Thursday, January 3, 2013

Everything Old Is New Again

There's nothing new under the sun. That quote goes way back to the Old Testament. Since then we've seen the advent of all sorts of new and interesting things. But really, it's all been done. As much as something revolutionizes travel or communication or information or music, it's really only just another notch in the endless wheel of time. I don't want to get too philosophical but I've had some ideas about going backwards to go forwards that I wanted to get out. This doesn't just apply to musicians. I'm talking to the techs and the mix engineers too.

I think one of the best ways to come up with something new and interesting is to revisit something from two or more generations ago. Take anything, long hair on guys, the tightness or looseness of jeans, how we like our music mixed, it all pretty much goes back and forth every few years. It's almost a binary system. Except for the sheer brilliance of the human mind that makes each new iteration not just a do over but something that's somehow new and interesting. When big sideburns became fashionable again a few years back they're somehow very now and instantly recognizable as the current iteration of the fad and not the big burns of the 1970s or Elizabethan England.

So here's how this happens in our little area of expertise. Kids grow up on a certain kind of music. It becomes ingrained in them at a critical time in their life. Then they go on and music changes. Eventually they find themselves in the driver's seat, either as musicians or technicians. Their minds go back to those formative years and tweeze out the best elements of the music they loved and weave it in to something new.

Take a look at recorded music in a very general sense. In the 1950s everything was very raw but so exciting. As palettes became refined and technology and technique improved things got steadily slicker. Eventually it got so slick that in order to be different things had to go back to being raw. So the raw excitement was there again but in a more sophisticated environment where people are able to decide what's gritty and what's a little more polished. Rinse and repeat through garage rock and punk in the 1970s, through the highly polished rock and pop of the 1980s, the grunge movement took it back the other way, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

I said all that to say this Brethren of the Knob and Fader. If you're stuck for inspiration go back a decade or so and see if you can remember what was great about music and the way it was made. Then skip over another generation and look again. Keep going back as far as you like and then bring the very best bits with you when you sit down to work.

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