What's new

Is the DAW biased?

I started off on Cakewalk Pro Audio in 1997. Eventually moved on to Ableton Live and MaxMSP. Then recently to Studio One and Cubase. Through that evolution I could understand that a DAW can be biased. It's baked into intentional an unintentional design. As a visual designer I came to see their bias as more complex that just a set of features.

As a musician I implicitly recognized, and accepted, that these DAWs are also biased towards Western theory as well. Why might some of us care? If we want to explore more music and more opportunities then we need to be aware of the bias. We use Ableton Live for certain tasks. We use Cubase for others. We often recognize how the technology influences us. So we should also consider the Western music theory biases.

I won't dive into many details at the moment. I sort think many people here are aware of this already. I want share a bibliography created elsewhere that contains many articles about the subject.

https://silpayamanant.wordpress.com/bibliography/daw-colonialism/

“Unassuming as they may seem, these technologies are far from neutral. Like social media platforms, dating apps, and all data-driven algorithms, music production tools have the unconscious biases of their creators baked into their architecture. If a musician opens a new composition and they are given a 4/4 beat and equal tempered tuning by default, it is implied that other musical systems do not exist, or at least that they are of less value.” - Faber, 2021

What are your thoughts on how your music software influences or limits your creative options? Do you restrict yourself to western theory and if so, why?
 

Michaelt

Senior Member
It's quite simple to change meter or temperament in the DAWs I've used. It seems absolutely ludicrous to conclude that the default settings in a DAW imply that other musical systems do not exist or are of lesser value. Holy shit.

Like default language/time being region-based, if there are sweepingly common enough musical methodologies to define the most typical needs of composers in a certain area, by all means, make those the defaults the DAW opens with in that area. That seems entirely reasonable. And I sincerely hope for the ongoing health and value of civilization that people using those DAWs can remember that the default settings do not encompass the entirety of human musical practice.
 
Last edited:

dhmusic

An actual volleyball
@estevancarlos Not sure if you saw Adam Neely's video... I posted it a while back in a related thread cuz I thought it was really interesting. I thought everyone knew him lol, plus he's super chill. People got really defensive though so I was like "oh shit nvm ya'll." It's funny because so many present themselves as history experts. I guess that usually means selective history. It's like "prof. Bruh, colonialism was a thing and it is still is a thing. All forms of culture get fucked in that maelstrom music included. I'm not saying you did anything chill please"
 

Michaelt

Senior Member
I agree Kent, and I'll clarify that my own comments here were directed towards the cited quote and one specific logical leap within it, not the questions posed in the post itself, so I hope that won't distract from further discussion. In any case, I certainly have nothing more to say about it (except that non-equal temperament tuning should make more of a comeback).
 
OP
estevancarlos

estevancarlos

Member
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
@estevancarlos Not sure if you saw Adam Neely's video... I posted it a while back in a related thread cuz I thought it was really interesting. I thought everyone knew him lol, plus he's super chill. People got really defensive though so I was like "oh shit nvm ya'll." It's funny because so many present themselves as history experts. I guess that usually means selective history. It's like "prof. Bruh, colonialism was a thing and it is still is a thing. All forms of culture get fucked in that maelstrom music included. I'm not saying you did anything chill please"
I do watch his videos. I'm not sure which you're referring to. Which one? He is chill. Wish I had that on screen personality.
 

youngpokie

Senior Member
Do you restrict yourself to western theory and if so, why?
The bias and innuendo implicit in this question is really something!

I don’t “restrict” myself to Western theory. It’s so vast a lifetime isn’t enough to master it.

Besides it’s my cultural heritage and I’m very proud of its enduring masterpieces created over hundreds of years. This music nspires me every single day.
 
OP
estevancarlos

estevancarlos

Member
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
The bias and innuendo implicit in this question is really something!

I don’t restrict myself to Western theory. It’s so vast a lifetime isn’t enough to master it.

Besides it’s my cultural heritage and I’m very proud of its enduring masterpieces created over hundreds of years. This music nspires me every single day.
Saying it's your cultural heritage is a sensible and probably a common answer. For example, it's not necessarily my heritage but I also study Western theory because I find it interesting. Despite this I question why I should limit myself.
 
OP
estevancarlos

estevancarlos

Member
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
@ka00

“it is implied that other musical systems do not exist, or at least that they are of less value.” - Faber, 2021”

Introducing CakeWoke Pro.
I think Faber is suggesting, if the software is meant for a global audience, why automatically set defaults to things like equal temperament which is dominant in western theory?
 

dgburns

stay calm and VI on
The day my shitty little daw stops me from creating my shitty little ditties, I’ll let you know, in the meantime I’ll putter about happily in my own ignorant bliss.

That god damn daw is a gift of creativity. Just today had to punt out a few more minutes of some score that none of you will see, on a show no one will care about in a few years, but I had some moments of writing that I’m happy with. Full orchestra in front of me, getting paid to work. Well pinch me silly.

Carry on.
 

ka00

Senior Member
I think Faber is suggesting, if the software is meant for a global audience, why automatically set defaults to things like equal temperament which is dominant in western theory?
So what would improve this? An initial splash screen asking you to pick a cultural paradigm to work in?

Would the software choose defaults for you based on the country of purchase?
 

dhmusic

An actual volleyball
The bias and innuendo implicit in this question is really something!

I don’t “restrict” myself to Western theory. It’s so vast a lifetime isn’t enough to master it.

Besides it’s my cultural heritage and I’m very proud of its enduring masterpieces created over hundreds of years. This music nspires me every single day.
A lifetime isn't enough to master anything - western music isn't extra special

A more charitable interpretation could be "if exposed to more non-western music do you think you'd be more likely to explore it"
 
OP
estevancarlos

estevancarlos

Member
Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
So what would improve this? An initial splash screen asking you to pick a cultural paradigm to work in?

Would the software choose defaults for you based on the country of purchase?
I'm not necessarily too focused on proposals to "fix" things. However a prompt that asks for initial music settings is fine and worth considering. I'm not sure it should be limited to region either. That also sounds limiting.
 

youngpokie

Senior Member
A more charitable interpretation could be "if exposed to more non-western music do you think you'd be more likely to explore it"
It’s only a slightly more subtle way to phrase the same question, with the same innuendo and bias still contained in it.
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
I started off on Cakewalk Pro Audio in 1997. Eventually moved on to Ableton Live and MaxMSP. Then recently to Studio One and Cubase. Through that evolution I could understand that a DAW can be biased. It's baked into intentional an unintentional design. As a visual designer I came to see their bias as more complex that just a set of features.

As a musician I implicitly recognized, and accepted, that these DAWs are also biased towards Western theory as well. Why might some of us care? If we want to explore more music and more opportunities then we need to be aware of the bias. We use Ableton Live for certain tasks. We use Cubase for others. We often recognize how the technology influences us. So we should also consider the Western music theory biases.

I won't dive into many details at the moment. I sort think many people here are aware of this already. I want share a bibliography created elsewhere that contains many articles about the subject.

https://silpayamanant.wordpress.com/bibliography/daw-colonialism/



What are your thoughts on how your music software influences or limits your creative options? Do you restrict yourself to western theory and if so, why?
A convention is not bias.

If you think convention is bias then most of my studio is biased towards binary representations because it's mostly digital.

And my studio is 100% biased towards the MIDI protocol.

And the roads I drive on are biased towards driving on the right side.

And this browser I'm using is biased towards HTML.

And science is biased towards the SI system.

Shall I go on?

They're conventions, not biases.

rgames
 

dhmusic

An actual volleyball
A convention is not bias.

If you think convention is bias then most of my studio is biased towards binary representations because it's mostly digital.

And my studio is 100% biased towards the MIDI protocol.

And the roads I drive on are biased towards driving on the right side.

And this browser I'm using is biased towards HTML.

And science is biased towards the SI system.

Shall I go on?

They're conventions, not biases.

rgames
omg you explained my post before I was able to post... wizard

EDIT: wait I read the wrong response. This is all too confusing.
 

PaulieDC

1967 Bizzarrini (btw, don't own it, just love it)
I started off on Cakewalk Pro Audio in 1997. Eventually moved on to Ableton Live and MaxMSP. Then recently to Studio One and Cubase. Through that evolution I could understand that a DAW can be biased. It's baked into intentional an unintentional design. As a visual designer I came to see their bias as more complex that just a set of features.

As a musician I implicitly recognized, and accepted, that these DAWs are also biased towards Western theory as well.
Why might some of us care? If we want to explore more music and more opportunities then we need to be aware of the bias. We use Ableton Live for certain tasks. We use Cubase for others. We often recognize how the technology influences us. So we should also consider the Western music theory biases.

I won't dive into many details at the moment. I sort think many people here are aware of this already. I want share a bibliography created elsewhere that contains many articles about the subject.

https://silpayamanant.wordpress.com/bibliography/daw-colonialism/



What are your thoughts on how your music software influences or limits your creative options? Do you restrict yourself to western theory and if so, why?
Sorry, I’m getting so tired of the constant judgement and blame in every blasted conversation anymore. I try to keep things lighthearted when I post on here but not this time.. Now we’re asking if DAWs and Music Theory are biased? Write whatever you want to write, you don’t have to adhere to any rules at all and any good daw allows you to microtune all you want. A DAW IS TO RECORD WHATEVER YOU WRITE, if the added crutches of a chord track are too western, don’t use it. Blows my mind that a post like this is now entering our forum, a place where anyone can write anything they want.

If the west is so horribly biased and bad, then why are you writing your opinion in English? Surely that’s a bad influence. Having an opinion is one thing, but starting it off with accusations is the same thing everyone else is doing now. Take it elsewhere.
 
Top Bottom