31 January 2012

+JMJ+

Oh, Really, Marshall McLuhan?

He said that the medium is the message. I understand that now.


One of my friends recently told me about an Andy Serkis interview in which he defended his motion capture performances as real acting--something as legitimate as any other dramatic way of portraying a character. It may be different from what we have come to know as "acting," but it's still acting.

And I really wish I could be more sympathetic.


Rick Allen
Drumming better with one arm than I could with two

This question reminds me of some critics' opinion that Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen isn't really drumming because--at least where his left foot is concerned--there is another medium getting between him and his drum kit. Since he can no longer hold a drumstick and beat a drum with his left hand, he has a series of pedals he can stomp on with his left foot that are programmed to make the exact sound the corresponding drums would. The effect is the same, and so this doesn't seem significant.

I have so much respect for Allen and his bandmates, for whom "In sickness and in health" and "For better and for worse" seem to mean more than they do to some actual married couples. Yet, having chewed this over for a while, I wonder whether the critics have a point. Not getting personal here, but what if the technology that has enabled Allen to keep recording and performing with his band does mean that he is no longer "really drumming"?

Returning to the world of drama . . . I remember reading that the first controversy surrounding "motion pictures" was that serious stage actors did not believe that what went on in movies was "real acting." To them, a "real actor" wouldn't be allowed so many takes to get something right, receive the luxury of memorising only a bit of the script at a time, or have his performance enhanced (or diminished) by clever camera angles and shots. And so on.

We for whom actors are predominantly those who appear in movies might blink a little at this. But it's true that an entirely different set of skills are necessary in the theatre--and perhaps an entirely different sort of audience.

While we're on the subject, would the Medievals, with their community-produced morality plays, even agree that the supposedly "pristine" stage plays of the early twentieth century count as "real theatre"? I doubt they would have been so liberal even with Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. For the medievals, plays had rich religious and communal significance, none of modern drama's built-in disconnect from the deepest beliefs of its audience. The medium changed . . . and so did the message.

Just a couple of months ago, I told a friend that my feelings toward the development of the printing press are no longer 100% positive, and that I've started nurturing a (slightly hypocritical) suspicion of blogs as well. Which isn't to say that I hate print and other mass media--just that I think we lost something that we don't even remember. And this isn't a new thought: other online friends may remember that it was several years ago that I said I don't really consider blogging, for all its production of words, to be "real writing."

It has also been several years since a musicologist friend of mine shared the opinion of one of her Voice teachers that the biggest blow to musical artistry that came out of the twentieth century was the microphone. Apparently, anyone who has a microphone can start thinking of his warbling as "real singing." I don't like being a snob about music (because, you know, I listen to McFly) and I truly believe in my heart that everyone can sing (Yes, including you, Father B!) . . . but at the same time, I see this teacher's point.

And for the record, Andy Serkis's "performance" as Caesar--"real" or not--broke my heart.


Image Sources: a) Andy Serkis as Gollum, b) Serkis as Caesar

13 comments:

Brandon said...

Which isn't to say that I hate print and other mass media--just that I think we lost something that we don't even remember.

I like this comment in particular. There's a passage in Plato's Phaedrus in which Socrates argues that the problem with writing is that it isn't real reasoning, and that for all the advantages it brings, it leads to the destruction of the practices of memory and communication that are found in an oral culture. (Part of the irony, of course, is that the argument is really a written argument, not an oral one.) I wouldn't give up writing for the world, but it still seems very clear that Socrates was right. And I think you're almost certainly right that this really happens over and over again.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Hi, Brandon! =) I love your comment!

I first read that critique of written culture in a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay (Self-reliance), but it seems safe to say that he borrowed the idea from Plato. The irony is both sweet and sad.

Brandon said...

I had completely forgotten about the relevance of that essay. Thanks for reminding me!

Belfry Bat said...

Goodness me, but how you're collecting spam... an odd consequence of how computers don't think and the internet isn't about communication.

I think it would be fair to say that what Serkis is doing to portray Gollum is puppetry --- though of a forgiving sort in which the puppet is sewn together to fit him after he's done the job. I agree It's not stage acting, and it's not screen acting; but there's definitely character interpretation involved, and athleticism, together with a great measure of self-effacement.

What Allen is doing with his left foot there is definitely musical instrumentalism, whether you want to call it drumming or pedal keyboard --- something organists have to be good at! --- is, I think, beside the point.

More thoughts to follow, perhaps!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Brandon -- You're welcome! =)

Batty -- I wonder whether Serkis's form of puppetry would be what Jim Henson would be doing now, if he were still alive! =P

As for what Allen is doing, I agree it's not a big deal. It's not as if hoards of young drummers started taking up "pedal drums." But just imagine if they did . . . !!! LOL

love the girls said...

This morning my wife informed me that the school our daughter is in doesn't teach incursive writing because its dated.

But then she told me I should be grateful they teach printing because the latest trend among homeschoolers is to not only not teach children how to print, but to not even teach them how to type because computers are voice activated.

So I in turn spend my day thinking it's all one more sign our society is going straight to hell. But . .

Nope. It turn our it's not a sign of illiterate degradation, but is instead a step with a modern twist towards a Platonic classical renascence.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Ha! But if it makes you feel any better, I'm in the "Hell in a Handbasket" pessimists club. I only pretend to be a sunny optimist. =P

Meanwhile, it seems I shall have to accept the fact that I live in the backwoods of global civilisation . . . One of the boys I tutor goes to a school where "Penmanship" is still a subject for students in the lower years. He is in the second grade and he has gorgeous handwriting.

Paul Stilwell said...

"...would the Medievals, with their community-produced morality plays, even agree that the supposedly "pristine" stage plays of the early twentieth century count as "real theatre"? I doubt they would have been so liberal even with Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. For the medievals, plays had rich religious and communal significance, none of modern drama's built-in disconnect from the deepest beliefs of its audience. The medium changed . . . and so did the message."

Some really good food for thought...

Not sure what to say, but I'm trying to remember something we spoke about and I can't remember what it was.

And for those who may not know, Marshall McLuhan was a devout Catholic who has been hijacked by the secular progressive modernists. They would have us think he's the poster boy of all technological advance, smiling with benevolence on all that passes, which is a crock. If he was either/or, it would be safer to say he was part of the "Hell in a handbasket" pessimist club.

Here's something he wrote in a letter: "The modern media are engaged in Luciferian conspiracy against truth."

Addressing his being hijacked: "A guy who turns in a fire alarm is not necessarily an arsonist."

On the either/or: "I have never been an optimist or a pessimist. I am an apocalyptic only. Our only hope is apocalypse. ... Apocalypse is not gloom. It's salvation. No Christian could ever be an optimist or a pessimist: that's a purely secular state of mind."

Squares up nicely with Beren's Long Defeat of History.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It seems that the "Hell in a Handbasket" club has a lot more members than I originally thought! I should start collecting club dues . . .

But I hope the other members don't mind if I start without them and say that McLuhan's quote about being apocalyptic is freaking EPIC and that the name of our club will be changed to the "Hell in a Handbasket" Apocalyptics Club.

Oh, have I mentioned that I've finished both Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham? =)

Belfry Bat said...

Aegidius Agricola, hooray! But what about the Silmarillion?

I'm more of a freight-train than a handbasket partisan. But, with fear and trembling, you know, my own eyes shall see, and not another's --- through a glass darkly now, but then.... We live in hope.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

You just had to remind me about The Silmarillion, didn't you? =P

At least Lent is coming up. It would be nice to do another huge Lenten Tolkien read . . .

Paul Stilwell said...

""Hell in a Handbasket" Apocalyptics Club"

Oh! Oh! Can I be a member?

Now the question is...which did you like better? :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

You already are a member! :)

And I prefer Smith of Wooton Major, which feels predictable.