The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


READ: An Essay By The Sonic Aesthetic
The Quietus , April 10th, 2013 11:11

The Sonic Aesthetic, aka house producer Mark Barrott, pens us an essay on why we should unplug and log out (news ed: ...but not from the Quietus)

Freedom From Choice (or less is the new more)

"We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness." (Tom Waits)

We're at a point where, as individuals and collectively, we need to take a long hard look at the 'Work, Consume, Die' mentality of the past 30 years. It isn't working (just like the 'XYZ Company' on the Stock Market that's expected to grow every year isn't either - whatever happened to community, empathy and… localisation?) and whilst we now all think we're oh so cool n' clever tastemakers sifting through this uber, massive overkill of information and making individual, informed choices, we're not… in the main we're being deliberately and stealthily 'guided' down one way corridors, all with the 'consume' door at the end of them and we have to ask ourselves if this supposed massive 'freedom of choice' is a) actually real and b) actually healthy to our creative expression, happiness and freedom as individuals.

Perhaps the one (brave) decision we all need to take to really maintain our own individuality (and sanity) is what could be called 'freedom from choice' - the decision to step back from this information overload, strip back in all areas of our life and stop feeding the 'globalisation consumer machine' for short term non-sustainable gratification - I'm not advocating a return to the dark ages (dial-up modems) but making a personal decision to use all the lessons and information of the past 30 years in a way that will actually make us happier and more creative and fulfilled day to day (and perhaps give us more time to think and enjoy - wait for it - silence and space). In fact, that should be a modern definition of nostalgia - a time when phones only rang at home and taxi drivers knew where they were going without smothering us in a deluge of electro-navigation.

As my 'job' is the making of music, I want therefore, to relate this 'philosophy' to the practicality of how it's impacted my music production (i.e. my creative expression), as it's a perfect analogy for life in general (but then I would say that).

Since moving from a studio with perfect acoustics to an old finca with terrible acoustics, I've been forced to work in headphones and after a few weeks of coming up with mixes so shit it sounded like I'd regressed 20 years in my music making, I, quite by chance (?), figured out that in order to get a great sounding piece of music, it had to be very simple - a few parts, each strong in its own right, no waste, no excess, no fat (unlike all those impulse Amazon and iTunes purchases and billion plugins that sit on my hard drive).

It reminded me of when I first had a half decent home studio in the 1990's - everything had to be saved for and bought (no VST's then) and then learnt inside out - there was not the infinite software options of today, so you really had to 'learn a craft' and not just flick from computer program to computer program, never really learning anything and that meant concentration (look at recent studies about how most people's concentration has dropped to alarming levels, along with their use of language - ah, the death of oral history… another disaster 4 U !) and the need to innovate your actual workflow in order to squeeze the most of out the least. The process (or journey) is, in itself, becoming a forgotten joy.

As Oscar Wilde said: "What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

So, what am I saying? Well, that by limiting the choices you have available to you (in whatever area of your life), there's a strong chance that you'll actually boost your creativity and make your newly 'limited' life more exciting as a result (as well as being totally subversive in this day and age, which, for the contrarians amongst us, is a thrill in itself).

Do infinite options make for better music… does infinite choice really make you happier ?

Plough your own furrow and give yourself the ultimate gift… the time to think, dream and shut off the fucking noise for a while.

The Sonic Aesthetic is set to release his forthcoming EP New Districts via his own label, also called The Sonic Aesthetic. For more details, head to Barrott's blog here.