"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
October 4, 2013

Once More With Feeling

I believe we are living in a golden age of learning. This is not because our institutions, schools and universities are better than they have ever been. Rather it is because the way we access the information and knowledge required for learning has radically improved, thanks to both the internet and also changes in the […]

I believe we are living in a golden age of learning. This is not because our institutions, schools and universities are better than they have ever been. Rather it is because the way we access the information and knowledge required for learning has radically improved, thanks to both the internet and also changes in the publishing industry.

We can now access, via a few clicks of a mouse, or a walk down a bookstore aisle, information, ideas and techniques that less than a generation ago were only available by enrolling in a lengthy and perhaps expensive formal course of study, or by apprenticing ourselves to a master. Knowledge was a scarce commodity and sharing it was seen as unprofessional.

But now, if you want to build a piece of furniture, adjust the brakes on your bike, bake amazing bread, change the grips on your gold clubs or setup up a recording or photographic studio, you can easily find a wealth of insights ideas and reliable guides willing to share their experience and expertise (most often for free).

The Place Of Technique

I love this. However, I wonder if there might also be a little side-effect that flows on from knowledge becoming so open. Perhaps with great knowledge comes a great desire to show off our knowledge?

When I read and listen to discussions about creative work, a lot of people seem to largely focus on technical issues. While I do believe it is important to pick the right lens, or microphone and the decisions we make in post-processing our work are important, there’s a lot more to said when we evaluate a photo or piece of music beyond how it was made. We need to also make time, lots of time, to think about why it was made and what it says to us on an emotional and human level.

Putting Technique In The Context Of Feeling

In this little video tutorial Dave Pensado takes on what is largely a technical question, how to apply the right compression ratio to a piece of music. Compression is an effect that mystifies a lot of musicians and you do need to understand a bit of theory to get your head around the way it works.

But, what I like the way Pensado makes us focus on the musical idea, in this case a vocal phrase and how the effect enhances or detracts from the emotional punch. The phrase is interesting because the singer attacks two words more forcefully and when we keep that in mind, it’s easy to hear when the compression effect starts to flatten the phrase out too much.

It’s all well and good to be attuned to the technical stuff, being able to see chromatic aberration or hear phase misalignment, for example. But, the far more important thing is to be attuned to how the parts of something work together (or not) to create an emotional impact.

Make The Feeling The Thing

In our new, largely digital educational feeding frenzy, are we focusing too much on the tangible aspects of creative education, the objects aspects so to speak, at the expense of the more human aspects, the way a work makes us feel? Have we let our pursuit of technical ability trump our aesthetic sensibility?

In way, it is easier to just talk about the technical stuff. It’s safer and you are far more likely to win arguments and impress people if you have memorised all the “facts.” But, art and in fact, most things connected to human emotion also have a numinous, or mysterious component to them as well. It’s much harder to talk about these, at least without sounding pretentious, arrogant or aloof.

But, when we explore why we got into making what we make in the first place, it probably wasn’t because of the technical stuff, it was because of some great, awe-inspiring experience; a life-changing concert, a painting or play that moved us, a book that changed the way we see the world. If it’s that feeling that got us into this life of creativity, then shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to get back to that kind of feeling and keep it central to everything we do?

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