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!


3 thoughts on “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM…”

  1. A very, very apt analogy for the base rhythm you and your fellow cinematographers provide to a story. AI won’t replace music creation or the art , sometimes messy , accidental and experimental- like great jazz, of visual storytelling. I believe that you need the technical know how for the consistent look look of a film as the foundation and modern technology can help with that . But, you also have to have the heart and soul and confidence to be able to riff off that base. But , I am feeling old due to your opening line recognizing that some folks would not have heard of Krupa . Sigh

  2. When I teach the union operators work shop I drive home the concept that the operator has to “Hear the music” and that defines how we operate the scene. I also ask dolly grips that I have never worked with if they are musicians. If the answer yes I know I’m in for a good time. If the answer no I will do everything in my power
    To teach them

  3. I saw the Foo Fighters play at The Innings Festival in Tempe, Az.
    on February 26th with Taylor Hawkins on the drums. Their music was
    a case where the drummer could completely take over the song.
    Gene Krupa pioneered the drum solo and opened the doors
    for many future jazz and rock drummers. The passion he had for
    drumming put himself in a totally different world that only he
    could experience. Just watch his facial expressions as he plays.
    Every artist will always bring their unique expressions
    to their art. I think your job is safe.

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