Gear Porn For People Tired Of Gear Porn
November 17, 2008
Okay, so everyone loves to hear about gear. We all like to comment on what gear works for us, read about how other people work, yell at one another about how So And So is a genius because he uses Monitor Brand A whereas Such And Such is obviously a cloth-eared moron because he uses Monitor Brand B, and so on. So when a whole bunch of gearheads get together on stage and someone points a camera at them, the results can be kinda scary...
For years now, I've been coordinating an electronic and experimental music festival in Arizona called Different Skies. This annual festival gathers about 20 musicians to create and perform new music for an appreciative audience; everyone comes with rigs ranging from the lean and mean to the truly gigantic, and folks link into the site from all over the world to drool over the movies made of all the pretty toys with the blinky lights. You can find a couple of examples here (2007, an FLV file that needs a Flash player) and here and here (2005 and 2006, both QuickTime movies), but be warned: these are very long movies and absolutely HUGE downloads.
This past year, though, was different than previous years in that I recommended strongly that participants carefully limit what gear they brought. My motives were many. First off, I wanted people to have a tighter focus on what they'd be playing and how they'd play it, rather than wallowing in so many options. Second, I wanted to avoid a common problem with new arrivals, what we call First-Timer Gear Syndrome—a new DS participant has no idea what he or she will be doing or how to fit in, and so he or she tries to cover ALL contingencies, and brings a backbreaking pile of gear that ends up never getting used. And third, as evidenced by this 2004 photo by Giles Reaves, I was pretty desperate to keep Rus Foster under control:
Where was I? Oh yes... anyway, this year the rigs were lean and mean, and as a result, when it came time to actually create the gear-porn video that people on the Internet were clamoring for, we took an ever so slightly different approach, one realized delightfully by Nick Rothwell.
Have a look (and be warned, if you're faint of heart—there is one F-bomb in the soundtrack). And if the video embed doesn't work, click on the caption to be taken to the video site directly.
There, that wasn't quite so tedious, was it?
The funny thing about this video, to me anyway, was the utterly stonefaced response we got from the people who usually drool over this stuff. "That's not funny." Well, sure it is. We are, in fact, making fun of the people who completely overlook the music being made and go straight to the boxes making the music... the sort of people who, when confronted with a live electronic music show where someone actually jumps down from his keyboard position in the middle of a song to change the tape rack inside a Mellotron, rush the stage and watch!
I'm sorry, but I find that absolutely hysterical. I know that people's curiosity about the gear we use is legitimate and that they hope to learn from what we've done... at least I'd like to think so... but when the downloads of the gear porn video outweigh by a factor of two or three any attempts to even listen to the music, there's a problem.
Do I have a point in all this? I think it's pretty simple: enjoy the boxes that make the music, but don't lose sight of the music... and don't disrespect the music because of how it's made.
As a case in point, just last night a very good friend of mine had to eat his words when he adored a composition by someone who was using gear he didn't approve of... but that's a topic for another blog.
Oh, and if you do want to hear at least some of the music that came out of this gear pile, you'll have to wait a couple of months before the 2008 releases are ready, but you can check CD Baby for a purchasable album made from the 2007 performance (should be available soon) and an album of excerpts from 2004 (here). There are also a couple of free downloadable albums of the 2007 jam sessions and a link to a purchasable DVD of jam sessions from 2004 mixed with computer visuals here. It's not for everyone, but we had fun doing it and we hope you like it too.
And yeah, the gear was cool, but mainly because it got us to the music.
PS: The picture at the top of this blog entry (taken by Jim Combs) shows the most expensive add-on for the iPhone currently available: a Minimoog, whose audio inputs and filters were used to process a music app from the iPhone during the concert. Beat that, gear whores.