'The transistor has disrupted every creative industry' - Alexis Kirke

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What do you think has been a revolutionary invention that has changed the way we live?

The Revolutions season brings together five top academics from the University of Plymouth to pitch their arguments for revolutionary inventions in their fields. Dr Alexis Kirke puts forward his position on the transistor in music, the arts and creativity.

The transistor revolution changed how we create, perform and broadcast music and the arts, and arguably changed what it means to be human.

Music inspires a level of emotion rarely achieved in spoken word. Music has power. And that was certainly evident in the 1960s, when rock and roll spread rapidly thanks to transistor radios. It brought people together, changed how they viewed themselves, and inspired huge social change through the younger generation.

Music needs to be delivered to the listener, and transistors overturned every aspect of that delivery. Walkman’s made music portable, and eventually became iPods. The transistor is at the heart of the computer, and iTunes changed music from a physical to a virtual object. So now what is music? Photo, film? They’re all numbers on a computer, stored and manipulated by transistors. Transistors have also enabled us to create the devices now used for most musical and visual creation. CGI in films has blurred the lines between art and reality.

The transistor has upturned the modern history of creativity. As the transistor’s influence spread, it disrupted every creative art and industry and, by extension, what it means to be a creative being.

Alexis Kirke is Senior Research Fellow in Computer Music, with PhD’s in both technology and arts. He is a composer and filmmaker well-known for his innovative projects and presentations that have earned him a national and international reputation. His recent work sits on the cutting-edge of research between music, computers and the brain. He has been recognised through a number of awards and accolades for his astonishing projects, and has been featured all over the world from the BBC, the Guardian, New Scientist, CBC, The Times, Al Jazeera TV and beyond. Alexis’ achievements are underpinned by a wealth of research and expertise spanning computing, music, film and even stock market analysis.

Going head to head with ultrasound scanning, paper, photography, and the semi-conductor, the transistor strives for your vote in Revolutionary Inventions: The Debate. Will you be swayed? Join us in The House on Tuesday 6 February in The House to have your say, and join the conversation online with #RevInventions.

'Revolutionary Inventions' season at Peninsula Arts

Recognising that the revolutionary theme not only speaks to political change, we asked our programmers and academic colleagues to think about revolution in terms of inventions – those life-changing, ingenious and innovative inventions that alter the course of history forever. Of course technological inventions do not happen in isolation, they are often linked to social and cultural shifts with one usually preceding the other. Our programme attempts to look at these cultural and technological connections.

It is also important to remember that inventions are just that – invented – they are constructs of human interactions and relations, borne out of questioning, observation, study and sometimes argument.

Animal Condensed by Jennet Thomas