A few years ago She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were sitting quietly at home watching the 483,986th TV re-run of The Sound of Music. It was a hot evening. The windows were open.
I thought it was the neighbours. But it wasn’t. It was someone four doors down and over the back fence, who wanted to fill the evening air with Messrs Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright at planet-engulfing volume.
Impressive. We were 75 metres from source. Yet the whole was crystal clear, balanced, without a skerrick of distortion.
Usually, when someone whips amps to 11 all you get is the bass whoomph, which isn’t audible next to the speaker. It’s to do with the way the wave generates.
But not this. I’m talking perfect fidelity. That meant it was a really, really good sound system – set up by someone who knew precisely what they were doing. The secret word might be ‘Perreaux’ (Google it).
And they used this to play Pink Floyd. Sub-zero cool. What made it doubly amazing was the quality. Pink Floyd span the gamut of amplitudes and frequencies. Meaning that not only technically pure sound but also intentional distortion has to be amplified without further distortion, then conveyed over distance. I cannot say how amazing that was, to me at least. (OK, I’m a geek… hey, it’s the 21st century. Geeks won the war for cool. Get over it.)
Welcome to the machine. We abandoned the Trapp family and went outside. Probably other neighbours hated it. But hey…
All this has a point when it comes to writing. Quality counts. Anybody can whip the amp to 11 – which in the writing sense means splurging out words.
Anybody can write. It’s taught at school, apparently. Can everybody write like Hemingway? Certainly not. And that is the issue. Getting to Hemingway level means evolving skills beyond the point of ‘unconscious incompetence’ into the tortured realms of apprenticeship – of ‘conscious incompetence’, of ‘conscious competence’ – and then ‘unconscious competence’, when writing is second nature.
Possibly all to a soundtrack of Pink Floyd. I like that idea. Do you?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013