We have gone full circle or rather we are going in circles. Yes, analogue vs digital argument is back on the menu and I am going to serve it with utmost care to send my message in a clear and respectful manner. I lately had a sleepless night and couldn’t help but think over this old as digital age argument. I have almost put all my digital equipment on eBay the next day but something has held me back and I think I won’t be doing it just yet…
There is a number of people out there that hold on to their vinyl records and film cameras with pretty solid reasons despite of being slashed on gear forums (oasis for procrastination btw) for not moving on and being scolded hipsters. There is something about analogue gear that makes it sound or look different, more organic if you will. Now, why is that? I guess it is down to imperfections that analogue equipment provides us with. Vinyl records crack with dust sitting on the surface, tapes hiss in the background, old photos are grainy and often colours are somewhat washed out, providing that they are not black and white. That seems to remind us of the human element behind it. Let’s face it, we are not perfect in any way, we make mistakes and thus we cannot really create anything that comes really close to perfect. Now, that is a good thing in my opinion. If you compare a drummer bashing his drums on a gig, speeding up and mishitting sometimes, to drums created in MIDI environment, the MIDI lacks life. Programming the perfect loop within this environment, with every note being hit where it needs to at the same velocity, will create a lifeless, boring loop that you are unlikely to nod your head to. Same comes to quality of it, digital in its perfection seems to be so sterile that it can only remind me of a hospital, and that is by no means a positive association.
What proves to be a trend these days, it is to try emulating analogue gear in digital world. Plugins and filters that will make your photographs look like they were shot on film (i.e. Instagram, but there is plenty more out there) or make your recording “warmer” with tape emulation. Or, looking at our drums, it will randomize volume and timing of each hit. At the end of the day it is only emulation and not exactly “the real deal”. Even if we get to the point where there is no difference between the real analogue output and the emulated one, why bother? Isn’t that going in circles and coming back to the same thing again?
Anyway, where I would like to head with this is that we should embrace that imperfection and not strive for immaculate effects of our work as this tends to hold us back from real productivity. I have recently read (unfortunately at this moment I cannot find the article but promise to link it if I come across it again) about a painter who, even after his work was already on a display in a museum, he would sneak in with a brush to make some corrections on it until he got caught by security. It seems to me that this is the common pattern in creative work these days. We leave our projects sitting at home/studio as they are not ready and we are sure that we can still improve them and make them somewhat better before we can show them to the world (or even worse, we wait till the new rumoured product is to be announced before we get down to work, as if the new toy was to provide us with some magical inspiration). I am sure this is the case, but this will hold you back with your productivity. What we really need to do is to, once the project is finished to our best ability at THAT time, call it a day and move on to the next one. Only this way we can keep improving. Now, I know that a real artist will never be satisfied with his or her work, but that doesn’t mean that we should keep our works to ourselves and continuously improve them as we learn new skills. Only moving on and completing as many projects as you can will ensure constant progress (kaizen!) and I think setting yourself on a deadline with each project that you set off to do can help.
Do not strive for perfection as that will never happen. Things can always be improved but it is the lack of some of the improvements that will actually add value to your work. Take this article for instance, it could be so much better and have more insights if I left it sitting on my computer for another month, but then I would have 1 article finished (it still wouldn’t be perfect) instead of 3. Some of you might say that is all about quality, not quantity. I say it is about BOTH. Most noticed artists are noticed because of their BODY OF WORK and not only one piece – food for thought and I will leave you with this for now.