In a previous post I wrote about the importance of planning and execution in the creative fields. It’s something I’m a really an advocate of; simply because I’ve seen what a shame it is when good music is lost or ruined because of or bad planning; or when an audience misses out on what they came to experience from a live event.
In the field of music there many different functions and roles that need to exist in order for it to be enjoyed as an art form. In the creative triangle the artists themselves are directed by producers as well as supported by engineers. Engineers are supported by technicians. Onlookers would probably differentiate these roles by saying that there is a scale with creative on one side and technical on the other. Although very true, I do believe no one is completely one or the other. There is an enormous amount of technicality in being a musician and there is an equal amount of creativity needed to be a technician. The lines seem to blur at the boundaries of each role and many people wear multiple hats.
I wanted to focus very briefly on the relationship and distinctions between producer, engineer and technician. I think there is a lot to learn from this creative-technical trio and the parallels between them and other creative fields. At one end of the scale the producer, having incredible vision and attention to detail, directs the creative energy of the band or artists into a tangible finished work of art. At the other end, the technician rigs and sometimes operates equipment to capture this art accurately- solving any technical problems as they occur. Placed in the middle the engineer interprets and executes creative vision using technical equipment.
This is an important balance that exists in many different fields. Any one of these three people could be operating a mixing desk for a 30 second snapshot but their processes would probably be different, as well as their motives. The similarities are the same in other roles such as the difference between graphic designers, illustrators, and fine artists. While its true that the sound engineer isn’t usually released with creative control until he has mastered his technical tools, many would agree that developing a good ear is harder to teach and technical ability can always be learnt and developed.
Above this linear scale picture a third point sitting equidistantly above the other two. This point is the pinnacle of the triangle and it’s titled ‘people‘. If you look at the website of any good production company, they will all claim that their people are their greatest asset. All art is made for people and by people.
It’s people who direct and enhance it and it’s people who distribute it. It is people who are focused, innovative, committed to the work of their hands and adept at solving all kinds of problems; delivering the extra that is needed where technology cannot. Amidst the insight of creativity and the function of technology it’s people that we work alongside to make it happen. Often at ridiculous times of the day and with long hours. We keep a good attitude as we work alongside one another and the only reason that we do what we do (deep down) is the impact we know it will have- on people!
To produce anything effectively it’s first necessary to define how it will make the end user feel and so without this focus on the audience that receives it, there can be no valid standard of quality. A good engineer is a connoisseur of experience and taste. His judgment is there to be trusted but he also knows that he is in a partnership with his audience.
“ I’m a freelance sound engineer based in Nottingham. I am also an avid lover of photography and visual art, known for taking a lot of photos of my work and seeing systems and the many technical aspects of my job visibly and creatively- as opposed to purely numbers and data. I walk the fine line between being both technical and creative.”
[Photography: © Aston Fearon 2011]
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