Brian Eno, on options and music making:
Years ago I realized that the recording studio was becoming a musical instrument. I even lectured about it, proclaiming that “by turning sound into malleable material, studios invite you to construct new worlds of sounds as painters construct worlds of form and color.”
I was thrilled at how people were using studios to make music that otherwise simply could not exist. Studios opened up possibilities.
But now I’m struck by the insidious, computer-driven tendency to take things out of the domain of muscular activity and put them into the domain of mental activity. This transfer is not paying off.
Sure, muscles are unreliable, but they represent several million years of accumulated finesse. Musicians enjoy drawing on that finesse (and audiences respond to its exercise), so when muscular activity is rendered useless, the creative process is frustrated. No wonder artists who can afford the best of anything keep buying “retro” electronics and instruments, and revert to retro media.
The trouble begins with a design philosophy that equates “more options” with “greater freedom.” Designers struggle endlessly with a problem that is almost nonexistent for users: “How do we pack the maximum number of options into the minimum space and price?” In my experience, the instruments and tools that endure (because they are loved by their users) have limited options.
via Eno’s essay, The Revenge Of The Intuitive