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Is the DAW biased?

dhmusic

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Looks like I'm a dumbass. I think that the quote in question may not have been part of the post originally, but it's definitely there now.
I kinda made that joke on page 3 and put it in quotes. Not sure if that's what you mean haha
 

ism

Senior Member
There's an argument that one distinctive feature of the Enlighment (read: Wester Civilization in its preferred form, at least for many people) is bases on this kind of critical engagement.

And I read a book once that locates that the seeds of this particular form of Western tritical thought firmly in the Middle Eastern prophetic tradition of speaking truth to secular powers. So maybe this is a nice thing about Middle Eastern Civilization also.


Ok, this is pretty much nonsense. When we design a product that enables you to use different settings, we always default to the one that is most often used. This is UX design. It's fine to think about *why* this the most often used setting, but the have yet another racial and cultural foodfight over it is just not helpingl

Ok, but in that most UX design (on the web at least) isn't being paid for by users, it is very often not always designed for the benefit of users. It's designed to encourage users along the path towards wherever whoever's paying for the UX design wants them to do (typically a shopping cart, or away from the "cancel my subscription" button). See "Dark Patterns" in UX to get a sense of how UX is perfectly capable of encoding bias / being evil, against the interests of users, or even usability.

The 4/4 time is a silly little example of course - chosen, I imagine, precisely because it's so silly and non controversial. But UX is a discourse of great power in our lives. And I don't see how employing critical though towards what it's actually doing is going to be a bad thing (much less how it's going to destroy Western Civilization).


Which has me thinking .. I should really try writing more in 3/4 time. Fight the Power!
 

morganwable

Member
There's an argument that one distinctive feature of the Enlighment (read: Wester Civilization in its preferred form, at least for many people) is bases on this kind of critical engagement.

[...]

Which has me thinking .. I should really try writing more in 3/4 time. Fight the Power!
Well articulated.

This thread isn't to say, "you can't write in 4/4 time". Or that using equal temperament is racist or something.

It isn't a directive, it's a question - have you considered pushing the limits of these conventions in your own work? Has your workflow limited any parts of your thought process, even in subconscious, imperceptible ways?

The answer to the second question there is a resounding yes, especially for every one of y'all who's finding a way to take this thread super personally.

Is that a bad thing? Probably not. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.

Hah. Alright. I'm going to say that yes, western DAWs are biased towards western sensibilities.

And that's completely fine.
I think this sums it up. Bias isn't an active evil, it's by nature just... a quiet, unintentional influence on things. Nobody's discounting other culture's artistic conventions on purpose. Or, rather, I'm sure most people aren't.

All I'm saying, at least, is that it's worth stepping back for a moment, taking in the broader context, thinking about it, then getting back to work. It'll make you a better artist.
 

ism

Senior Member
Hah. Alright. I'm going to say that yes, western DAWs are biased towards western sensibilities.

And that's completely fine.
It would be so annoying if it wasn't.

But it's an interesting question to ask - what might non-western composers like in their DAWS? And if capital and competitive market space were ever to find it's way to answering this question, is it possible that the rest of us might not benefit by new ideas and new investments and new perspectives?

I have no idea how, in that I'm writing very western music myself, which is hard enough with this kind of theoretical distractions. But new critical perspective on problems is well know to provide completely unexpected, often brilliant, innovations.
 

gamma-ut

Senior Member
Looks like I'm a dumbass. I think that the quote in question may not have been part of the post originally, but it's definitely there now.

Eh. I think the bias thing is absolutely a worthy line of discussion, but to suggest that specific wording of the idea is definitely a bit absurd. But I think that was the point of what the OP was quoting - to be provocative in order to get people to consider a detail they had previously overlooked.

At any rate,

Yeah, this is more or less what I was about to say.
That quote actually comes from a Pitchfork article which is, well...Pitchfork (clue's in the mag's name, I guess). It's a bit of a shame as the source article has some interesting material in there on things like plugins for Live (I assume they are M4L) that are designed for some North African styles among other things. The line itself just looks like a piece of journalist reductio hyperbole rather than some serious point about the intricacies of DAW design. But outrage-happy people gonna outrage.
 

gamma-ut

Senior Member
It would be so annoying if it wasn't.

But it's an interesting question to ask - what might non-western composers like in their DAWS? And if capital and competitive market space were ever to find it's way to answering this question, is it possible that the rest of us might not benefit by new ideas and new investments and new perspectives?

I have no idea how, in that I'm writing very western music myself, which is hard enough with this kind of theoretical distractions. But new critical perspective on problems is well know to provide completely unexpected, often brilliant, innovations.
The irony of this discussion is that the article that contains the quote that some are getting so outraged over actually looks at this, at least for a couple of artists.
 
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youngpokie

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But it's an interesting question to ask - what might non-western composers like in their DAWS?
I really wish this was the way the discussion was framed, both here on the forum as well as in media generally. Sadly, it's not.
 

ism

Senior Member
One of the biases I struggle with, which the DAW didn't invent but does perpetuate, is "white key bias" I write way too much in they key of C (or Am).

A stronger version of this is "piano bias" - ie. Eric Whitacre says he never write choral works at the piano, as this results in music that's biased towards the piano and that therefore doesn't fully embrace the qualities of musicality specific to choirs.

Sample libraries and DAWs, in this sense, can actually ease, if not fully eliminate, the risk of this bias in letting us hear what a real choir (or string quartet / oboe etc) might sound like.
 

ism

Senior Member
I really wish this was the way the discussion was framed, both here on the forum as well as in media generally. Sadly, it's not.
You're right. Some of the language uses seems to be .. triggering, or something ... for some people. And while admittedly I'm being a little provocative in some of my language too, I'm also attempting to refame to something I think we can all more or less agree on.
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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Here is how your post is constructed:

- you write several paragraphs asserting that DAW is biased because it is built on Western theory (the thrust is against a DAW but the real enemy is Western theory). Accusations of bias and racism, even if you don't use the exact word and only imply it, are extremely offensive and are guaranteed to trigger a defensive response.

- provoking this defensive reaction is the real purpose of your post.

- having set this kind of context, you then pose a question: "do you restrict yourself to Western theory?". Notice how "restrict" here applies to the reader as a person in a highly negative way (do you limit your own human potential) and suggests close-mindedness (can't see beyond Western theory). Notice also how Western theory is repeatedly put in a negative context, again and again.

- what this question does is give a reader two options, both reflecting on him/her in some way, and one of which is a direct and negative association between Western theory, "racism" and you the reader (by proxy of your DAW).

- and that's the really the trick of your post: it's not about the answer to your question and it's not even about DAW at all. The real purpose is to get the reader to doubt, to feel guilty and to self-reflect: am I close-minded? am I racist? and, naturally, to react very strongly to that possibility.

- when this happens (and it has, as shown by responses), the reactions will go in every direction. But the central premise - that there is something wrong with Western theory - will be left unchallenged. Because of that and with enough repetition, it might be accepted as fact. And some might actively try to distance themselves from it to avoid the taint by association.

- mission accomplished.
Interesting theory.

For years I restricted myself to Western theory because it was easier to study. Am I also trying to provoke myself with this question? Wow. So much to unpack here...

/sarc
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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One of the biases I struggle with, which the DAW didn't invent but does perpetuate, is "white key bias" I write way too much in they key of C (or Am).

A stronger version of this is "piano bias" - ie. Eric Whitacre says he never write choral works at the piano, as this results in music that's biased towards the piano and that therefore doesn't fully embrace the qualities of musicality specific to choirs.

Sample libraries and DAWs, in this sense, can actually ease, if not fully eliminate, the risk of this bias in letting us hear what a real choir (or string quartet / oboe etc) might sound like.
This is so real. In other threads I discuss UI/UX. The way we design things influences our interaction and behavior. Which was part of what I was trying to reference in my original post.
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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In another forum, elsewhere, I shared this post with ethnomusicologists. No one responded with:
  • Holy shit!
  • Get the fuck out!
  • Innuendo!
  • Take it elsewhere
In fact the ethnomusicologists responded with "Thank you!" and "This is interesting." I don't think anyone here wants me discussing this so frankly I'm leaving. Adios.
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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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.
I'll leave one more comment. An accusation of bias is not the same as an accusation of racism, nationalism, jingoism, or bigotry. It seems many around here conflate them. I have many biases. When I discuss and teach subjects relating to UI/UX I tell students about reflecting on bias. Sometimes they will overuse colors due to an aesthetic bias.

The technology will come with a bias as some others have noted. Product design can come with bias. When we use tools for creativity we could reflect on that in order to assess how we are creating. For example, many (maybe not all) will agree that Ableton Live is biased towards loop/phrase based composition. This relates to it's design.

I won't go further into it because this is clearly NOT a forum to discuss these things. Goodbye!
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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I'd be interested to know if there are any software solutions that the OP (or others) feel could be used as an example of how DAWs could encourage more experimentation with other musical cultures.
ie. if what the OP outlines is indeed a problem, is there any sense of "progress" in this area that might better demonstrate what options there are, if one of the developers wanted to address it?
Unfortunately I can only recommend MaxMSP which at least removes initial assumptions from a UX perspective. It's a very unreasonable solution but their philosophy is worth reflecting on. That's it for this topic on my end.
 

ism

Senior Member
I'll leave one more comment. An accusation of bias is not the same as an accusation of racism, nationalism, jingoism, or bigotry. It seems many around here conflate them. I have many biases. When I discuss and teach subjects relating to UI/UX I tells students about reflecting on bias. Sometimes will overuse colors due to an aesthetic bias.

The technology will come with a bias as some others have noted. Product design can come with bias. When we use tools for creativity we could reflect on that in order to assess how we are creating. For example, many (maybe not all) will agree that Ableton Live is biased towards loop/phrase based composition. This relates to it's design.

I won't go further into it because this is clearly NOT a forum to discuss these things. Goodbye!

I feel your pain on this. But as a counterpoint, the benefits of attempting to discuss such things on vi-c over a more academic forum is that this is a very real, raw interface between the UX and working composers, and all the commercial and ideological contexts that entails.

In the current critical-engagemet-is-from-satan political environment, it's alas hardly unexpected, (and hardly accidental, and hardly incidental) that academic language will trigger this kinds of conflations.

So yes, a conversation on vi-c is inevitably going to be messier.

But perhaps it has compensating merits?
 

ism

Senior Member
It seems many around here conflate them. I have many biases. When I discuss and teach subjects relating to UI/UX I tells students about reflecting on bias. Sometimes will overuse colors due to an aesthetic bias.
If you teach this kind of thing, I'd love it if you'd be able to share some syllabus grade references?
 
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estevancarlos

estevancarlos

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I feel your pain on this. But as a counterpoint, the benefits of attempting to discuss such things on vi-c over a more academic forum is that this is a very real, raw interface between the UX and working composers, and all the commercial and ideological contexts that entails.

In the current critical-engagemet-is-from-satan political environment, it's alas hardly unexpected, (and hardly accidental, and hardly incidental) that academic language will trigger this kinds of conflations.

So yes, a conversation on vi-c is inevitably going to be messier.

But perhaps it has compensating merits?
Someone removed the knuckle dragger, Texan post who told me to leave the west. Which was funny because I'm also from Texas. As I noted in my post, on the very same day as his comment, his tribe of people also told me I was going to hell. Which is a very normal, Texan, thing to do. It's like saying "Good afternoon."

I know how this world is. I've been around it. Those who think my post was too provocative because I used words like "bias" and "restrict" don't need to read anything I wrote.

Moving forward I'll put these resources on DecolonizeMusicTech.org and then people can email me about how I should leave the country or how I hate white people, yadda, yadda.
 
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SupremeFist

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I do think the paradigm of midi "regions" that can be copy and pasted does tend to prioritise a certain compositional approach, even when EDM or other music that relies on repetitive eight-bar patterns is not the goal. Rather than a "bias" I might call this something like a "structural path of least resistance".
 
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