Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Out of Context

While abundant, as we all know, Internet information is completely unfiltered by any kind of critical or historical perspective. Music recorded in 2012 is heard right alongside songs recorded in 1942, with little or no sense of which came first, or how the two things might be related.

– Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna

This quote illustrates an extremely important concept when appreciating any art, or technology for that matter – especially the visionary innovators. This is not to say that one can’t be powerfully moved by art with no historical context, only that one cannot fully appreciate the genius of the artist/innovator who created something new without understanding this context.

Example: Before Charlie Parker began recording around 1945, there seemed to be no precedent for his style of playing. It was if he emerged, fully formed, from some other reality, where all the previous rules about what was possible suddenly no longer existed. And just like that, almost overnight, everything changed in Jazz.

Now, today you can listen to this stuff and, because the recordings are so primitive, you could be forgiven for “not getting it.” You might like it, but without understanding the historical zeitgeist from which it sprang, you’ll never really fully appreciate it. Then there’s also the phenomenon of what was once so innovative and startling, eventually becoming mundane, simply because it became the standard (e.g. Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Christian – the list could go on and on).

Music, art, architecture, photography, engineering, science, physics, literature – you get the idea. Tracing things back to ground zero and the culture and time from which they sprang puts the innovator’s accomplishments in an entirely new perspective, which in turn affects our appreciation of them.

One of the internet’s great gifts is access to all this stuff.

Actually understanding it is up to us.