Gene Krupa (1909-1973) was a jazz drummer remembered primarily for his work during the Big Band Era. If you don’t know him, look him up; he’s universally recognized as the father of modern drumming. He was also quite the character in his own right, as any number of YouTube videos will show. Should you ever wonder where many of the great rock ‘n roll performers got their style, he’s as good a place as any to find the inspiration.
Among the things I find fascinating about him is that as the metronome of the band, he kept time with his own internal technique. This involved chanting to himself a simple phrase: ‘lyonnaise potatoes and some pork chops.’ By dragging the word lyonnaise and emphasizing the word some, he was able to prevent the beat from becoming too mechanical.
In this way, Krupa expressed something profoundly personal. No one else could do it like that when he sat behind the kit, and no one has been able to reproduce it since.
Cinematographers are that way, too. Each of us offers something unique that can’t be imitated (despite what a few may think). Our effort is similar to a handwritten signature, in a sense. A thousand of us can use the same instrument to put it on paper, but no two are alike.
Krupa would roll in his grave if he heard an automated drum track, and with good reason. It has no heart, no soul, no…passion. It’s cold and clinical, devoid of the human touch.
And therein lies the lesson. With modern cinematography’s overwhelming emphasis on technology, it has never been more important for us to stay on guard against the same fate. That internal metronome that drove Krupa’s rhythm is the same as the one that drives us at what we do. It’s possible (probable?) that AI could soon make cinematographers obsolete. This would be a terrible loss, not just for us but for everyone who loves motion pictures. I pray it doesn’t happen.
I don’t want to one day find myself rolling out of my own grave!