Music Technology Money to Burn
Dear Squeak and Blat,
Finally my college gave me $20,000 to create a small music lab. I want to use this for my students to do ear training, composing, arranging, and notation. Where do I start? Is Mac really dead? Should I think Windows instead of Mac? My music department has 10 faculty and about 80 full-time music majors.
Hey Clara! Congrats on the 20Gs! That should get you started in fine fashion.
Well, let's see. Start off with software first and hardware second. Take a trip to a local music store that has a few CAI and notation programs running and try a few out. Ask around and see what folks say about what works for them. If you're linked to the net, join the Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI) listserv and ask a few questions about what people are using at their schools (send mail to us here if you want to know how to get in touch with ATMI). Once you have decided on the software, find out on what machines they run and go from there.
Mac is certainly not dead! No way! Even though Windows machines predominate the PC world and are becoming more friendly since the coming of Windows 95, the Mac is still considered by many to be the stronger platform for multimedia, music production, and graphics. This is particularly true on the "high end" of these domains. For your work Clara, either platform would be fine--especially if there are technical folks around your campus that can help with setup and system conflict problems that always occur with computers that are asked to do multiple things.
By the way, don't forget to secure that computer lab room with an alarm. It's an imperfect world, especially on campuses during holidays!
Well Clara, is Mac dead? Are clarinet players defunct in polka bands? Mac invented that nice GUI (Gooey) interface that makes the computer so easy to use and made Bill Gates the richest man in the world.
Seriously, what hardware you buy these days is a moot issue. Buy what your campus supports unless you are thinking about retraining as a computer technician. At about $2000 a pop, you could get five or six computer workstations (PowerPC or Pentium), with 4X or 8X CD-ROM drives, 16 megabytes of RAM memory, 1 gigabyte hard drives, and music sound of reasonable quality. Now to spend the rest of your money....
Find the same quantity of low-end MIDI keyboards, just make sure they are General MIDI. You should be able to find them for around $400 each.
With the funds left you will want to purchase a laser printer and some software. Go for an administrative combo package like Clarisworks where you get a word processor, spreadsheet, and database for one low price. Then look for a basic notation and sequencing package (they are often sold in packages of 5 or 10 at a discount for educational use).
Talk to your campus folks about getting your lab connected to the Internet. Fortunately, most of the Internet software is free for education. Have I used up your $20,000 yet? Just e-mail whatever funds you have left over to upgrade my clarinet reeds!
Peter R. Webster (a.k.a “Blat”) and David Brian Williams (a.k.a. “Squeak”) have presented workshops and other presentations together for CMS/ATMI conferences and workshops for more than 20 years. Their collaboration has led to publications and presentations internationally on music technology as well as the co-authorship of the textbook Experiencing Music Technology (Cengage Learning/Schirmer Books, 3rd edition Update, 2009), a widely adopted and highly acclaimed music technology textbook for high school and college students. Dr. Webster is emeritus professor of music education at Northwestern University and Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Southern California; Dr. Williams is emeritus professor of music and arts technology at Illinois State University, a freelance consultant, composer and musician, and immediate past president of The College Music Society.