It finally begins. I've started my postgraduate study and I find myself back in the world of academia as a student once again. But what am I going to do? Well, since I was last in study, 8 years of industry experience has provided me with countless wonderful opportunities to explore creative sound and multimedia productivity - across a wide range of contexts, for a diverse set of target audiences, and in collaboration with a whole heap of different project partners and organisations. The best part of this experience for me was that all of these endeavors have allowed me to consistently stretch my creative muscles across a number of disciplines while keeping sound and music at the core of everything that I do; something I hoped I would get the opportunity to do as I graduated and headed out into the big wide world. ...and it's that mindset - the role of the generalist - which has exposed me to a variety of opinions and perceptions regarding this way of working, and has given me a heck of a lot to think about, and this is exactly where the direction for my postgraduate study begins.
Let's start with the Jack-of-all-trades misnomer. Jack of all trades. Master of none. The phrase that plagued my late teenaged years. From people close to me in my personal life right the way through to transactional careers advisors, it was often used to 'encourage' me to be more specific for my future career aspirations.
Master of none. Master of none. And we're done. Point made. Specialism wins. But not so fast... let's complete the full phrase, shall we? Because I feel it's bloody long overdue:
...and with that we see a dramatic 180º turn in regards to the common, (and dare I say it) damaging use of the broken edition of this phrase. Right here, rather fittingly, the full meaning of this saying has been exposed by none other than Adam Savage; a master creator and an outstanding archetype for the resurgence of the polymath, or now more commonly referred to in this era as the maker. "Jack of all trades. Master of None. But oftentimes better than a master of one." Better, because they can understand the big picture. Better, because they can rationalise the methods of a piece of work within one discipline in relation to others, enabled by their ability to work within any. They can speak the language of their peers, and they can draw on parallel methodologies from divergent disciplines that actually translate between areas of specialism incredibly well. I stumbled upon this video around 6 years ago, and at the time I was surprised to find that this very talk was suddenly providing me with great solace. It was at a time when I felt torn by dissonances created by projected perceptions of the generalist from individuals within the wider arts and media industries. "Generalists are less than the sum of their parts." "Generalists struggle to maintain an identity."
"Generalism is not a discrete occupation." I spent the following few years meditating on this paradox. Paradox you ask? Well, yes... because by this time the rise of the maker and the maker space was in full force, but specialism was still pedestaled and championed above this by some individuals within the wider creative and digital industries, and this felt pretty damn strange as it was very clear that individualised diversification of creative skillsets was proving to be an effective and agile way for practitioners to thrive in an ever-changing opportunities-landscape. After all, creativity was getting nice and soupy again, just like in the centuries gone by. So head held high and driven by a motivational boost in Savage's cathartic tear-down of that damn phrase, I continued to maintain my practice as a multipotential. I've done this for several years with peace in my mind on the matter, but only recently it struck me - as I darted from design job to music production gig, animation task to coding project, I realised that to effectively develop each of these skillsets in an informed and powerful way, I was turning to writings on theories, methodologies, and praxes that we forged in the furnaces of hyper-specialism; writings that pushed established creative disciplines to deeper depths, and allowing specialist practitioners to break new ground and push boundaries. Some that are very close to my heart include Interaction of Color by Josef Albers, The Theory of Sound by J.W.S. Rayleigh, The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams ...and as a generalist, I've drawn on these specialist materials at various stages in my career in order to create my new hybrid world of productivity; an immigrant to the islands of specialism as I sailed the seas of creative multipotentialism. But in my experience to date (and quite likely through my own failings) I have found no resource, no tookit, no methodology that centralises the conjoining of specialist skills at a resolution that is relevant to the way a generalist works. So - that's exactly what I want to develop. A praxis for multi-modality creativity and design. A toolkit to support a more objective analysis of sensory relationships in mixed media work. A collection of practical formulas that would help generalists develop more informed creative output that oozes a literacy of the disciplines that concern them.
It is my ambition, through the creation of this multi-modal praxis, to contribute towards the normalisation of the role of the generalist, and establish it alongside specialism as an equally valid and meaningful professional workflow - and one that is just as complete as any other.