Can Less be More?

Once again, I’m in an airport on my way home from a trip to an event, in this case the ProLight and Sound event in Frankfurt. I took the chance to also check in with clients so I’m sitting in Düsseldorf airport. Somehow, the team managed to get the issues done despite my erratic availability this week, so thanks to them!
ProLight and Sound is a good event that covers the AV and rental market in Germany. There are lots of LED display makers and even more, it seemed to me, that were showing lighting. There are competitions to give prizes for the best audio video presentations in lighting, so there is always a lot of noise (and plenty of parties for later in the day!). The show runs alongside the MusikMesse, known as the European equivalent of the US NAMM show, but nowhere near as big. I read that the musical instrument market is in some trouble (Gibson Guitars, for example, is hanging on by its fingernails). It seems that young people are not so keen on spending hours working away to learn to play real instruments, these days.
It’s bizarre, really. When I was learning to play guitar as a teenager, it was next to impossible to find information about techniques, equipment or playing styles. It’s said that BB King, the blues guitarists, developed his renowned ‘finger vibrato’ because he didn’t realise that players were using metal or glass slides to get the effect. Jazz guitarist, Martin Taylor, has a phenomenal fingerstyle technique, partly because when he started to learn, he didn’t realise that on some of his favourite records there were two or three guitarists, so he taught himself to cover all the parts!
Now, you can go onto Youtube and the internet and find, it seems, almost anything you need in the way of information on how to play. There are free lessons, analysis and transcriptions showing exactly how all your favourite pieces are played. However, that doesn’t seem to help to develop the art.
It somehow seems that truly great art is often achieved with limited resources, rather than with a lot. I’m reminded of an Irish musician, Packie Byrne, that I saw in the early 1970s (it seems he died in 2015 at 98). He sang and played the ‘penny whistle’ and just before I saw him, someone had stolen his collection of whistles, so had be forced to buy cheap commercial whistles to replace some that he had acquired over many years (and folk singing was not a well paid profession). Despite this considerable handicap, he had me close to tears with some of his airs. True artistry.
Ooops, I seem to have wandered off the display topic – I blame the glass of riesling with dinner at the airport! However, these thoughts are a reminder that it’s the content and performance that is the key to great art, not neccesarily the technology. For example, modern games have stunning graphics in high resolution and with HDR and WCG. However, it’s a real question as to whether the experience is any more compelling than earlier games.

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