Blog Post

Collaboration by Difference

You learn a lot eating three meals a day with artists, photographers, composers, poets, scholars . . . That's the Collaboration by Difference we HASTAC'ers keep harping on!


Here, at Villa dei Pini, we are all in the arts and humanities and yet, even still, the range of our knowledge is huge and the conversation complex. It's a gorgeous day outside, so I'm not going to spend a lot of it indoors blogging but here are three things I've learned in the last twenty-four hours:


(1) A composer, at dinner last night, mentioned that the LAST thing he does when he composes a new piece is puts down the notes. He thinks. He reads. He writes notes (words, not music) to himself. He conceptualizes. He refers back to previous pieces he's written. When all of that is done, right before the deadline, he "transcribes" it as musical notation.  The music exists already, in his mind's ear. He doesn't play the piano. He doesn't use electronic keyboards. He thinks the music, hears it in his head. Imagines it. He composes. Mentally. The notes are the method of communication, the transmittal of that new piece of music to others.


That fascinates me since, many times, I'm not sure what I think until I write it down. The process of writing is itself, for me, a process of thinking. I'm always surprised by what comes out, by the condensation of myriad thoughts into the conscripted logic of sentences. Writing for me is rather like relating a dream.  The words both capture the images and contain them into the paltrier uni-medium of narrative.


So hearing Alvin talk about his musical composition was inspiring.  It made me realize that our HASTAC methodology of "collaboration by difference" is not just about content.  It is also learning different ways and forms of processing, not just comparing the product. 


(2) A photographer, this was either yesterday or the day before (time--hours, days, days of the week, all time-- vanishes in the most delightful way at a retreat like this: another revelation!), was talking to Ken (my partner, who is a publisher), about the interesting yet frustrating fact that more and more authors want to use images now that images are so ubiquitous on our computers. However, John (the professional photographer) noted that so many images on computers have been altered, photoshopped, in a way that may seem satisfactory on line but isn't remotely of the quality required for reproduction in older, more pixel-intense publications.  And amateur photoshopping simply adds in even more fuzz at the empty spaces. That means that the reproduction quality, in a book, is terrible. Authors want their images--but the images they want are not suitable for the higher reproduction standards of the older technology of book or article publication. Thus there is a constant tension.


This makes me think of another point that I make over and over again in these blogs: that we are at a transitional moment in the history of new media. People have desires that span these different aspects of our technology and are not even aware that they have one foot in each place. Already the differences of old and new media--in this case, photography--are invisible, except to the professional who has to negotiate digital desire with analog requirements.



(3) I can't even remember what 3 was going to be. My windows are open to the sea, I hear the waves. I'm outa here, but not before posting a third picture (does that count as point number three?). Ah, here's the third point: one learns a lot by being around people who seriously and passionately practice differently than one's own practice.


Bogliasco Foundation, I thank you yet again for this marvelous opportunity to be in the company of so many interesting others if only so that I can see my own thoughts distinctly (and differently) again.


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