been a community affair–something done in groups to help bring people together. Funny that now I've been working on music alone in my apartment the last few weeks. (NOTE: I'm a composer and musician myself, and it seems more and more the life of a composer looks more and more like the life of a hermit. But I also have this connection to the group aspect of music. I'm a drummer, and nothing gets me going more than playing drums with others. It's a blast.)

The last hundred years or so has changed almost everything about human society. Music could be recorded and enjoyed at any convenient time in any convenient location–not just the concert hall, the bar or the living room around the family piano. To hear great music you didn't have to be a great musician or have one in the family. This accessibility raised the overall level of “quality” and “musicianship” all over the civilized globe–students had access to better resources and tools and themselves became better musicians than those that came before. This cycle continues to this day where kids using a sequencer can make professional-quality sounds that would've taken weeks to create in a high-end studio twenty years ago. I mean, yeah, the sounds won't necessarily be as “warm” or “mature” sounding, but kids today (me included) are easily making lots of sounds that producers struggled to make (or didn't even dream of making) in the 80s and 90s.

As a product of this wave of technological accessibility, I am of course in favor of all these developments. It's a good thing that great music can be accessed so easily and so cheaply using services like Spotify, rdio, Pandora, iTunes (and BitTorrent). It's a great thing that people with no musical training or background can pick up iPads and start jamming together using scale-locked touchpad interfaces. It encourages people to learn and experiment with music, advancing sounds forward and making music a more easily enjoyable part of life. It's how I discovered the fun and joy that comes from listening to and creating music as I was growing up.

On the flip side, now that I'm joining this force of professional music-makers, I have my well-being to worry about. I want to make music for a living, but how can I make a living doing something I believe should be intrinsically free and open? Should I do gigs for free and sell advertising space to put in the lulls between songs? Should I preface each new track I make with announcements like, “this track was made using Spectrasonics software?”

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