“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere/ It’s up to you, New York, New York.” – Lyrics from New York New York
I’ll take the attitude borrowed from another American myth, the Wizard of Oz, and pop a balloon or two holding up the perceived cultural dominance of the big city compared to smaller centres like our own.
I’ve had several flings with metropolitan life, but my true romance is with Sarnia. And, thankfully, the same technological forces that drove humanity from the farm to the city are also driving decentralization, which is allowing artists to thrive in smaller markets.
Go to any huge church that still plays traditional hymns on a pipe organ. The music is transcendent, and ponderously slow. The innovation of the Cathedral and Pipes demanded a certain kind of musical composition. Notes played in a vast space will echo for about three seconds, and musicians took this into account. The technology was first, and the art adapted.
Just as few people living before the Industrial Revolution could foresee how innovation would change their lives, the current transformation is underestimated, even as it happens, and despite its exponentially dramatic effects.
Among other things, the Industrial Revolution’s technology ushered in an era of mechanized manufacturing and shorter workweeks. Today, self-driving cars and Watson-like artificial intelligence found on personal devices is fueling similar change.
The displacement of workers in transportation and the AI administration of things like taxes, personal health and property law is going to leave us with more leisure time, which is a boon for the storytellers in music, movies or video games.
As a recording studio owner I use current technology to collaborate with the storytellers of our area, and this community develops and grows as the cost of content creation drastically decreases. The factors that fed the cultural Meccas of the past have little merit now that cities like Sarnia have affordable, quality equipment, free online education and worldwide distribution. The advantages that cities like Toronto had are gone.
A smartphone has more computational power than the Apollo moon missions, and it can access more information than Bill Clinton could during his presidency. Scoff if you will at fantastic sounding technology, but from a whisper to a scream it is transforming small town life in short order.
Today, Sarnia is bursting with talented artisans who are making their own entertainment. Small town culture needs to know that it has all the tools needed to share stories, and it doesn’t need the validation of larger markets to do so.
There’s no place like home.
Adam David Miner is a Sarnia-based producer, songwriter, engineer and owner of DNA Music Studio.