What I want

I have so many hours of things to do and not enough time to do them all. I can’t remember what was happening in the book I’ve been reading every night for the last week. But I also need some grounding right now, so I’m feeling my way through the things I want in my life and the things I don’t want.

I know that I want to craft beautiful and touching and impactful things. I want to make things that people connect with. I want to make things that don’t exist in the world, but should. I want to know that other people think those things should exist, too. And I want to meet those people, and know that we both had this same indescribable and complex yearning, and that that yearning could only be fulfilled by this thing that now exists because I made it. I want to bring joy and wonder and surprise and quietness and magic, and a place to just feel and not think, and to let them have that moment without having to do anything in return.

And I don’t want to be standing there, watching them, as if waiting for a “thank you” or “nice work” or “wow you’re so creative”. I don’t want to even be there at all. I just want the thing I made to be there in the world, and for people to know that someone else wanted the same thing that they wanted, and that it now exists.

I really dislike it when creators are hanging around their work, unavoidably inciting praise from visitors fabricated in the moment out of politeness. Or even worse, they police their work, and try to tell people how to experience it. This is a sure sign of failure. Look, artists: the worst thing you can do to someone who is trying to experience your art is to tell them they are experiencing it wrong. The second worst thing you can do is ask them to tell you, a complete stranger, what their experience was like, or ask them if they “liked it”. How can you possibly expect someone to be vulnerable and open and transformed in one moment, and then force them to make up some trite compliment or response to you in the next moment? You are not your art. They want to meet your art, talk to your art, hug it and ask it where it’s been all their life. But your art is not you. Don’t make them talk to you, don’t make them talk to anyone. Don’t make them halt this process of intricate emotions and memories and feelings just to cram them into polite and logical words and sentences. Just let them have their moment of openness, their vulnerability to something powerful, their transformation.

I love talking about art. I love digging in to the new emotional shapes and colors that art creates in me, and seeing if others’ emotions are the same shape and color. But this is processing, and analyzing, and comparing, and words. The conversation is not the experience. We crave the experience way more than we crave the conversations about experiences. I can’t tell someone to be joyful, or surprised, or contemplative, or wondrous. But I can give someone these feelings, someone I’ve never met, in ways they never expected. That’s what I want.

I’m used to it

So here’s the thing: I’ve been working in audio for 15 years now. I’ve done composition and various sound design projects, in theater and elsewhere. I worked at Meyer Sound for eight years, in product development. I’ve mixed FOH and monitors, recorded live orchestra performances, programmed show control touch screens, and drove around town hauling speakers from site to site in the middle of the night. I’ve worked directly with a lot of people in the audio industry, people with pretty much every related career imaginable: theme park designers, famous musicians, scientists, radio techs, engineers (of the audio, electrical, mechanical, production, manufacturing, network, and software varieties), designers, directors, A2s, audiologists, even actual tonmeisters

And across all the places I’ve worked, in professional audio, there’s one situation which has happened over and over again.

Imagine this: You’re starting a new gig, at a new venue, or with a new crew, a new town, whatever. You’re meeting the new people, getting things set up, figuring out who does what, and you’re all hanging out during a break. If you happen to be female, you get the doubting glances, the exchanging of questioning looks with others, the unspoken “Is she supposed to be here?” skepticism that requires you to repeat everything you say, followed up with some irrefutable proof that you know what you’re talking about.

But it’s ok… you get used to it.

And then it happens – some guy makes a misogynist comment, an inappropriate joke. He looks at you: “Sorry”, he says, in that challenging, sorry-not-sorry tone, waiting for you to either condone or condemn his behavior in front of the group.

The social pressure to accept is extreme – if you condemn them, you’re the outsider, you’re the one who can’t take a joke, you’re uptight, easily offended, and most ironically, they won’t respect you. 

So what do you do? 

“It’s ok…” you sigh, in a half-jokey long-suffering kind of way, or try to laugh it off convincingly, possibly bringing up some other time when you had to deal with similar or worse personalities.

“…I’m used to it.”

And maybe you are used to it. Maybe you’re used to it because it’s the same thing that’s happened at every other place you’ve ever worked. Maybe it’s something that you are required to get used to in order to just have the kind of job you want.

So here’s my question: Why is this a requirement in this industry? Or any industry? Why do I have to “get used to” men making “jokes” about women, acting unprofessional, talking down to me, and telling me immature sexist shit while I’m just trying to do my fucking job?

Who the hell wants to be exposed to that so much that they have to get used to it?

So please, don’t blame the women who chose to do something different for not being passionate enough, or knowledgeable enough, or interested enough to work in the audio industry – they definitely are. But it’s immediately clear, in any community, what kind of behavior is accepted or rejected, and you, as a member of your community, have the power to cast your vote on any behavior you see, good or bad. I consider myself fortunate to now be a part of communities and a workplace where this does not and would not happen. Consider what you want for your community, and act accordingly.