The title comes from an amusing site regarding the first reactions high society had for “talkies”, namely, movies with sound. Entertain yourself while silently bewildering at how similar they sound to modern day critics decrying any new thing, ever: Move History: Talkies in the 1930s. Here’s the full quote by some British journalist who probably wore a monocle:
“The majority of films in the future will be made stupidly for stupid people, just has been the case with the silent movies for twenty years…It is possible that a few talking pictures of an interesting, experimental sort will be made to be shown before superior audiences in the small and special cinemas which are beginning to be built in the larger American cities.”
I looked this up because, while watching Some Like It Hot today, it occurred to me that, while sound took over in essentially one year, black and white films were made for decades after they became “obsolete”, and are still made today for a variety of reasons. But, when color pictures came out, they were much better received than were the talkies. It led me to believe that the harsher the outcry to a certain change, the bigger the change may be, and therefore one can predict the coming of an artistic black swan based on the fury it meets in the upper castes of those who have already made a name for themselves in the old way. That, plus the recent unveiling of the LinnStrument prototype (vid at the bottom of this post) reminded me of this:
We now know how idiotic this fad was, but back in the day it was a different story. I spent a lot of time defending electronic music when I was in middle/high school, and of course now I spend all my time marveling that people were surprised when ProTools took over.
If you look closely at the above image, you’ll see a phone number listed along the bottom. And, low and behold, it’s 323! When I had first moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I noticed this, and of course called it immediately. I think the guy I talked to was named John. Here’s roughly how our conversation went:
Paul: Hi, I saw your number on a bumper sticker.
J: Oh, hello! Are you a musican?
P: Yes, I’m a singer and electronic musician.
You might think that he would be crestfallen, but actually was very open to converse, which was a welcome surprise.
J: Oh, I see. So… you don’t want one?
P: No, I actually had a question for you.
J: Hey buddy, this better be an honest question. I get a lot of flack for those stickers.
P: It’s something I really want to ask you, and I promise it’s real.
J: Okay then, shoot.
P: What do you say to the statement that a drum set doesn’t have a soul either? Any soul in music comes from the human playing, regardless of the instrument.
After he stopped reeling, to his credit, he gave me a thoughtful answer and I’ve always remembered it:
J: Now, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be electronic music. What I’m saying is that, well, I’m a pianist. Have been for thirty years. And I’ve spent my whole life learning to play, but now you can use these little computers to make something that sounds worse, but they’re easier to use. I just want people to remember to not always take the easy way out.
So, you see? He thought drum machines meant that all future music would be made stupidly for stupid people. Here’s my thing: The only thing inaccurate about that sentence is the assumption that it isn’t already being made that way in the present. The world will never be bereft of color, talkies, popcorn action flicks, some new-fangled 3D technology, and there will never, ever be an end to mindless club music and Nickelback motherfriggin’ DJ Tiesto. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is, and the way it’s got to be.
Hell, this is from the guy who really liked Step Up 3D (I’m sorry, I’m a sucker for anything with lasers and breakdancing). Innovation is innovation, no matter what mask it wears. Most people prefer mindless entertainment because most of the world is really, really tired, and if you step outside your doorstep for two seconds you cannot even remotely blame them. Shame on you, if you’re reading this through a monocle, for judging. Learn to not think for a while. Go dance to Gaga. Trust me, it’ll do you wonders.
The point of this entry is, any new innovation that scares you is a good thing. Not “even”, but especially if it’s some “stupid” new gimmick. There will always be more stupid than anything else in this life. You must not be afraid of the stupid. Embrace the stupid. You live in a stupid world, so if you avoid the stupid, how the hell do you ever expect to get good at living in it? If you’re afraid of the dark, you go spelunking. If you’re afraid of water, you learn to surf. And if you’re afraid of a drum machine, fucking go buy one — analog, with no MIDI ports — and learn how to use it immediately. Go download Auto-Tune. Watch Glee (for as long as you can stand, at least).
Do not fall into the trap of shying away from some new technology just because it’s new or popular. Be on the lookout for the next big talkie. I do these things, because I’ve got to know. I just have to know where my next big inspiration will come from, because you can bet your ass it ain’t gonna come from where I thought it would. Hell, Squarepusher performed his first live song recorded entirely into a freaking Boss DR-660! Now there’s a Brit who, if you gave him a monocle, would probably use it to pluck a bass string.
At the very worst you’ll know your enemy, and at the very best you’ll realize that you can find as much soul in the push of a button as you can in a million dollar corporate sound studio hanging onto a pair of drumsticks for dear life.
Because, hey buddy: There’s soul everywhere.
Roger Linn Previews New LinnStrument Prototype from Turnstyle Video on Vimeo.