The food you eat is mostly factory farmed – grown in chemicals manufactured in a chemical works. But is your music ‘factory farmed’ too, and does it sound like it?
I’m processing through the implications of this thought as it applies to our church. In this age of digital consoles, large mic inventories, protools, vintage “plug-ins”, and virtual soundcheck, the raw number of tools available to “do” audio is mind-bending. But how do you make sure that you don’t process and process to the point where the music itself looses something that makes it real and emotional?
This was brought to mind recently when I was watching a interview on TV with one of the producers of the new film from the James Bond series, Casino Royale.
One of the points the producer was very keen to make was that the stunts, which of course are expected in a James Bond movie, were ‘organic’ compared to most current films. ‘Organic’ was exactly the word he used, and he meant that the stunts were done for real rather than being achieved by digital fakery, and that the only manipulation done was to remove the wires that support and protect the stunt artists.
In film, it is certainly true that since the impossible can now be achieved quite easily, that even the most spectacular scenes lose their value because the audience knows that they have been created by digital artists rather than having been performed for real. We’ve all experienced this.
And the same applies to music performance. Music is a form of emotional communication, and when an instrument is played by a skilled performer, it can conduct that emotion from composer, through performer to listener. But when machines are allowed to have too much influence, then that emotional connection is broken. Yes, the notes, rhythms and timbres remain, but the subtleties that make music truly involving are lost.
Non-organic food is grown using chemicals made in factories (and farmed animals eat food grown from chemicals). Organic food is grown in, er, poop (odd that the promoters of organic farming usually fail to make that clear). Non-organic music does often start with good DNA (to continue the analogy), but then it goes through the machine process and is liberally treated with pesticides (quantization) before being packaged and sold to the public.
Organic music may have a few rough edges (like spotty organic apples), but the flavor and nutritional value is retained, and is simply more satisfying to consume. And in organic farming, there is no rule that says machines can’t be used, so machines can be used in music too. Just as long as they long as they add goodness to the music, not take it away.
I don’t know how to apply this to what I do, but I realize how important it is.