Art as a consumable product. When we experience a piece of art, it is tempting to think that there could only ever be one version in the world. The song you’re listening to could surely only have sounded like this, could only ever have this tempo, could only be sung in this key. The picture you are looking at must have arrived fully formed – divine intervention flowed through the painter’s brush to the canvas in a single instant of inspiration. There was no practice involved and no research.
Art as a process. Of course the opposite is most often true – artists above all are experts at curiosity and playing with ideas. The curiosity and the playing results in countless versions of an idea until one day a version feels right (or is chosen by a company executive) to represent the artist’s vision.
Examples are everywhere – look at Bob Dylan’s countless versions of his most famous songs. Director’s cuts often differ wildly from the original film release. Look at Picasso’s obsessive research into the minotaur leading up to Guernica.
Curiosity and playfulness are where the real magic is. I think that this is important to remember, both as customers and as artists. These processes are not instantly gratifying, and can often be frustrating. But they are processes that we have to go through and we have to acknowledge to get the most from any piece of art.
Otherwise, there is a danger of art becoming a pre-packaged commodity. No back story. Nothing more to see.
I got my old Fostex MR16 multi-track recorder out the other day. There were a bunch of recordings on there from my music playing days. Some were ok, most were rubbish. All of them brought back amazing memories of creative times. It’s strange to hear yourself ten years ago singing songs and talking into the microphone.
The encounter with my previous self inspired me to order a microphone online and do some more recording.
Waiting on a mic.
I can’t sleep. Insomnia is hard to shake because the more you worry about not sleeping, the less likely you are to sleep. When this cycle happens I eventually make a call – It’s time to get up and drink coffee.
So here I am listening to my newfound, favourite TuneIn radio station “American Routes”.
This has me thinking about America and American culture. I am not American in any way – I come from Kenya and South Africa, but in many ways America is always on my mind. I grew up on American cartoons, toys, series and movies. Whether it is the brunt of our jokes, our jealousy or our ambitions, America is a place and an ideal that is all over Africa: “Stupid American tourists” “America is keeping us in debt”. “America is killing our traditions”. “America will save us”. “God bless America”.
At a personal level, this relationship between myself and America is at its most peaceful when American music is playing. For the last 20 years, hiphop has taken Africa by storm. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Blues, jazz, soul, folk, country, bluegrass and gospel traditions of America have enriched my life like little else. All merged together into the melting pot that is Rock n Roll, I would feel starved without American music in my life.
American exceptionalism has given us a lot. But nothing in my mind can compare to all of its great music.
Enjoy American Routes
Some thoughts on contrast:
In the world of fashion, I’m told it is a good rule to follow to wear one piece of clothing as the focus for your outfit. Make the focus piece obvious (colourful and/or patterned) and make all your other clothes darker and more plain in comparison. For example a brightly coloured, patterned shirt as the focus, and plain dark pants, jacket, and shoes to support. It is the contrast which makes it work. If it was all bright patterns, it would clash and likely not be pleasing to the eye. The same if it was all black. No contrast. Boring. Slightly morbid too!
The same thing happens in food. Eating a chocolate, washing it down with a sweet soda and an ice cream with syrup on top. It’s too much of a good thing. No contrast. Food manufacturers have figured out the perfect balance of salt, sugar, and fat to tease our senses. There needs to be a contrast in tastes, and in food types to satisfy truly.
The same with music and audio. A piece of music needs to have light and shade to work. A whole song of thrashing guitar solo after guitar solo is just too much and becomes very boring. Too much bass in the mix gives you a headache. Use light and shade to build up to a crescendo however, and it will raise the hairs on your neck.
Contrast is the way forward!
Overkill is a common phrase.
At the moment I have a 150 Watt Onkyo receiver linked up as a preamp to another class A stereo amp just to drive a couple of small bookshelf speakers in the living room.
I am aware of my addiction and am working through the issues at hand! I need to sell the Onkyo ASAP.
Sure was fun to set up though.
Hifi is my weakness. I immerse myself in all the mythology, the hyperbole, the salesmanship of the audiophile industry and I am like a pig in poop.
Pigs really like poop.
This week I am lusting after this relatively budget amp, which is simpler than the one I have at home, and matches my speakers perfectly.
Or so I am lead to believe.