11
Sep
07

capability

My arts require tools.  And fussing over tools makes their users neurotic.  It’s almost amazing to me how photographers will nerd on about tiny differences in lenses, or guitarists will argue endlessly over which boutique copy of a Tube Screamer is best.  And to some extent, these tiny, almost unquantifiable details are important – I firmly believe that humans can often sense things they can’t measure (actually, the delusion that “If I can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” is one of my biggest pet peeves when dealing with the junction of technology and aesthetics).

But that’s not what I set out to talk about.  I wanted to talk about capability.  If our tools cannot do the minimum required for a given task, then we can’t do the task, period.  For example, I do a lot of low-light photography.  If I don’t have a lens of sufficiently large aperture and a camera/film of sufficiently high sensitivity, I simply cannot take the photos I want to take. 

For some time now, I’ve stuggled with a limitation in my recording studio.  I could only record two tracks at a time.  Now, through clever reuse of stuff I had combined with spending a bit of money I couldn’t really afford, I can record four tracks at a time.  That’s a new capability.  It means I can do more “live” recording of small groups with close miking, and balance instruments afterward in the mix.  It’s a nice improvement, and I hope to take advantage of it this week.

Changing our capabilities, as opposed to refining our existing tools, is something artists should consider more.

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