Ep 6: Polish and Poetry

Listen: 

The guys struggle with how to polish and finish a piece.

Liner notes:

  • No one is a polished as Sheldon (if you’ve seen his freshly shaved head, you would agree).
  • There are dangerous paths in polishing. How long is long enough.
  • Fact checking:
    • Tolkien worked actually for 12 years on Lord of the Rings.
    • Rothfuss for 7 years.
  • A whole second phase is polish. It could be equal to the creation phase.
  • If you smooth out all the edges you’re going to have: Diet Vanilla Coke?
  • Wabi-Sabi
  • Eric is limited. Unpolished. (the podcast is NOT G-rated).
  • Honestly:  we can all sing along to Katy Perry. We love her 😉

Aside:

Happy New Year.

Get creating. This could be your year!

And yes, we hung out together to bring in 2018. Cheers!

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2 thoughts on “Ep 6: Polish and Poetry

  1. So if we’re going to talk about Steely Dan, we also have to be more specific about which era we’re talking about because while I agree that the musicianship has remained constantly ‘the best’ in technical play throughout their career, I don’t think it qualifies as overpolished by the definitions presented. That is to say, I believe that ‘overpolished’ requires that a work not reach its full potential due to overdetailing and perfection. My sense is that the quality of performance in each track is part of the core element of their style and presentation– it -has- to be, otherwise the listening experience would be different. The one thing about SD’s latter half of album releases is how Fagen’s vocals grow more and more ‘jazzy’ and far enough away from the concept of ‘perfect’ vocal performance that it becomes the most pivotal, guiding part of any given track. The vocals on a given SD track are absolutely the poetry of the work– everything else is providing the elegant, beautiful foundation to present that kind of art.

    And that’s why a Steely Dan track is different from a Donald Fagen solo album (which tend to be my favorites)– a Steely Dan track is a grand performance, and a Fagen album song is far more artsy, a little weirder, and gets closer to the heart of the artist. I don’t think one is better than the other– just different, and depending on the kind of musical engagement I’m going for, I’ll pop in one CD over another.

    SORRY THAT WAS A LOT ABOUT STEELY DAN THO

    Back to the main point– It’s essential that we define ‘overpolished’ as something that is specifically detrimental to the final product and vision of the work. The easiest example I can think of is the web D&D shows ‘Force Grey’ vs. ‘Critical Role’. They’re both D&D shows, they share a DM and sometimes players, but Force Grey is absolutely overpolished and overcut, whereas Critical Role is a live broadcast so every mistake is visible. Force Grey cuts out things that the editor feels isn’t directly relevant to telling the story– so we don’t see every dice role, every reaction, conversation tangents, pulling out rulebooks, etc– we just see storytelling, character reaction, ‘important’ rolls, etc.

    As a direct result, the pacing of Force Grey is -way- too fast and lacks nuance or interest in the characters or the act if ‘playing’ D&D. Critical Role, on the other hand, thrives off of tension, mistakes, checking rules, and offering viewers the full experience of playing a real game of Dungeons and Dragons– even if they have a fancy set, lights, minis, and other things.

    Re: Michaelangelo’s David– One of the reasons David is one of the most famous pieces of sculptural work in the world is because it’s a testament to the absolute brilliant technical skill of Michaelangelo. David was sculpted from a neglected (for like 20 years) half-started piece of marble that nobody else wanted to touch, by a young man who used it to prove his worth as an artist, so I guarantee you half of the work was powered and perfected by spite and ego, and the polish is part of the focus of the final product (as opposed to just part of the production he spent a lot of time on).

    At the other end of the spectrum, what is an unpolished work? I think the term has multiple meanings here, as we can say something is ‘unpolished’ in that it has technical imperfections visible in the work (AKA, a ‘painterly’ look in paintings, or famously improvised jazz performances), or we can mean ‘unpolished’ to mean ‘unfinished’– AKA, there are things in this work that need to be addressed in order for it to reach its full potential and appear to be oversights– something that’s sloppy.

    I personally think that part of the polishing process is deciding which aspects of the work remain a little raw, a little off, a little purposefully vague– and which parts require high levels of detail, attention, and flawlessness. This is what separates amateurs from professionals IMO, because it indicates an understanding of focus, communication, and guiding the audience’s attention to the important parts and not letting them get lost/confused. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to make things technically perfect to a point your piece loses the life, energy, and original intention– you lose the forest for the trees, more or less.

    (an aside: Sometimes there is no winning with audience reception if your audience is not primed to grasp the subtleties and nuance in your work. I see it often with people 30 and under these days who don’t seem to understand the artistic nature of entertainment media and see any technical choice that doesn’t line up with an idealized ‘perfect’ product to be a detrimental flaw that speaks of ignorance or laziness. For instance, the clarification needed during one particular sequence during The Last Jedi where the director made a sound design choice that -I- felt was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I’ve ever had because I knew it was intentional– but others apparently assumed it was a mistake (which still blows my mind)).

    Oh my god I’m sorry I’m always writing too much, but you guys always talk about things that are so relevant to me and I don’t get to talk about them enough with my peers LOL.

    So I’ll end it there! Fabulous episode, SUCH an important topic.

    -Shad

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  2. All excellent points. Yeah, ‘polish’ can definitely be a misleading word. People too often take it to mean ‘technically perfect’ where to me it means you’ve looked at the work and as the author of the work you’ve made decisions on when to call it ‘done’. Polish just means that you have gone over the work and it now reflects the best possible intention that you as the artist are trying to get across.

    I think that in today’s world of auto-tune the word ‘polish’ takes on this meaning of technically perfect. If you listen to recordings from the pre-auto tune era and compare back to back, it can be quite shocking. But that is the beauty of music–the imperfections that give it soul. Do you think that singers of the pre-auto tune era ‘polished’ their work less? I would argue no, because polish isn’t about perfection, it’s a question that every artist needs to ask him/herself about whether or not their idea is coming through to the listener, viewer, or reader.

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