It’s the rare book I hear about in the morning that I’m reading by the afternoon, but that’s exactly what happened when I caught wind of Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas’ This is What It Sounds Like.
Rogers was Prince’s engineer starting in 1983 and ending around 1988 — arguably the peak of Prince’s creative output. Every interview I’ve ever heard or read with her has been nothing short of fascinating, and this latest one was no exception. This bit in particular caught my attention:
In my day, we had to go from the materials to the vision. The budget would only allow you to have so many materials, so much tape. You could only afford this caliber of recording studio. You could only bring in these musicians and rent these instruments. You had to stick within your budget. So you gathered your materials in your budget and came up with a vision that you could make from these materials. Today, they go the other way around, from the vision to the materials.
While this lack of constraint can be liberating for some, I think it’s also the very thing that makes it so hard to come up with something great. In my experience, it’s really in the manipulation of materials and working within their constraints that so many great ideas or visions come forth.
That’s why I try very hard in my own work to start with materials and let them take me where they want to go.