Limitation is good
Just three days to work, a flimsy Shure 58 mic, a soundcard lighter than a pack of cigarettes, a noisy hotel room and a laptop with less RAM than my hand has fingers.
These were the conditions under which I was expected to deliver 15 minutes of purely vocal music for a videomapping event at the Biennale in Dakar, to be blasted just three days later over a massive sound system in front of a crowd of 1,500-2,000 people.
Finely condescending à l'Europèene? To my chagrin, that too...
But three very intense and immensely pleasurable days of work in Dakar will change you. Not only did I have to suck it up and go with whatever there was available, but in fact I thrived in the limitation!
You can spend so much time complaining about the conditions not being right, the technical equipment faltering, the room in which you're recording boxy, the mouse not fitting your hand, the chair being too hard... that you forget you're supposed to shut up and get on with it.
I'm not sure if it was the fascinating stoicism of the African spirit -you will never see a Senegalese complain or whine like a skinny white European such as me- but I quickly realised there was nothing else to do but work with what was available. And to my surprise, I quickly realised you can make music you're extremely proud of (as I am of "Guelowar") with as little equipment as possible.
Yes, I missed my condenser mics, my preamps, my trackball mouse, my plugins, my Cubase key commands, computer screen #2... but very soon into the work, I realised it was fine to go without all the glitzy tools. Im theory, if you're good at what you do, you should be able to do it right, whatever the circumstances.
I had to make music on a school chair that broke halfway through, in a hotel room shared with another two people who constantly came in and out, a cyclical cleaning lady schedule, bloody birds chirping everywhere, roadworks next door, a hotel guest complaining about the noise I was making, a few power cuts and a last-minute bout of diarrhea (sorry, but it's the truth).
And yet, I probably came up with the best work I had ever done to date. I rode the circumstance, carved my way through the limitation and came out more independent, braver and most importantly, more humble.
I don't think you have to go to Africa to learn that (although I hihgly recommend it), but it certainly taught me a lesson.
Anyone interested in buying a few condenser mics I won't be needing anymore?Go back to Blog