As I was driving to my university for the first day of classes, I turned on a local college radio station to hear a track from Bill Evans' "Conversations with Myself" playing. I immediately recognized the song; Evans' technical prowess is as easily identifyable as the sound of multiple piano tracks weaving around one another. He is essentially accompanying himself though the process of overdubbing.
The album was recorded in 1963, and was immediately critically received, winning a Grammy that same year. It was also considered controversial, as Evans was relying upon recording technology to create a finished product that ran counter to many concepts of how jazz should be produced: spontaneity, not studio trickery; collaboration, not solipsism. In short, organic, not machinic.
Sound familiar? Anyone who has been involved with digital technology and art education is sure to recognize this familiar refrain. Computers are cold, inert machines, incapable of breathing life into digital artforms. While I do not wish to stir this particular hornets nest, I do think that art educators would be well served by looking at how other artforms have incorporated, resisted, or otherwise hybridized developing technologies.
Evans took many assumptions regarding the playing and recording of jazz and turned them on their head. Where he internalized many of the collaborative qualities of jazz musicianship, art students might learn much from the opposite: taking what is in many cases an individual creative act and making it communal, improvisational, and spontaneous.
Communication is shifting as a result of social media; art educators may learn much by studying the dynamic qualities of these technologies and applying them in the classroom, the museum, the community center, places where 'conversations with myself' are all too common.