A technological reminiscence

Today it took only about 20 minutes to upload footage of my pupils performances from the camera cards to my computer.
When I started recording my pupils’ concerts 20 years ago it was on a borrowed Hi8 analog tape camera. Editing was impossible, but I got quite an ace at dubbing off pupils’ performances onto each family's own dedicated piano VHS tape. At this time we used to have our concerts in the drawing room at Pyt House, when it was a retirement home.
The next stage was when Pyt House closed and the concerts moved to Port Regis. Initially they were recorded by a  film-maker mum on an expensive early Sony MiniDVtape camera, which involved realtime camera playouts to upload. I edited on iMovie 6, before moving to FinalCut. Around that time DVD emerged as a consumer format and, ever the early adopter, I wrestled with producing each concert onto DVD. Nowadays DVD production is a piece of cake, but then I called it DVooDoo, because in the early days there were so many user-programmable settings and, being before rise of Google, NO way to find out what they all did except by sucking & seeing; and hoping that you remembered what setting you'd chosen if it came out OK.
Then in 2006 two things came along to make everything easier. One was that I began uploading the videos to uTube; and the second was that Simon Davison and the Nadder Film Club got 2 sassy Sony MiniDVtape cameras.
Over the last few years I've invested in new cameras and portable digital recorders myself, including the handsome prosumer Canon used on this occasion.

I was always fascinated by the relationship between reality of performance and the process of capturing it. What is the most marvellous thing is that in my lifetime everything I wanted to do when I was 17—but couldn’t because it was far far too expensive and required technicians and none of the technologies linked with each other—I now can do pretty much single-handedly in my studio, thanks to digital.
My techno-memories go back to the very first Ampex multitracks. The first time I saw a 12” spool of ¼” tape, called a NAB hub, in a professional studio I just thought it was the most exotic and beautiful thing Id ever seen. I think they cost £4,* which was a lot of money in 1971. And the 12” spools of 2” tape used for multitrack recording were about £36* - and to me were more wonderful and alluring than anything else in the world. (*around £55 & £500 in today’s money).
Once Id seen the inside of a recording studio I knew I never wanted to do anything else with my life. I was totally in love with all forms of recording technology. I still think the smell of opening a can of film when rushes are delivered straight from the lab is about the most intoxicating perfume I know - the simultaneous hope & fear of being about to see what you did the day before makes the headiest cocktail.

Why then did I leave that world? And the answer is the filters which increasingly came to restrict the kind of programming you could make. Academics talk about the ‘discourse of broadcasting’ - by which they mean the consensus perspective that expresses mainstream political/cultural/moral perceptions while simultaneously marginalising alternative ones.
As my life and career progressed I became increasingly aware of the savage contrast between the potency of the technology to achieve positive effects on society and the lazy cowardice of those who were only in it for the money/fame/status. Despite some successes, I realised that I too was as trapt as anyonelse by the very luxury of the technology itself, and eventually I came to feel that if I wanted to reach my own creative potential I needed to reenter the roughness and imperfection of the analog world.
And that is how I come to be teaching the piano in Tisbury, where nowadays I feel I can do much more lasting good in a small area of the world than I could within the adverse currents of the big wide one. But what I learnt still comes in handy; and my hope is that in the long run fellow educators may look at the body of work I've created in these videos and ask themselves if there is something about motivation in the approach they could learn from?

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