Interesting observation. I have once read somewhere that programmers and mathematicians indeed, for one reason or another, gravitate towards composing music. I suppose I am a programmer at this point as I have a full-time job doing PHP and JS, though I don’t consider myself one just yet and am looking into learning the more traditional programming languages to expand the knowledge. At the same time, I, too, have a large music collection, and have always liked playing musical instruments and composing in general.
Nowadays I play guitar and piano, for the most part, and an occasional percussion instrument when needed for the mix :). When it comes to electronic music, especially, there is a lot of technical details attached to it. You have made a good point about stepping away and looking at the greater whole – it takes a lot of detailed work, tweaking, automating, and adjusting when you are producing a mix, which is the ‘science’ part of it, and yet without a clear and defined melody and ‘hooks’ which the tune is based on, and being able to see (or hear) the greater whole and tweak it to improve the overall picture it is largely technically advanced but boring music.
There is a lot of music out there like that, primarily electronic, which must be written by purely technical people. If you look into drum’n’bass and a lot of modern electro and minimal house, it is usually quite sophisticated bleep-wise alas with no depth emotionally or melodically. Don’t get me wrong - I quite like that stuff sometimes, and it can be great in the middle of a properly warmed up DJ set, but it is fairly tiring on its own.
Now that I think about it, I think it all has to do with the pattern of working towards a certain goal and how you get to it. When programming, you spend time both analyzing and imagining how to solve a certain problem to produce the result, while the result itself is created to, typically, make the user’s life easier in some way without him or her actually understanding any work that has gone into the product.
And with music, you compose and produce a track involving intricate details, hooks, and instruments, only to deliver a complete piece to the ears of the listener who rarely grasps the complexity of the track. And yet, without all the tweaking and hard work, just like with buggy code or a program with missing or incomplete features, the result would not be usable or listenable.
It is sort of like sound mixing for film – the harder your work on producing sound FX and mixing sound for a movie, the less the audience will notice it and perceive it as natural. How often do you watch a movie and think, wow, those are some complex sound effects. However, if your sound work is bad (think back to home and amateur movies you’ve seen), it immediately ruins the feeling of presence and quality degrading the experience. The better you are, the less obvious it seems to be.
By the way, I’ve linked my name to the MySpace profile with some of my music. Yes, I cannot stand MySpace either, but it seems to be the networking tool of choice among musicians. Go figure.