Wayne Wadhams on Technology, Art, and Life
In his tribute to Wayne Wadhams at Berklee's third annual Opening Day, Stephen Croes, dean of the Music Technology Division, share advice given by the late music production and engineering professor, excerpted from a Greek website following the release of his book, Inside the Hits.
Technology is a wonderful thing. The tools of any craft have always provided great motivation to true artists in all ages, places, epochs, cultures, and media. Working with tools, and applying them to the raw materials of which art is made—from stone and paper to ink, paint, film, tape or data—nurtures a charismatic bond between the artist and his or her goals, hopefully leading to a satisfying product.
Thus, learning to master one's toolset becomes one with developing the expressive potential to stir the soul and emotions of other human beings. Only when the craftsman become a virtuoso with his toolkit, no longer thinking about how to use them for expression, but focussing only on what is to be expressed, does craft become real art.
In that way, making art is an act of love. Love of the process, the raw materials, tools, and love of the product that was only a concept, but now exists in real time and space; able to convey that love to others, to help them realize the love within themselves, and to touch the common heart that beats in all humans.
We are all one—that is what every great work of art proclaims. My joys and sorrows are identical to yours, and his, hers and theirs, from one edge of the earth to the other, from the scribe of ancient Egypt to the astronaut sending us images of earth, full-scale, from the International Space Station. Only the toolkits of each are different—hardware and software—from environment and culture to language, raw materials, and the artist's creative inferface.
But technology is not life itself. It is no replacement for the great deeds recorded on papyrus, or seeing the earth from the Space Station, feeling the wind against the face, the waves against the chest, the ecstasy of love or the pain of torturous illness or an untimely death. Technology, no matter how cutting edge or well-tooled, is only the mirror by which the artist reflects life onto the blank canvas, or focuses its image into stone, paint, or music.
Thus, the truest advice I can give to all who love to be overtaken by creating or confronting great art . . . is to drench oneself in the torrent of life. You can't feel or express deep compassion without experiencing tragic loss, or know the intoxication of a first love without being the lover and loved in such a giddy whirlwind. Seek out the extremes, the calms between storms, the violent opposites, the corners and crevices of your own life and the lives of those around you. Suffer a defeat, knowing that will sweeten a coming triumph. Even the Pharoah's priests knew that "Shadow gives Light its splendor."
So devour and conquer the best and most current technology available to you, whether it be in music or sculpture. Know where your toolkit comes from—and how great artists have achieved miracles with virtually no tools at hand. Then, when life confronts you point blank, shakes you like a leaf in a hurricane—and you survive to relate the experience—you will be equipped to do so in the most emphatic and powerful form possible.