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Forget Autonomy, Forget Learning – We Can Think For You!14 Nov 11

We’ve all been there… Sat in the back of the car driving round and round in circles because your driver refuses to listen to you over the seductive, dulcet tones of the SatNav. “I know the way home” you’re thinking. “THIS IS THE WRONG WAY!!!” You’ve tried to tell them but they just won’t listen. Is it fear of the unknown? Or is it simply the unwillingness to actively engage the brain? What makes an otherwise intelligent and fully functioning adult trust a little gadget over their fellow sentient beings?

While I admit it’s a long way from some kind of Phillip K. Dick-esque dystopian future – human beings, stripped of the ability to think for themselves and question authority, are subjugated under the all powerful control of the “Pear Shiny and Ingenious Little Gadget Company” – there is an undeniable trend towards the “bare minimum” approach to anything that requires the engaging of intellectual effort.

Don’t get me wrong; that we live in an age when we have a whole world of information at our fingertips is truly a blessing. We have a portal of learning available to all such as has never been seen in the history of mankind. But perversely, the thing that makes this virtual wonderworld so golden is also its Achilles heal… The whole internet is, for the most part, unregulated and often unsubstantiated.

These days you could be forgiven for thinking that you can skip out years of learning, training and experience and become whatever you want to be simply be absorbing reams of opinionated ravings masquerading as informed debate on discussion forums and digesting hours of “how to“ videos by self-styled “experts” on Youtube.

Want to know the definitive answer (compete with scientific proof and technical expertise) to that most persistent of nagging questions: “which is best, analog or digital?”… Just search it in gearslutz or soundonsound for the conclusive answer. See you next year!

Want to learn how to mix a Hip Hop track? You could start at the bottom, working for months and months as a teaboy to get your foot in the door at a studio, making sure you spend all your time paying attention to what the engineer is doing, until one day you seize your opportunity with the appropriate zeal when the assistant goes sick. You impress the engineer so much with your professional attitude and unexpected aptitude for the job, you find you’ve somehow worked your way to a paid position as assistant. Hungry for more you spend hours and hours in the studio on downtime, applying what you’ve learned to mixing the studio’s current projects simply for yourself, until one day, years later, a big client hears your mix accidentally and is so blown away they insist on it being picked for the track’s release. Congratulations! You are now a mix engineer!

Or you could just do what this bloke says:

How to mix a rap vocal from "expert" village

Of course, on the internet, everyone’s an expert, and although there are sites out there that offer fantastic in depth advice and expertise (see Matthew Weiss’ fantastic article http://theproaudiofiles.com/mixing-rap-vocals/ for a much better example) the fact is that without a basic grounding through education and/or real life experience, it’s difficult for the enthusiastic novice to know where to turn and who to trust. When the SatNav tells you to drive into the North Sea to get from Croydon to Nunhead, common sense usually kicks back in, and this is something we must apply to information from the internet also, but telling the charlatans apart from the bona fide guru’s is a job in itself, and those looking for miraculous short cuts are likely to find themselves ill-equipped for the future.



x1 Comment to “Forget Autonomy, Forget Learning – We Can Think For You!”

  1. Matthew Weiss says:

    Very nice article – and thanks for compliment on mine!

    The reality is that even when you get solid information from a reputable source, you STILL have to try it for yourself. Never just assume anything works for you. Experimentation is KEY to learning anything. I’ve had students and former assistants come back to me and show me a better way to do something I initially showed them!

    The REAL secret to becoming a great engineer is to facilitate the artist’s and/or producer’s vision. Engineers that get hung up on personal opinions as to how something “should” sound tend to fail – face down in the dirt style. Engineers that seek to foster what the artist wants to hear and put that into the best light succeed.


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