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MTF Manifesto

MTF Manifesto

On 24 March 2014, inspired by the first Music Tech Fest in North America and motivated by a passion for music, a fascination with technology and culture, and a concern for how music technology is now developing, 21 people came together at Microsoft Research New England for a symposium called ‘What Is Music Technology For?’.

Recognising the fertility of music technology as a subject that bridges computational, scientific, social scientific and humanistic approaches, we looked for common ground across those fields. We debated and developed a set of shared principles about the future of music technology. Built from the notes of that day’s event, and revised together in the weeks that followed, the resulting Manifesto for Music Technology Research is the collaboratively-authored product of this meeting.

It has been undersigned by hundreds of people to date, including scientists, musicians, researchers and politicians, and has become known as the #Musictechifesto. Today, it represents the ethos of Music Tech Fest and is the central guiding document for the #MTFResearch Network. We invite you to read and add your name in support.

 

Manifesto for Music Technologists

 

Music Technology Matters…

Music technology has never been more exciting. Every day brings new ways to be musical through new software, instruments, devices, platforms and protocols for fans, artists, and organizations. People are experimenting with new ways to perform, collaborate and compose, to listen to their favorite artists and discover new ones, and to share the music they love.

Music technologies help us explore what it means to be human, to create, and to participate. Music has always been technological. Bone flutes and drums are among the oldest known technologies. But music technologies are more than devices. They range from instruments and objects to toys, musical scales, notation, concert venues, software, books, policies, laws, copyright, platforms, habits and more. They are ways of doing and being. They are both ordinary and extraordinary. Music gains life through an enormous range of practices and spaces.

Music technologies create possible futures and offer new ways to inhabit the present and past. Their changes presage changes in culture, signaling trends yet to come. They are thus sites of struggles over money, membership, power, and prestige. Technological change is inseparable from economic, cultural and political change.

…But It Can Be More

Meaningful innovation is sustainable and just – yet the current landscape of music technology favors short-term profit-making, too often at the expense of deeper cultural concerns. Landfills swell with carelessly-designed consumer electronics, discs, cartridges, instruments, toys and gadgets. Like other cultural workers, many who contribute most to the richness of musical cultures lead increasingly precarious economic lives. But those who stand to profit the most economically have the biggest say in policy discussions. Too often music technologies are used as tools of exclusion rather than inclusion. Because what counts as “music,” “technology,” and “music technology” is unsettled, those with the most power create the most powerful definitions.

Meaningful innovation bridges multiple perspectives – yet the music technology field remains predominantly white, male, and tends toward assumptions that its user base is Western and able-bodied. Music is too often denigrated as frivolous or fetishized as sacred, shutting down discussion, action and investment in transformation. Technology, too, is fetishized, as if it did not come from and contribute to particular cultural worlds. It suffers from the glamour of the new, when it should be understood within its long history.

Meaningful innovation happens when fields intersect – yet those who work in music technology are too often siloed in distinct fields within universities, industry, startups, journalism, hobbyist and fan subcultures. We don’t always know how to think together, and we often do not know what others can contribute. We don’t even know what we don’t know. When fields do come together, old hierarchies too often overshadow the spirit of collaboration and mutual learning. Institutional barriers challenge our ability to work together, from the way organizations are structured to reward-systems that encourage people to keep doing what they have always done.

Let’s Build Better Worlds

Music technologies make worlds. Let us make better worlds. Let music technology do good, serve public interest, foster belonging, justice, collaboration and sharing, enable greater access to positive musical experiences and personal connections, and create durable objects and practices.

We call for greater awareness of the cultural forces already in new music technologies, and the courage to challenge or change them when the collective good demands it.

Ask of any music technology: For whom will this make things better? How? Is it open or closed to creativity and innovation it has not yet anticipated?

Ask of any policy: Whose rights and opportunities are being promoted? Whose are being eroded? What idea of culture does it presume?

Ask of any practice: Who is invited to join in? Who is left out? Where will it find support?

Ask of any organization: How does it help people come together? Does it exploit them in doing so?

We must create more opportunities for people to engage one another through music. We must fight for people’s rights to create music and music technologies, and to enjoy music free of rent-seeking and unwarranted legal intimidation. We must stand up to abusive musical practices, from exploiting people’s dreams of making a living in music, to criminalizing whole classes of audiences and musicians, to subjecting people to hearing loss, to the use of music in coercion, warfare and torture.

Those concerned with music technology must develop a sense of ourselves as a “we” across different fields: creators, theorists, scholars, engineers, journalists, lawyers, activists, policy-makers, and others all together. We may not always agree, but we must have a sense of the whole and of our places within it. We must acknowledge one another as equals so that we can collaborate on equal footing.

We call for cultural policies that foster music in its many forms and understand music technology as integral to culture. We call for policies that support the arts through practices that go beyond markets. We call for a long-term perspective that privileges collective meaning and sustainability over profit. We call for everyone with a stake in music to have equally powerful voices in policy.

We call on scholars of music technology to ask big, important, difficult questions. We call on their institutions to expand the range of practices that are considered legitimate modes of inquiry and to reduce barriers to collaboration.

We call for spaces that foster the highest levels of intellectual engagement through serious, sustained, challenging discussions and through play and creativity. We call for large and small venues where people work together across divisions—industrial, cultural, intellectual—in order to create more meaningful music technologies and to support others doing the same. We call for speakers, panels, conferences, and meetings to include people who may not seem to belong there. We call on music technologists to explore venues where they may not think they fit.

We call on companies to produce music technologies that matter, that foster meaningful communities, that consider musical culture and user bases as much more than cash registers.

We call for technologies to be created with an eye for the long-term. Musical objects should last as long as the materials out of which they are made or they should be modular, recyclable, or transformable. They should be forward-compatible whenever possible. Data must be portable and not bound to a particular company or platform. At the same time, standards must not become coercive. Music is not standard. We must cultivate the freedom to build and use nonstandard tools.

We are Music Technologists. We work in science, art, engineering, humanities, activism, social science, policy and industry. We believe in music technology and we want to build better worlds. We invite you to join us.

 

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537 entries.
René Paré René Paré from Eindhoven wrote on September 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm:
Beautiful and important manifesto for creative autonomy and power of art & technology.
Beautiful and important manifesto for creative autonomy and power of art & technology.
Felipe Duarte Felipe Duarte from Berlin, Bogota wrote on August 27, 2018 at 8:49 am:
I'm from Colombia and live in Berlin. Within my practice as musician and working with a constant interest in our old native roots, I find technologies and music as a great possibility to remember the universal consciousness which our ancestors always speak about. I am happy to read your manifesto and support it, just as I support the role of music and new technologies in creating a better world for all, and not just for a few.
I'm from Colombia and live in Berlin. Within my practice as musician and working with a constant interest in our old native roots, I find technologies and music as a great possibility to remember the universal consciousness which our ancestors always speak about. I am happy to read your manifesto and support it, just as I support the role of music and new technologies in creating a better world for all, and not just for a few.
Katrine Wallevik Katrine Wallevik from Copenhagen wrote on August 16, 2018 at 5:05 am:
Good and important work!!!
Good and important work!!!
Lars Juhl Lars Juhl from Copenhagen wrote on August 10, 2018 at 10:15 pm:
Thanks. Grateful to sign. This is the stuff I have been working with for years without knowing the existence of MTF. Feeling at home in every sentence. I am totally honored that my project is part of Music Tech Fest 2018 and I encourage everyone here to interact with it.
Thanks. Grateful to sign. This is the stuff I have been working with for years without knowing the existence of MTF. Feeling at home in every sentence. I am totally honored that my project is part of Music Tech Fest 2018 and I encourage everyone here to interact with it.
Sonja Sonja from Zagreb wrote on August 9, 2018 at 8:54 pm:
Joining thankfully
Joining thankfully
Paolo Dellapiana Paolo Dellapiana from Torino wrote on August 6, 2018 at 9:52 am:
I'm architect and musician, I'm searching continuously deep link between physical spaces and sound spaces and I see how technology is the background for both disciplines. Thank you for building this creative and fascinating platform!
I'm architect and musician, I'm searching continuously deep link between physical spaces and sound spaces and I see how technology is the background for both disciplines. Thank you for building this creative and fascinating platform!
Efrat Roginsky Efrat Roginsky from Zichron Yaakov wrote on August 3, 2018 at 7:52 pm:
Thanks so much for being there. I'm looking forward to discuss with any of you my research and ideas of affording the neurologucally disabled infants develop and take part through new-tech musicking.
Thanks so much for being there. I'm looking forward to discuss with any of you my research and ideas of affording the neurologucally disabled infants develop and take part through new-tech musicking.
Haig Armen Haig Armen from Vancouver wrote on July 8, 2018 at 6:28 am:
Thank you for this much-needed platform. I look forward to contributing as it grows.
Thank you for this much-needed platform. I look forward to contributing as it grows.
Ben Ben from Red Hook wrote on July 7, 2018 at 4:19 pm:
As a musician and educator, I see how technology plays in essential role at our studio every day. Thank you for creating this amazing platform to discuss the role of music and technology!
As a musician and educator, I see how technology plays in essential role at our studio every day. Thank you for creating this amazing platform to discuss the role of music and technology!
raul raul from Barcelona wrote on June 24, 2018 at 10:51 pm:
I'm a music producer , DJ and a technology passionate. music and technology are two disciplines intimately connected, from the heartbeat to the programming of software instruments, the evolution of music, thanks to technology, has made us reach incredible milestones. But there is still much to explore, much to do. Thanks to initiatives like this one you are doing, the musical future is getting closer and closer. Thank you so much!
I'm a music producer , DJ and a technology passionate. music and technology are two disciplines intimately connected, from the heartbeat to the programming of software instruments, the evolution of music, thanks to technology, has made us reach incredible milestones. But there is still much to explore, much to do. Thanks to initiatives like this one you are doing, the musical future is getting closer and closer. Thank you so much!
Mike Mike wrote on June 5, 2018 at 8:18 am:
Music technology has the potential to be the great equalizer if it wants to do so. The question is whether the drivers of music tech simply want to be the new gatekeepers of the music industry or do they instead plan to level the playing field into a new ecosystem that can truly address the value gap and support great music that elevates culture? Time will reveal the validity of this manifesto...
Music technology has the potential to be the great equalizer if it wants to do so. The question is whether the drivers of music tech simply want to be the new gatekeepers of the music industry or do they instead plan to level the playing field into a new ecosystem that can truly address the value gap and support great music that elevates culture? Time will reveal the validity of this manifesto...
Andrew Welch Andrew Welch wrote on May 22, 2018 at 3:46 pm:
Andrew Welch Andrew Welch wrote on May 22, 2018 at 3:44 pm:
Claudia Steinam Claudia Steinam wrote on April 26, 2018 at 11:58 am:
Thank you Michela for your highly inspirational talk at ZKM Karlsruhe.
Thank you Michela for your highly inspirational talk at ZKM Karlsruhe.
Stefano Piermatteo Stefano Piermatteo wrote on February 11, 2018 at 7:17 pm:
Rahul Rahul wrote on February 11, 2018 at 5:17 pm:
Turo Pekari Turo Pekari wrote on February 11, 2018 at 8:44 am:
Zarko Zarko wrote on February 9, 2018 at 5:12 pm:
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Nils Rošker Nils Rošker wrote on September 9, 2017 at 8:34 am:
Carlos Octavio Gutierrez Carlos Octavio Gutierrez wrote on April 8, 2017 at 4:39 am:
 
The symposium from which the #Musictechifesto originated was organized by Nancy Baym, Microsoft Research, and Jonathan Sterne, McGill University. The participants also included:
Georgina Born, University of Oxford
Andrew Dubber, Birmingham City University
Blake Durham, University of Oxford
Tarleton Gillespie, Cornell University
Mack Hagood, Miami University
Jessa Lingel, Microsoft Research
Deirdre Loughridge, University of California – Berkeley
Josh McDermott, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michela Magas, Stromatolite, Founder Music Tech Fest
Jeremy Morris, University of Wisconsin
Bryan Pardo, Northwestern University
Trevor Pinch, Cornell University
Norbert Schnell, IRCAM, Centre Pompidou
Nick Seaver, University of California - Irvine
Victoria Simon, McGill University
Aram Sinnreich, Rutgers University
Matt Stahl, University of Western Ontario
Aaron Trammell, Rutgers University
Annette Markham, Aarhus University, graciously served as facilitator and we thank her profusely for her work.

We are also deeply grateful to Microsoft Research, in particular Jennifer Chayes and Christian Borgs, for sponsoring the event, and Lauren Edwards for managing the many logistical details.