Rob Birdwell's Rarely Used .NET Blog

It was either this or live under a bridge!



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The relationship between programming and music.

Many programmers are musicians, artists or have other creative outlets.  Some have attributed this to being left or right-brain oriented - there may be merit to that.  My own experiences lead me to conclude:

  • Let's be practical:  musicians become programmers (generally not the other way around) simply because those gigs actually pay the bills.
  • Creating music and software are simultaneously collaborative and individualistic undertakings.
  • Musicians (regardless of era) are generally technically engaged - instruments themselves (the hardware) often interface with other devices (amps, mixers, mutes) to achieve different sounds.  Composers often deal with an array of technologies to get their music written, performed and/or produced.
  • Music is an abstract medium - the printed note requires interpretation and execution.  Like the written line of code, there is often much more than meets the eye.
  • Music is a form of self-expression.  Many programmers (often to the dismay of corporate managers) try to express themselves through code.
  • One famous music educator, Dick Grove, once said that composers/musicians often like to solve puzzles.  (Dick Grove was very computer saavy - although I'm not sure he wrote code, I wouldn't doubt his ability to do so.)

There is an infinite variety in music, musical ideas, and styles.  Programmers are faced with a vast array of tools, concepts and languages for expressing and translating these ideas into something that achieves yet another result.

So,  do you how all this relates to ASP.NET?  Well, no...but if you hum a few bars maybe I can fake it!



Dave Burke said:

Welcome to weblogs, Rob!

Yeah, I've thought of this over the years. I received my bachelor's in Music Composition and before even getting the diploma was taking computer programming classes to "make a living" after graduation.

I immediately saw what I liked about computer programming and, secondarily, about math. A program either works or it doesn't. Music is all subjective. You can be a fantastic musician or write a killer music composition yet the listener (i.e., user) would just say, "eh!"

Of course, the more you write code the more you see the beauty in what makes a quality program and it often lies behind the scenes that a user doesn't see. Therefore its so much like sitting alone in a practice room for hours everyday pleased with accomplishments that only you can appreciate. Knowing you're doing it better than the day before is enough.

One parallel that always sticks with me was when my jazz professor told me about scales and their relationship to improvisation. He said, "you learn scales so you can forget them!" That is so true as a coder, learning basic syntax, structure, and form so you can forget them and move to the next level.

Enjoyed your post.
# November 14, 2003 4:23 PM

Darren Neimke said:

It's funny that this post should appear; just yesterday we had a show of hands within the team to see who played what type of musical instruments. I don't think (from memory) that any of the guys in the team were non-muso's
# November 14, 2003 4:43 PM

SBC said:

I recall reading an article quite a few years ago in which Bill Gates stated that musicians make good programmers. In my personal experience over the years, I have encountered quite a few musicians who were very good programmers. (One was a graduate of the New England Conservatory in Boston).
# November 14, 2003 5:15 PM

Carl Franklin said:

Instrumentalists in particular (guitar players for example) make great programmers. It's not just about math and music being similar, or the fundamentals vs the art. Instrumentalists have to zoom in to work with very repetitive technical details, and so become very focused - like a guitar player practicing a piece of music at a slow speed. But, the best programmers are able to then zoom out and see the big picture, and where their coding fits into the whole project, much like an artist has to step back from a painting and see the whole of it, or an instrumentalists has to produce something that communicates a complete work, not just the scales and technical aspects of it.
# November 14, 2003 6:53 PM

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# June 13, 2010 4:49 PM

Omeada Lusvam said:

At the end you will find that every activity is an art, but for that you have to improve it everytimes, take attention to the detail, be here and now and express yourself in the activity.

Washing the floor is an art, talking is an art, walking is an art; the only thing is to be able to see it.

The map is not the territory so everybody have to figure out stuff from himself.

Life is a mystery, there's no definitive answer as our worldview is what give us our perspective.

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# April 2, 2013 5:33 AM

Rob Birdwell said:

Read part 2, my further musings on the relationship between programming and music.

# May 18, 2013 12:57 AM