Look, this isn’t strictly about videogames – or even gaming hardware. But Intel’s closing musical number at their CES 2016 keynote speech was such a jamboree of well-intentioned, dorky nonsense that it’d be a shame not to share it with you. There are men in red bandanas playing invisble drums. There’s an entire stage of people with what look like doorbells sellotaped to their hands, lolloping their limbs to and fro to an unknown rhythm. There’s a keytar.
What’s happening here (the musical denoument begins 1 hour 32 in) is that Intel are demonstrating the musical potential of the Curie, a button-sized low power computer module ideal for wearables.
Want to pretend this didn’t happen? Just go look over our best PC games and it’ll all be fine again.
You can see how a room full of ideas people in an Intel boardroom somewhere decided an instrument-eschewing rendition of Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire was the perfect way to demonstrate Curie’s potential. Just as that room full of people can now surely see, in the cold light of day, that it wasn’t.
The scene is set by a drummer, playing actual drums for a bit before very deliberately accidentally dropping her drumsticks on the floor.
Apparently flummoxed by this easily fixable turn of events, she jettisons the drums entirely, takes a big breath and mentally tells herself it’s okay, you can get through this. It’ll be over soon. Then a man in a red bandana and matching jacket turns up to lay down a drum beat using Curie-powered wearables.
The creative vision for this outfit was, you’d imagine, ‘futuristic.’ The end result, garnished with grey bands on each ankle and wrist, is ‘late for a parole meeting.’
What follows is a song performed by dozens of talented musicians without the things they’re talented on. It just about resembles music, in the same way a cat walking on its hind legs resembles a human.
The reason Intel’s demo didn’t work, why it’s impossible to watch the above video without grinding your teeth down to gritty dust, is because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what music is, why people play it, why it moves us when we hear it, and why it’s very difficult to harness live musical performance to sell a new computer gubbin.
Curie is going to find a bunch of brilliant, additive, enriching applications. Music will not be one of them. What Intel have done here is found a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Never once, in the thousands of years human beings have performed music, since the very earliest mammoth ivory and bird bone flutes were crafted, did anyone think: “this would be a whole lot better without the instruments.”
You know why humankind never thought that? Because this is what music looks like with instruments:
…and this is what it looks like without:
I rest my case.