Archive for the 'Music/Audio/Production' Category

Out of Time

timehasrunout

This is it.

As promised over a year ago, this will be the final post for this blog. The reasons for this are primarily:

  1. I think it has reached a point where I am saying many of the same things over and over, only differently. Not useless, but less than ground breaking.
  2. It is time for ME to move on, which has been one of the underlying themes as well.

I figured the last day of the year would be a good time to make the change, but one thing led to another, and I couldn’t get it done. So here we are. It is not easy. I like doing this, but, in addition to the reasons above, I don’t really have time for it anymore.

My plan a year ago was to work through all of the posts I had in a draft state to get them online before signing off. I failed. Just like what happens in life, time caught up and I didn’t get everything done I wanted to do. There are dozens still sitting incomplete. I have decided to let them go. I’m not a big fan of symbolic actions because I think they ultimately don’t work. We know we’re doing it symbolically, which belies our sincerity and speaks as much to a need for drama. Show business can be powerful, but the power is often fleeting. All of that is true in this case as well. So…I’m not suggesting I will not write again. Only that it’s time for this blog to rest in peace.

On the occasion that I go back and read previous posts I am at once astounded and proud of how good and insightful some of them are, and also disappointed at how incomplete or lacking in any innovative thinking others are. To the astute reader, I have revealed a lot here, about myself, and human nature in general.

It was never for anyone but me. I never promoted it or cared how many people looked on. It’s simply my art, and started as a way to get some basic thoughts down. Something about writing things down codifies them, forcing the writer to think rationally in complete sentences and to ground statements and feelings. A worthy exercise, and one I think I got better at over the seven years of posts.

It evolved, as I knew it would, though I found myself surprised at how it evolved. I don’t know how obvious it is, but there was actually a turning point in the nature and presentation of the subject matter. It would be interesting to bring someone in to read through it all to see if that stands out. It’s blatantly obvious to me when I read many of the posts before and after that time. It happened over a number of months, but began here (not coincidentally, that post is the most linked to throughout the rest of the blog, barely beating this one.), and began to get momentum here. Life changes, sometimes in ways that there is no undo button for.

As a sort of farewell gift, I offer up my top 50 favorite posts (not already linked elsewhere in this one), which was an agonizing process that probably wasn’t worth the time it took, especially since the list would likely be different if I did it again next week. I hope that for those who come along later, this might get you started with what’s behind the scenes here. In chronological order…

  1. Common Sense
  2. If the Voltage Gets High Enough…
  3. Boundaries
  4. Start by Doing a Good Job
  5. Religion and Politics
  6. Hierarchy of Money
  7. Science Has a PR Problem Too
  8. Policies
  9. Brass Tacks
  10. Battle of the Unknown
  11. Compromise
  12. Love Will Find a Way
  13. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
  14. The Curse of Perseverance
  15. Love and Trust
  16. I See Dead People
  17. Serendipity
  18. Dedication
  19. The Drain of Friction
  20. The Value of Images
  21. What Life Really Is
  22. Ideal World
  23. The Chosen Ones
  24. Forgive
  25. A Metaphor for Life
  26. The Result of Answers
  27. Creativity
  28. In the Flesh
  29. Move Past Go
  30. The Pretty Girl Gets Kissed
  31. A Beautiful Story
  32. Hope is Not a Strategy
  33. Morality
  34. Caged
  35. Free Will is Fake
  36. Burning Ships
  37. Blind Spot
  38. Delusions
  39. Why Love Wins
  40. Strength
  41. One Step
  42. Trust, the Hidden Part
  43. Probability: Facts, Statistics, and Reality
  44. Changes
  45. Pride and Face
  46. Comfort
  47. Atheism: Instrumental versus intrinsic
  48. Reasons or Excuses
  49. New Information
  50. The Opposite of Success
  51. Bonus: the whole Happiness series

 

And here are a few random facts.

  • The most visitors to the blog in one day was on 1/6/2015, after this post.
  • 2015 was the busiest year for visitors, with 2011 close behind.
  • 2015 also has the most published posts, at 81.
  • Nearly 2,000 unique people visited the blog throughout 2015.
  • After the United States, Germany had the most visitors.
  • The most viewed page, by far, was the home page.
  • The most looked at post was this one, followed by this. It appears traffic to the site was more influenced by my use of a couple of popular terms people search for than the actual content of the blog. Humbling, though not surprising.
  • The longest time gap between when an entry was started and when it was actually completed and posted was 56 months.
  • There are almost 1,000 comments posted across the 493 blog entries.
  • There are over 22,000 comments not posted, as they marked as spam. Unfortunately some of those are/were legitimate comments. I never got to sorting them all out. Sorry about that.
  • There were 520 images posted over the course of the blog. The images are very important, and often contained additional information/meaning.

To quote a friend, “It’s time.” I could drone on about all that I’m thinking as the final letters get typed, and the unused material gets trashed, but it’s a frivolous delay of what I have decided.

It’s a lot like life. Time runs out while we still have things on our to do list.

I do have another potential endeavor in the works. If anything gets going on that I may return here to leave a trail of bread crumbs to it.

And with that, I bid you adieu.

All the best,

David Stewart

 

 

 

 

Projects

girlflowerswallframeprojects

Projects can become quite a burden, even the ones you think you want to do. Something happens when we start one. Often we become invested in the principle of finishing, even though we question whether it’s worthwhile.

When applied to art, it invariably corrupts. Once the scales tip in that direction, it’s virtually impossible to reel it back in without starting over, or taking a different direction.

Lucky or Good

Wrong question.

It’s almost always both.

The first question is, how much good is really needed?

Second is, how do you get started? Nobody ever won a game he wasn’t in.

Third is, will you persist long enough to eventually get lucky?

hspics

 

Writing on the Wall

BeatlesPhoto

So much is contained in a picture – a thousand words, as said by acclaimed newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane.

Look at these guys. At the peak of success, among the most successful entertainers/artists in the history of mankind. Yet they were troubled. They had troubled lives that were not rescued by their success. Arguably the success was part of the problem. Even their feelings toward each other were in disrepair. They had been through so much together. The wonder of their youths replaced by cynicism and distrust. Here they are going through the motions, possibly hoping for better times ahead, possibly scheming for the same. Their great partnership, the one that took them so far, was at this point a farce. Purely a business relationship, and no more. Nothing like how it started out.

It’s not so hard to look back at this picture and see it in their eyes. To their credit, they didn’t push on too far after it was over. They might have left a lot of great work out of their (and our) lives. They might have even worked it all out. Who knows? But there’s a good chance it would have only gotten worse. This way, they left a real legacy they can be proud of, and though the intimacy of the relationships were severed, they managed to retain a civility and respect for each other that more genuinely spoke to the underlying care they felt, and that respected the history of what they accomplished as a team.

Class

I remember once when I was a young musician in a young and inexperienced band playing one of a number of gigs that were over our heads at the time. This one was at a nightclub called Heartwood Tavern (long since gone — a parking lot now). None of us were old enough to be in there, even as performers. There was some stipulation that 18 year olds could be in the club so long as they were only on stage or in a dressing room away from other people. We weren’t 18 yet so it was really illegal for us to be there…but apparently someone thought we were good enough to risk it. We were opening for another band. A really good one. Seasoned players, etc. I knew a few of them distantly.

In situations like this (especially back then) it was common for the warm up band to get seriously short changed on things like access to production gear, time to properly sound check, etc. Just part of paying your dues I guess. We sat in the club that afternoon for what seemed like hours while the headlining band went through an exhaustive sound check. We became impatient and started making comments about everything from the songs they did to how they sounded, to pleas to hurry up.

Thankfully my good friend and mentor, Scott (R.I.P.), who happened to also be our sound guy, pulled me aside and schooled me on how inappropriate and uncool we were being before it got out of hand. In our defense, we were kids. We didn’t know. We felt entitled to fair treatment. That’s just not how it works.

The guitarist for that band ended up sitting down with me a little later while some technical concerns were being worked out. He asked me questions about our band, goals, dreams, etc. He was very cool, and had some good suggestions for some of the business side of things. He had to have heard some of the comments we had made earlier, but he didn’t mention it. He took an interest in us, if just for the moment. He was a kind, sweet guy.

As things played out over the years I ended up working with him quite a bit in some different bands, and even in a day job at a music store for a few years. We became pretty good friends. He was a great guitarist, and a better human being. He demonstrated to me that day what class is. I took the lesson and I’ll never forget it.

Another great one bites the dust. Rest in Peace, Rob.

RobJohnson

 

Not Gettin’ Rich

JonathaCheckMy friend Jonatha is a pretty well known artist with around 10 albums released on major labels over the years. I have lots of other friends in the music business. Their stories are pretty consistent.

No money.

The difference between now and 20 years ago is that now, nobody is making any money.

Spotify, and [fill in the blank with your music delivery service of choice] have utterly commoditized it all. The commoditization would be one thing if they paid a serviceable amount for the work they use to drive their business, but…they don’t, in part because there isn’t much to go around. Every artist I know tells the same story. I have sat through endless debates about why this happens. Much of it is warranted. The undeniable reality of the marketplace is that people don’t value music enough to pay for it anymore. Still a shame to see talented people go unrewarded. Teachers, artists, therapists, and others who help us in more abstract yet profound ways seem to get the shaft a lot. Good for us they love what they do. God help us if they ever wise up.

Defending and the Narrative

Needle on LP If it makes you happy, but don't fool yourself

This photo is a close up view of how a vinyl record provides for the reproduction of sound waves. They are retrieved by the process of dragging a hard rock across the molded vinyl and then amplifying the electromechanical result. If we were to try to invent a way to store and retrieve sound today, this technique would not merit serious consideration. It’s riddled with problems, not the least of which is the severe and rapid degradation of the media holding the information.

Yet there’s a constituency of people who hold that this is still the best sounding music playback mechanism we have. Nobody seriously tries to argue it’s the most accurate, although there is often a subtext that modern digital formats have severe flaws of their own. It’s the subjective joy these listeners seem to find in the sound of their records that’s hard to refute. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they hold that well made records on good equipment can sound better than the best of other formats.

Thus is the power of nostalgia. The vast majority of these enthusiasts are older. People who grew up listening to this format and are comfortable with it. The differences are quantifiable, so it’s pretty easy to prove the accuracy isn’t there. Maybe there is something about the monophonic low frequency reproduction that appeals to them, or any of the varied types of distortion that are introduced. It’s interesting how they will fool themselves and tell stories to validate what is otherwise a nearly indefensible technical position. It mirrors many religious arguments both in its methods and voracity.

There is a significant component of nostalgia, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to give it the legs to carry itself for all these years. No, many of these folks actually convince themselves it’s better and are ready to argue accordingly, sometimes with all sorts of kooky technical mumbo-jumbo. The second largest group of vinyl aficionados are too young to have memories of listening to them in days gone by. They have found appeal in the nostalgia of it (sort of like the recent explosion in the sales of old concert t-shirts), but again seem adept at convincing themselves it’s better sonically. There is also the cool factor – like cigarettes I guess – but I think it’s the narrative behind it that makes one want to be part of the group of people who thinks this is the best format for listening.

All of this is harmless, of course. If these folks find happiness in believing this outdated technique for audio reproduction is better, and are willing to spend the sums of money required to maintain that satisfaction, then who are any of us to try to convince them they are wrong?

Convinced myself, I seek not to convince — Edgar Allan Poe

Are they even wrong? While I can lay down an irrefutable technical case for why properly executed digital schemes are better in every way, I can’t tell someone that what he or she experiences isn’t perfectly valid. And I certainly don’t want to disrupt someone’s ability to find joy in something just because it’s not factually sustainable.

On the other hand, if this force became powerful enough to pose a threat to MY listening preferences I would feel compelled to take actions to expose it for what it is. It is this perception (threat) that makes atheists as hard to get along with as they are. Just like people of religion, they have their own narratives (some of which are very valid) about why religion is often a bad thing for society.

When humans perceive a threat, whether of the more frivolous kind like audio formats, or of the more substantial kind like religion and/or way of life…well…we all see every day what happens. It’s so common we accept the battle as an everyday part of our culture. Differences like these are unlikely to ever be settled. Some may fade in importance, but once people have chosen, they are not likely to be proven wrong, even when the evidence may be overwhelming. Accepting that people will defend their beliefs can inform us of the best ways to engage with them. You can chip away at someone’s perceptions slowly, from the edges, but if you attack head-on you will meet significant resistance.

A force manifests when it meets a resistance. Attacks provoke defense. Bend, without fear of breaking. Listen first with intent to understand. Whisper and you’ll be heard.



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