Tech-Artists’ Proverbs


According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary a “Proverb” is an adage, a saying often in metaphorical form that typically embodies a common observation. In the Bible the English word Proverb has the meaning of an aphorism, a pithy observation that contains a general truth.

As a college student I trained to be a musician and arranger. At one school I studied Jazz and at another Classical. Studying the works and the lives of various artists proved beneficial not only as a musician but also for my later career as a technical artist.

Here are some of my favorite artist proverbs, which although not contained in the Bible, I trust you will find beneficial none the less.

Preparation and proficiency

As technical-artists many of us love to plan, arrange, prepare, organize and document while at work; and all of these things can be beneficial, even essential. However these methodological efforts are utterly meaningless unless we actually execute that which we have been planning and preparing for.

What project, film/video, song, lighting design, career move, etc., have you procrastinated about? Or worse, what project crashed and burned despite careful planning and preparation?

Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune.

Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) was known to push artistic boundaries and surround himself with collaborators who did likewise. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was met with a near riot by attendees at his ballet, however it is not clear whether the cause was the ballet’s subject matter, the often dissonant and syncopated musical composition, or the controversial choreography created by Vaslav Nijinsky. On hearing just a few bars of “The Rite,” Serge Diaghilev (founder of the Ballets Russes) asked Stravinsky, “Will it last a very long time this way?” to which Stravinsky replied, “To the end…”

The power of paradox

As artists we have the opportunity to communicate themes in the most compelling ways; that which is three-dimensional can be conveyed with two-dimensional mediums, and that which is kinetic related in otherwise static mediums, that which is intimate shared with many hundreds or thousands.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Edgar Degas

Degas (1834-1917), worked primarily in paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings is probably best known for his works depicting dancers.

Edgar Degas – The Dance Class, c. 1873. Oil on canvas. (National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection)

Creativity’s clothes

Experience has confirmed for me creativity is most often dressed in black, dirty and often smelly.

Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) a prolific romantic period classical composer who was originally trained as a civil servant.

It’s art!

Is the audio engineer’s role to simply make things louder? Or is it to make the experience more effective? There is a difference. In a similar manner, is it the role of the video team to simply make things larger? Or is it to make things greater?

In a church tech-arts context, if our role is limited to sonic clarity of articulation this may be more cost effectively accomplished by handing out personal ear-bud receivers to all congregants than purchasing, installing and operating a PA system. If our role in video is limited to larger, a bin of binoculars may better serve a church than cameras and Imag screens.

Let us not forget, the role of the tech-artist is always to create art.

After all, it’s in our name.

The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.

Leonardo da Vinci

Despite a wellspring of work on Christian themes (The Annunciation, The Baptism of Christ, The Adoration of the Magi, St. John the Baptist, Salvator Mundi and The Last Supper, etc.; da Vinci knew the power of his work was to touch the heart in ways intellectual faculties cannot.

Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.

Leonardo da Vinci

And despite being a master at his craft he continually strove to become better.

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was born out of wedlock to a peasant woman. He then moved in with his father and step-mothers at the young age of five. Leonardo had twelve half-siblings, most who were decades younger from his father’s third and fourth marriages.

Raiders of the Lost Secrets

Beethoven would have agreed with da Vinci’s desire to perfect his craft.

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) a German born pianist who at the age of 21 moved to Vienna to study composition with Joseph Haydn where he gained quite the reputation as a virtuoso pianist. By his late twenties Beethoven began to go deaf. Due to his affliction, by the age of 41 he gave up performing and conducting concentrating solely on composition. Although nearly completely deaf, this period bore many of his most beloved works.

Multiplicity born of Simplicity & Limitations

I think these quotes on limitations, simplicity and creativity speak for themselves. No further explanation required:

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.

Igor Stravinsky

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

Frederic Chopin

I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythm offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.

Igor Stravinsky

It is not hard to compose, but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table.

Johannes Brahms

Ensembles (Teams)

If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. Therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) left the study of law intent on pursuing a career as a virtuoso pianist. A hand injury thwarted that dream opening the door for him to become widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era.

Art for art’s sake?

While some in the church are opting for production technology for technology’s sake; there is, or should be a more honorable objective.

High production value is a good thing which should not be dismissed. The question however becomes, why have moving lights (sub-woofers, Imag screens, etc.), or for that matter an orchestra of talented musicians.

The same tools can be used for entertainment as easily as a higher purpose.

I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.

George Frideric Handel

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

Johann Sebastian Bach

What a wonderful thing it is to be sure of one’s faith! How wonderful to be a member of the evangelical church, which preaches the free grace of God through Christ as the hope of sinners! If we were to rely on our works–my God, what would become of us?”

George Frideric Handel

George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759) a devoutly Christian German born composer of Baroque music spent the majority of his career in London England as a naturalized British subject. “Baroque” (a term used for highly or overly ornate, stylistically extravagant art) composed in a style which was indeed the loud electric guitars, large screens and moving lights of that day. Yet famously, Handel is best known for his masterful work, “Messiah.”

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was also a German born composer of Baroque music.  He was the eighth and youngest child in his family. At the age of 10 both his mother and father passed away. Johann moved in with his oldest brother.

Despite their musically extravagant and ornate styles, both Bach and Handel signed many of their works, “S.D.G.,” an abbreviation for Soli Deo Gloria, meaning “Glory to God alone.”

Do you have a favorite quote from the master’s I missed? Please share it in the comments below!

Title photo attribution: Luther College Archives

Tom D'Angelo

Tom D'Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He is Emmy Award nominated (Best Director category, Mid-Atlantic) and has been part of various teams nominated or winning national Emmys.  As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.