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Monday, October 11, 2010

Technology - Making "Mediocre" Accessible

So Julie left this comment on the "A Little Off Topic" post back in September.

I have been thinking about her question for a while: "what percentage of your studio time was spent making music vs messing with technology?"

So let me throw out a few examples:

I do a gig on Tuesday nights which is purely analog and done in the most non-digital way possible.  Though some of the equipment is digital (class-D power amplifier, light weight electronic piano) everything else is music or analog or "manual" (vocals, acoustic guitars).  There is "setup" and "tear down" time - but the rest is pure "making music".

So this is probably 100% making music.  Technology is the enemy, i.e., a cable fails or a fuse blows and the show stops.

I do a practice once a week (different gig).  This is mostly the same as the first but there is a digital recorder.  This is used to record the practice and capture various aspects of the practice for review, sharing, critiques, etc.  In this particular group the digital recorder is vital to progress because its easy to grab what's right and feed it back into the process.
Time spent messing with the recorder - 2 minutes out of 180 - or about 1% - technology is still the enemy.

Then there's RainsDance.   It would not exist without technology.  Sure it uses a piano like the above examples.  But that's all that's not technology.  It was written, recorded, edited and mixed "in the box", i.e., in the computer.  Technology is still the enemy though...

As for print - well there's still the old analog ways: ruby, knives, cameras, dark rooms, and so forth.  And there is the "technology only" way as well - like this blog.  It wouldn't exist without technology.  Twenty years ago it might have been a news letter or a column in a magazine.

The really interesting aspect of Julie's question, though, is really a question about when does something like analog graphics, print or sound turn into a "technology only" exercise.

Print and music have a lot in common here.  On the music side only the recording aspect is still done (if its done at all) in the old way: studio, mic, amp, etc.  For print, some people still draw on paper to create images or layouts.  More than likely much or all of the rest is done "in the box" save for final paper prints or speakers blasting.

As technology has progressed both have moved to more and more "in the box" creation - drawing directly in PhotoShop or using the mouse to make music directly.

So does technology create a situation where less "skill" is required?  Certainly without it I could not have created RainsDance without a lot more work - but maybe I suck and in the normal evolutionary way of music I would never have made it to a studio because I was not good enough.

Is technology making mediocre art more accessible?

And what about print - certainly there are a lot more digital ads and images today than 50 years ago.  But are they an improvement? Now there are 100 ways, based on demographics, to say "eat a joes", but would one really great sign do more than 100 mediocre ones?

Or, taking from an old computer saying "Garbage in, garbage out" have things really turned into a case of making the garbage processing "highly efficient".

So does the medium "take over" the art in the long run - technology for the sake of technology overrunning the original art aspects?

What if Picasso had lived in the digital age?  Would there be thousands of variations of "Woman with Flower"?

Imagine them popping up every time you check the weather or being used to sell you a new mortgage.

Would that be a good thing?

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