I was in beautiful Long Beach, CA, last weekend, to mix the new IJG album with the inimitable Chris Schlarb, who is also producing. I will have more to say about the specifics of this collaboration soon (I first hinted at it here), but for the time being let me say that the trip was fantastic (contrary to what you might think, I actually miss southern California sometimes), and I'm very excited by the work we got done and the shape the record appears to be taking. (The working genre description we came away with was "demented dance music" -- but don't hold me to that.)
Anyway, Chris works in Logic, which is unfamiliar to me. At one point, while I was observing him expertly fly through a rapid sequence of mixing moves, I was also completely lost as to what exactly he was doing. And so I allowed myself a momentary daydream about how records might be mixed in the future (say, fifty years from now).
At that point, I surmised, engineers will be able to plug their brains directly in to a given track, performing fades, EQ adjustments, quick edits, compression, and other processing, at will, and in real time. The music and all its characteristics will be represented by a hall-of-mirror-esque array of floating holographic screens that can be physically manipulated in the air around the engineer's head -- but the real key will be his or her total neural integration into the track. (Don't ask me why, but I found that to be a fairly compelling -- though not necessarily appealing -- concept.) The mix itself will become a kind of performance, almost to the point where the end result (the record) doesn't matter so much.
Or so I imagined. A few hours later, reading a bit of my Fellini book before heading off to bed, I came across this passage:
My greatest advantage in working at Cinecitta [a Roman film studio] is the freedom I have to direct my own way. Like a silent-film director, I talk to my actors as they perform their parts in front of the camera. Sometimes the actor doesn't even know what he's supposed to say, or the script has been changed too much at the last minute for him to have learned the lines, so I have to tell him his lines while the camera is rolling. [Fellini overdubbed all his dialogue later.] Obviously, in Hollywood with microphones this would be impossible. I would need a telepathic medium to communicate my last-minute instructions to the actors.
Interesting. Though I am big on the notion of collaboration, sometimes I think art can be defined as an attempt at (or desire for) total obsessiveness by a single author, who directs everything from a centralized location -- not unlike an air traffic controller or a juggler.
(Also, I promise not to keep quoting Fellini forever on this blog.)