This isn’t a new dilemma and I would say don’t repudiate the physical experience of that twelve year kid hearing electronic music for the first time, that sounded real to me. The sound has always been separate to the playing. To paraphrase Jeff Beck’s thoughts on guitar solos, the playing can just be a cheap way of building up tension in the audience, even if it sounds terrible. Jim Morrison would agree, beset with an audience obsessed with what he did, rather than how it sounds. Regarding the music, only the player truly experiences the playing, what the audience gets is the sound. It is not uncommon for a musician to use a visual cue to create an illusory effect within the music, for example, David Lynch’s theatre scene in Mulholland Drive. Check out some videos of Maria Callas performing. In today’s “performance” culture she would be booted off X-Factor in seconds for a lack of “visual projection”.
What comes to mind is Alex Ross’ essay on the impact of recorded music on how orchestras perform classical music and Ralph Gleason’s liner notes for Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew – both discussing this same issue in a time before digital music. We will always be looking for new ways to make music, but these new ways will always be additions, not replacements. The synth doesn’t render the guitar redundant, and the new music, once heard, will have influence, whether we like it or not.
What matters is the music itself, not how it was made. Once the listener closes their eyes, its all just soundwaves. To quote Ralph Gleason :
it doesn’t make any difference what kind of brush picasso uses and if the art makes it we don’t need to know and if the art doesn’t make it knowing is the most useless thing in life.