September 29, 2009

Digital Similarities

So those of you who know me know that I used to produce digital music ... techno ... or attempt to :-) It was basically a four-year process/ordeal where I tried way too hard to create music with the goal of DJing it out, getting a song signed to a label, or something along those lines. I gave it up in late 2007 right before I moved to China for various reasons, one of them being I was finding I was having to force myself to sit down at the computer and do it. I gave it up and haven't stressed out about it since.

Now I find myself getting more and more into digital photography. I downloaded a thirty-day trial of this program called Adobe Lightroom, which is essentially a digital darkroom (hence the product name) for raw image data from your camera. e.g. it gives you lots of control over how the image turns out. It also features an extensive "asset management" system, which is a fancy way of saying it helps you organize and categorize your photos to find them easier later or to share w/others (via a slideshow, web album, etc). It's such an intuitive and easy-to-use program. I opened it for the first time last week and began touching up some of my existing photos; I was able to see the results immediately, which was great positive feedback and led to me using it more and more over the weekend. I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy it when my trial period is up. Unlike a lens, it is useful in a variety of situations :-)

Then this weekend I was working in the program when I realized how similar the light histogram was to a parametric EQ. They literally are the same thing -- a graphic representation of how your photo/sound is composed of different frequencies (of light or of sound, it doesn't matter which), and which you use to adjust the particular frequency content of your material. From there a tumble of realizations came out. The whole process is the same! You generate some input data (either a picture from a camera or a sound from a synthesizer or sampler), fire up a software program or two to tweak and arrange it, combine it with others, get it just how you like it, and then you have the output data which you share with other people.

So I started thinking, why do I feel so good about photography whereas music was a struggle? Probably several reasons:
  • I've been practicing the process for generating pictures (photography) for the past few years, whereas I had to learn how to generate sound all from scratch, and all at once.
  • I'm a visual person, and viewing photographs comes more intuitively to me than listening to music.
  • I get more immediate positive feedback from photography, because I see the faces and places that I shoot and that triggers memories.
  • Pictures are more easily accessible to your average person than a techno track :-) Which means I can share photos with everyone, the whole world, whereas w/music the only people who really cared were other friends of mine who were techno DJs.
  • I am coming to this on my own terms (more naturally/holistically) instead of the rush & stress I put myself through w/digital music (e.g. get rich & famous as a techno DJ). In fact the whole reason I bought this laptop was to make music! How quickly that went away, haha.
  • I tried to do way too much too quickly w/digital music. I tried to not only learn how to generate and shape sounds, but also how to arrange them into a cohesive track. That is a REALLY complicated task; you're talking music theory and sound engineering at the same time, both of which are pretty advanced topics for your average lazy bastard (me :-)
  • Photography is a very social activity; you're out in the world, taking pictures of people and places and things. W/digital music you're stuck sitting at a computer for hours a day -- it's only when you have a finished product that you get to share it in a social environment (at a gig).
  • It takes a good 5 minutes to listen to a song and decide if you like it. Whereas w/a photo I pretty much know instantly -- I have a strong gut reaction to photos & other pieces of visual art that I like.
It's been a pretty interesting realization. I discussed it with some friends and they see what I'm talking about. So who knows. Maybe I will pick up digital music again someday. But for right now I'm having too much fun with photography :-) But I can occasionally combine the two, as in this photo I took at a rave last Saturday (and subsequently edited in Lightroom):


I really like the way that one turned out.


bluegiraffe said...

I'm looking forward to seeing some of the results you come up with! BTW, I know for a fact that you are neither "lazy" nor a "bastard." :)

Megan M. said...

Oooh. Neat!