Archive for the ‘art’ Category:
The 21st century. Two-thousand and thirteen. A time and year when anyone can record a song. Or make a film. Or create a painting. Or just create. Without leaving your living room.
Another documentary inspired these thoughts today. I’m sitting on my couch after just finishing a documentary called Press Pause Play. (A documentary film which I would have never seen without my Apple TV and Netflix subscription, by the way.) The documentary centered mainly around music and film and what music and film creation means in the year 2013 of the 21st century. MP3s, iMovie, HD cameras on your smart phone; all these things have turned the age-old perception of what the creative process should be upside-down.
Technology has, or more precisely, is continuing to change not only the way we consume media, but maybe more importantly the way it’s created. Anyone, really anyone, can get a copy of a song on the internet and find software to tweak or change it and share it online. Or use recording software to record your own song. Or make a movie with your iPhone. Everyone’s a musician. Everyone’s a filmmaker.
MP3s shook the foundation of the record industry. The technology threw a barrel of monkeys into the well-oiled machine that was the music business of yesterday. The simple act of one person sharing a single song with another has literally taken what was thought as just the way it’s done back to square one. And at the same time given power to you and your neighbor to add your own creations into the pot, leaving us all with a massive sea of creations to wade through 24-7.
What does this fact that everyone and their uncle Pete can be a musician and filmmaker and artist leave us with? In speaking with several producers and studios in the film, the documentary presents explicitly that there are many artists that record a song where a section or area isn’t quite right. The artists dismisses the mistakes and notes, “Oh, you can fix that in editing.” The editors relent that yes, they can. The technology allows them to do it. Just as it does your friend down the street. However, this blatant cover up of something that 40 years ago would have been remedied by bringing in a performer or artist who could play the part the way it should be is now replaced with edits and mixes and tuning using software. This approach produces the digitally “perfect” music we hear on the radio. In many cases, I would argue that it produces a pefectly ugly product. See also Justin Beiber, Nicki Minaj.
Moby, a musician interviewed in the documentary stated that this digital perfection that is continually sought after in today’s music is a result of the craft being lost in artistic creation. You no longer need to understand the subtle nuances of the guitar or piano to write a song. You no longer need to know which lens should be used to create the right mood for a particular shot in a movie. The computer will tell you how to do it.
Through my own creative process, I’ve had moments of struggle with technology. In high school art class, I remember conversations with my teacher around something as simple as a photograph being used for a drawing. Is it cheating to use a photograph to draw from? For real art, you ”should” draw straight from real life or still life. Drawing from a photograph gives you too much. You don’t have to translate from three dimensions to two dimensions.
Now, over the years I haven’t taken a hard-nosed stance in this place. In my last post, for example, I not only used a photo to draw the flower and butterfly, but where did I find the photo? Google. Where else? But the documentary brought up the discussion in my head once again. And for me it takes thoughts to even loftier places such as, what is art? One interviewee in the film noted that the creations of the YouTubers today is not art at all. Just more clutter in the sea of mediocrity that seems to grow everyday. Mediocrity that we as a culture are becoming satisfied with.
I am in agreement with the opinion of the increasing amount of misplaced praise of creations that are not of the quality that should be appreciated by the masses. It baffles me that Hollywood will use it resources to promote the “art” of “musicians” like Beiber and Minaj. And baffles me even more that people use their hard earned dollars to pay for it. I’ve been fortunate enough to know and be exposed to many genres of art and music. To hear songs from artists like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and the pure talent and craft of the bands of those days is ear-opening. It’s a shame that many living today don’t understand.
At the same time though, I opine that out of this sea of mediocrity comes the art that truly deserves recognition and praise. Out of the billions of YouTubers one can find artists really providing innovation and something different. Something worth listening to. Something worth watching. I think that while everyone can be creative, those given the gift of talent and craft and creativity can be even more so by gaining the perspective that so many around us are now able to give more freely.
With the new year, I’ve made a promise to myself not to pause, but press play on my on creativity. Here’s looking forward to finding inspiration in yours. Cheers.
Music is such an integral part of life. It always has been for me. As a baby, my mom would play classical music when I slept. My grandmother always had music on. Literally all day. I can’t remember a time when visiting and the radio or stereo wasn’t on. In my teenage years listening to my dad play Neal Young and Robert Palmer. One of my favorite early music memories was a cassette tape, yes, a cassette tape, of my dad’s that had Robert Palmer on one side and on the other, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Looking back now, I realize that it was this music that shaped much of not only my musical tastes which I enjoy today, but also my personality.
I recently watched a documentary about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, called Runnin’ Down a Dream. The documentary chronicles the band from its inception over thirty years ago through to just a few years past. There were several aspects of the story of the band which struck me. One being the amazing impact that Tom Petty had on the music industry. From the beginning, Petty paved the way for future musicians with the legal battles he fought in order to prevent record companies from stealing the rights to publish his music. Tom Petty worked with many giants in the music world as well and served as inspiration for most of them. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, was one who looked up to Petty and actually wanted to be in his band. Petty wrote and played with the likes of Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr of The Beatles who even played drums for him for a while. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also toured and were the “backup” band for Bob Dylan.
Tom Petty’s drive to express himself through music has continued in the decades of music he’s created. His ability to tell stories through music are among the great writers of all musical types. I think one of my favorite aspects of the Heartbreakers’ songs is the energy and spirit in which they’re sung and played. In every one of the songs, you can feel the power and drive of Petty to put everything he and the band had into each note and word. This want to show that they’ve left nothing behind with each performance is something that led me to other artists with the same passion like Dave Matthews and Rob Thomas. Matthews and Thomas put an energy into their songs just as Tom Petty did and does.
The energy of performance through true talent is something that seems to be few and far between in contemporary artists. Honestly, it’s sad that the public even pays anything to listen to the likes of Nickie Minaj or Justin Beiber. These two people prove that the record industry will throw as much money as necessary at just about anyone, even if they don’t have any talent. It is comforting to know, however, that true musicians and performers can still shine through the over the top and shameful sideshows. Besides artists like Matthews and Thomas, the likes of Adele, Sara Bareilles, KT Tunstall, Florence + the Machine, show that skill and passion for musical expression are so much more than scantily clad outfits, cursing every other word, or recycled beats and mixes.
Songs of the truly talented performers, like Tom Petty, reflect social change and describe what many people really feel about things going on in the world. Tom Petty’s lyrics are so much more than “baby baby baby” or wild parties, drinking, and drugs. The words tell a story. They give you a new perspective with the artist’s view. They give you something worthwhile to consider.
The Heartbreakers‘ documentary struck a chord with me and gave me an even greater appreciation for the art that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers created. Knowing their whole story makes everything along the way have so much more weight and meaning. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ story is an example that hard work, passion, energy and true talent are what allow you to really go Runnin’ Down a Dream.
Over the weekend I had the privilege of celebrating with two of my very best friends, Matt and Kim, on their wedding day! It was a beautiful wedding and a day filled with lots of fun, smiles, laughs, and people gettin’ jiggy wit it. As a gift for the bride and groom, I created a charcoal portrait drawing of the newlyweds from a photo of their trip to Venice, Italy. Congratulations Matt and Kim!
After a few late nights this past week, I finished my Lenten series of drawings. I’m really pleased with how they all turned out. I’ve titled the entire series “I AM” and created an eighth piece in calligraphy to add the title and the scriptures to go along with each week’s drawing. I decided to donate the work to my church and presented it in the Easter morning service today. This was a different Lenten discipline for me. One that allowed for reflection through artistic expression. The series can hopefully provide for those who see it, a different perspective of the Lenten journey.