Thirty spokes are joined in the wheel's hub.
The hole in the middle makes it useful.
Mold clay into a bowl.
The empty space makes it useful.
Cut out doors and windows for the house.
The holes make it useful.
Therefore, the value comes from what is there,
But the use comes from what is not there.
Technology tends to become mythic. I use this word in the sense in which it was used by the French literary critic, Roland Barthes. He used the word "myth" to refer to a common tendency to think of our technological creations as if they were God-given, as if they were a part of the natural order of things. I have on occasion asked my students if they know when the alphabet was invented. The question astonishes them. It is as if I asked them when clouds and trees were invented. The alphabet, they believe, was not something that was invented. It just is. It is this way with many products of human culture but with none more consistently than technology. Cars, planes, TV, movies, newspapers--they have achieved mythic status because they are perceived as gifts of nature, not as artifacts produced in a specific political and historical context.
I always try to keep this balance with ambient pieces between making them and listening to them. If you’re only in maker mode all the time, you put too much in. It was a discovery I made right in the beginning of making this kind of music, where I would make something—I was working on tape then, of course—and find that if I played it back at half-speed, it always improved it dramatically. One reason was because of the change of sonic color that you get; the thing is suddenly mellow. But the other one was that much less was happening per unit of time. That was the lesson I really took. As a maker, you tend to do too much, because you’re there with all the tools and you keep putting things in. As a listener, you’re happy with quite a lot less.