In the early years of work we are obsessed, so obsessed with tools that they become the focus of our attention.  The desire to acquire the best tools, to master them and use them drives us forward.  So much so that we over use them.  We over process sounds in order to make them “ours.” We pan too many sounds, use too much artificial reverb, remove so much of the noise that we take the life out of what isn’t noise.

It’s interesting, I think, that twenty or thirty years into our careers our obsession with tools has usually waned, especially those of us lucky enough to have become somewhat successful.  We use fewer tools.  We spend much less time thinking about them.  No doubt part of the reason is that we eventually have assistants who can do our tool obsessing for us.  But I think that’s a minor reason.

The major reason is that our ears have learned to serve us better.  Instead of being intent on controlling everything with our gadgets we get better at knowing what needs and doesn’t need to be manipulated.  Maybe even more important, we get better at hearing the sounds coming from behind us.  I’m not talking about the surrounds.  I mean our clients, our collaborators.  We hear more clearly what they say, and sense better what they don’t say but nevertheless feel, and want.

The ear is a tool worthy of obsession at every point in our careers.

4 thoughts

  1. As time goes on in my young (14 year) career, I’m finding also that I’m more interested in creating emotion than I am creating the coolest sound. I’m also learning more from collaborating directors and picture editors than I ever thought possible. I’m finding that the strangest and often “wrong” requests lead down a path of discovery and bloom into something truly unique. These experiences are so much more fulfilling…

  2. I fondly remember when I, like the child that I was, invented my tools based upon my imagination. Then as we moved from the analogue world into digital, there came the tool makers bearing gifts that promised to make our work easier so that we had more time to create. What we got instead was lots of tinkering and thinking and not listening. I find myself more often than not reaching for my imagination to direct me towards the sounds that I hear in my head and how to realize them. No self driving automobiles here.

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