where the writers are
Technology and Art

I have certain treasured shots which I never want to delete from my camera. I treasure them not just for the subject but how well they turned out. They are shots where everything turned out just right--the lighting, the background, the subject's pose. And I have to admit I can't take much credit for them. These were happy accidents. I wasn't aware of how beautifully the water was spraying behind her when I took that shot of my daughter at a pool party. I didn't even tell her to smile, she was just so happy and the whole picture came out beautifully with little effort on my part.

At the concerts I recently attended, I was amazed at the quality of sound I could hear all the way up in the balcony. I could hear the notes plucked on guitar and violin precisely and the shades of the voices of the singers, even to the vibrations.  I don't recall ever hearing music so well in concerts I attended in my teens. I'm sure advancements of technology are what made the difference.

As technology develops, it is bound to affect the arts, the way we create it and the way we experience and perceive it. Once photography was an act of great patience and care. Now you can take a beautiful shot with little effort.

Of course it still requires some training to recognize the beauty when it occurs, even if you made it happen by accident.

Perhaps lack of sound quality was the reason listening to orchestral music in a concert hall was such a serious thing at one time, because it really required close attention to make out the melodic lines played by various instruments and when listening to popular music, one paid more attention to the rhythms and the lyrics than the instrumental sound. That may be why, along with the fact that there is more competition, that more skill is required of muscians and singers these days. There are still artists who shoot to celebrity status due to their attractiveness or marketing hype and lame songs that become popular. But I think there are also more discerning fans. And what I find more interesting is how there is less of a generation gap in allegiance to artists. This is due to recordings, of course, now with greater quality and durability in digital format. Those LP records of my childhood wore out in a few years, no wonder it wasn't so easy to pass on the delights of your favorite singer to your children in those days.

Writing is one of the arts that has most resisted change because its fundamental medium--words--is less subject to change. It is affected by technology more indirectly. In order to compete with radio, film, and television, writers have had to work harder to make their works attractive to the general public. Then there are ebooks. It isn't merely a different format but has formed different expectations of books and reading. Actually those changes have been there for sometime, but e-readers have made us more aware of them. People tend to have less time for reading and need either briefer material or material that can be absorbed more quickly or in bite-sized pieces.

And so we no longer demand so much that novels be hundreds of pages long. A novel is no longer something to lose oneself in for most people but something to be concumed in bits and pieces over time, like those bars of chocolate my mother made last when we were children by doling them out a square at a time. This demands a change in writing style too. We need more literature that delivers a great deal in little pieces, much as those luxury chocolate bars do.