How Well Do You Know Your Gear?

I recently watched a video of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks showing off their home studio. As you can imagine it’s pretty swanky. You could say it’s in a shed at the end of their garden, and that would be true except that their shed is nicer than most people’s houses and it is packed full of lovely instruments and recording gear.

Susan is interviewed and asked why they have mostly vintage gear. The instruments are mostly older; the console is a Neve but they record to a DAW of some kind. The standard answer would be some waffle about vibe and/or mojo. She doesn’t go that way though. Her response is that people know how to use the older gear well. It has finished developing and you can learn its tricks while modern gear is changing fast (particularly in the realm of software) so keeping up is hard.

This resonated with me as I am in the process of switching to a new DAW and it is driving me bonkers. There are lots of great new things to excite me, but they also distract me as I spend hours playing with the new gegaws. There are also moments of desolation as I find that a feature I relied on is no longer available to me. Perhaps the worst aspect is the change to my workflows. This is something that I didn’t think about that much before switching but this has had the biggest impact on my work by far. Continue reading How Well Do You Know Your Gear?

Recreating my musical self with the aid of (community) gravity and other invisible forces

Comet Donati by Bond 1858
Image of the Comet Donati taken by W. C. Bond in 1858. The comet leaves its trail as it passes on its elliptical path through the solar system. Periodic activity can feel like long-period comets but perhaps not everything needs to follow such a long orbit.
I have had a somewhat unsettled relationship with making music for a long time. It has always been a passionate one, but it has often been difficult to the point of not being an active musician for many years at a time. I always seem to return though and I’m going through that process again now.

Perhaps because I’m a bit older and more self-reflective, if not wiser, I find myself watching this process as it is occurring and trying to make sense of it. When I was younger it didn’t need to make sense, it just happened, but perhaps I’m not as trusting or brave as I was then.

I have been prodded out of my comfortable isolated process by an interesting, intimate and introspective article by Clutch Daisy. Where’s Your Head At? looks at the effect of an increasing level of self-awareness in his creative process. (That’s my take on it anyway and I hope it’s at least partially accurate)

Clutch’s article has resonated with me because my current musical state is redolent with self-awareness. I haven’t made much music for ten years and the process of restarting is not an easy one in many ways. Simply justifying using the time is no simple thing as I could be spending that with my family or looking to fill it with more remunerative work.

In so many places heightened self-awareness inhibits action. Like a teenage boy in a new lumbering graceless body I’m contemplating the dance-floor and wondering how I’ll move. With my interrupted musical life it is simply a fact that needs to be dealt with though so I’m trying to incorporate the meta-process into the process somehow. Continue reading Recreating my musical self with the aid of (community) gravity and other invisible forces

Hemmed in by signposts: Metaphors limit the scope of social media innovation

Long exposure of car tail lights
It can all become a blur very quickly

Metaphors are a crucial part of how we relate to the digital world. They are crucial in one sense as the low-level languages that computers use are incomprehensible to humans. All our spangly, shiny Powerpoint presentations and music libraries are streams of hexidecimal or binary digits to our processors and disk drives. Unless you’re very special these low-level digital streams are gobbledygook and even if you are special enough to make sense of them they’re certainly not anything like the files most of us expect to see or listen to.

With the invention of the graphical user interface (GUI) metaphor became a much more explicit part of our computing experience. A host of analogies were launched upon us in a rush, windows, scrolling, dragging, trash and even document. These terms were needed to help us cope with this new world and GUIs were crucial in the spread of computing from the lab to the wider world.

While these metaphors were initially liberating they have become limiting particularly as digital information weaves itself into increasingly intricate patterns in our lives. Venkatesh Rao from the Xerox Innovation Group has written an interesting post on Mashable on this issue, specifically how the metaphors that served us well in the past now limit us. Continue reading Hemmed in by signposts: Metaphors limit the scope of social media innovation