An interview on technique
Illustrated by Layloo Lapierre
The following interview was conducted by Anouk Arseneau and Émilie Hellman with Dawson College Physics Teacher Jaime Sandoval
Q: So what techniques would you like to master?
A: I just want one: singing.
Q: Why singing?
A: Well, that’s my biggest passion nowadays.
Q: What are the next steps you think you can take to reach that goal?
A: I’ve been taking steps for the last fifteen years to master this goal. It will probably take me the rest of my life.
Q: Do you think you will be able to master it by the end of your life?
A: I think so, yes.
Q: You think singing is something someone can master?
A: No. Because you said “someone”. I don’t think everybody can master a specific technique. I don’t think all techniques are for everybody, because technique is a know-how, right? Yes it’s true that it contains a set of rules and steps and all that, but you also need talent, you also need creativity, you need the interest, because it’s so broad. Yes, there is a technique on how to typewrite, and probably everybody can typewrite, but because in some areas technique is so broad there are also techniques that are super hard, like the technique of how to split an atom. It takes time, it takes passion, because you’re going to hit the wall again, and again, and again. So, if you don’t have the drive, you’re not going to learn it. That’s why I say not everybody is meant to learn any technique.
Q: So you think some techniques have to be learned through talent and drive and others anyone can do them?
A:I guess, if it’s something easy, like handwriting. Well, you’ve seen my handwriting, and it’s terrible, so, if it’s a technique, I don’t have the drive to improve my handwriting.
Q: But that’s something you could do if you have the drive?
A: I could if I wanted to do it. But it’s not always the case. Wwhat if, let’s say for the handwriting technique, you have an impairment in your hand. Even if you want to, you won’t be able to write. For singing, you also need a good ear; if you don’t have a good ear, even with all the drive in the world, you won’t be able to sing.
Q: Do you think everyone can learn to master something? Not necessarily that everyone can master any technique e, but that everyone can learn and master at least one??
A: Yes, I want to think that everybody has some interests and that there are techniques involved that they can learn. Now master, I don’t know. You can learn a technique, but to master a technique takes a lot of time. In the arts, at least in music, they say that to master a technique, it takes ten thousand hours, right? Which is about ten years. I must be dumb then because I’ve been singing for fifteen years and I still don’t think I’ve mastered it. But just to give you an example: one of the most famous cellists in the world, his name is Pablo Casals, and he never stopped playing and practicing, and he was close to 90 years old and he was still practicing when he had already conquered the world with his cello. And people would ask him, how come you’re still practicing and he would answer, “I think I’m beginning to see improvement” at 90 years old. So, to master a technique takes a lifetime of drive and humility.
Q: But that would be only for techniques in the arts then.
A: Oh yes you can master pushing a button in a factory quite easily.
Q: So you would consider pushing a button to be a technique as well?
A: Because of the broadness of the term “technique”, yes. Because if I push the button wrong and I hurt myself, that’s not good. How do I push the button right so I can do it all my life and not get hurt, that’s the trick.
Q: And what do you think of the difference between the techniques in the arts and the techniques in the sciences, being a physics teacher yourself?
A: Well a technique in itself is a know-how. Anything you want to do right, you need the know-how, and so I think it’s the same. The goal in the sciences is to, I don’t know, solve a problem. How do you makesomething, how do you prove something. In the arts, you also have the problem of how do I convey what I want to express, how do I make the audience, the public, the visitor to the gallery feel moved?
Q: Would you say that the techniques in the arts are much more abstract than those in the sciences because there are so many different types of ways to paint, or to sing, and there aren’t that many different ways to split the atom?
A: It has to do with the goals of each. In the arts, the goals are different. Art is more subjective, and so you can ask what’s beauty, and somebody will tell you beauty is a Rembrandt, and someone else will say, no, beauty is a Picasso. And they had their own techniques! Their own way to express themselves, and they both were masters of whatever techniques they found. Some even developed their own techniques, some learned previous techniques. Some masters would never dare inventing or developing a new technique before learning everything there is to know about the old techniques. For example, Beethoven. He said I need to know what everybody before me did, and then, when I know everything, then I will be able to improve. Same thing with painters. There is a way of thinking which says paint a Leonardo, then do it again. In the old school, they say that even if you want to develop your own technique, first show me you can replicate a Leonardo; then you can improve your own, because there is so much knowledge there.
Q: So that would be like in the sciences then. You have to learn what came before you so you can better it.
A: Yes. Exactly.