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ULF OLOFSSON INTERVIEW PART 2

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As promised here is the second part of my interview with genius when it comes to all things sound Ulf Olofsson! We had the chance to discuss interesting topics such as the Hong Kong music industry (about which he made some rather both statements!) and his unique teaching style to name but a few, and he definitely had some thought provoking ideas.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did chatting!

 

KR: What is your dream? Is there something you’ve set your sights on that you are yet to achieve? 

UO: It was always my dream to work with music and audio/sound and that’s what I have done my entire life. I’ve also had a dream to be able to change conditions in the society for the better through my artistic work in film and music. This will never be accomplished as a “done” but rather is a continuing action. Many projects I have worked on were in direct alignment with this purpose, like the Human Rights campaign I mentioned earlier, but unfortunately many projects were just done for entertainment or for profit, meaning marketing or sales. I have not yet been in a position financially where I can simply pick and choose what I work on, but if there was an unaccomplished dream, it would be that of only working on music or projects which are creative, with honest, sincere and caring co-workers for a cause that helps to improve humankind in some form, while being able to fully support myself and my family while doing so.

 

KR: What do you like about living and working in HK?

UO: Well, HK has its pros and cons. Being a country boy from Sweden I’m naturally drawn to nature and big, wide open spaces as a preference which isn’t exactly abundant in HK, but the area which I live – Clear Water Bay – is quite nice and I like living there. I only go into “town” when I absolutely need to; otherwise I stay out of the crowded malls, MTR, etc.

As far as work I will say that the professional competition here is much less than in a city like LA which makes it easier to stand out and get job opportunities. This is a big plus for me. It takes some getting used to however. From what I have experienced so far in both the film and music industry here, Hong Kong is like this isolated island with its own ideas, rules and ways to go about things. Often they don’t relate to the rest of the world and often they even go against fundamental basics which I am used to and have worked with since the beginning. I have interfaced or worked in or with the majority of cultures and areas where films and music are produced around the world and though there of course are differences, certain aspects seem to be globally accepted and applied. Not so necessarily in Hong Kong. I am not sure exactly why, but this is what I have experienced personally.

For example, whether you’re in Sweden, the US, or pretty much anywhere in Western Europe or Australia, music artists usually make it because they have either good talent or some fresh new idea or sound to bring to the market. Especially in Sweden, artists usually write their own songs and they have a message to deliver. Here in Hong Kong the “artist” is more a marketing commodity which requires in most cases a good look and tandem work in film, TV as well as appearing in marketing campaigns. Only a handful of these artists are musically trained or trained as vocalists and a basic like having the ability to sing in pitch is not a requirement to become a “star”. There are examples of this in the Western world too, witness Justin Bieber and others, but it is seemingly the industry standard here. Except for some Indie bands I am not aware of a single male or female artist who writes his or her own songs.

This results in all music sounding pretty much the same, as it is written and produced by a handful of people. Those same people believe this is the “way” and therefore have no need of change as it is more of a business. This is how 80’s ballads are still mainstream in Hong Kong.

I believe this also is a factor why no Hong Kong music artist has any real International acclaim outside the Chinese market. Take some award winning artists like Alicia Keys and Adele. They write their own music and when they sing they sing from their heart – a communication from them to the listener. Yes they eventually gathered a huge marketing and publicity team as well, but it started with musical talent, good voices and having something they considered important to say.

I hope that my work in Hong Kong will eventually release the potential creativity I know exists with many talented people here and bring music and audio productions back into the field of the arts as opposed to a purely commercial enterprise. Maybe a bit naïve but nonetheless something I’m aiming for.

 

KR: Our students have mentioned that they loved, and really learnt from the very hands-on approach you take in your classes. Is that how you’ve learnt/do you think it’s the best way to learn in this industry?

UO: I’m really glad to hear this feedback. I am a big fan of the old “apprenticeship system” where a young apprentice does supervised, hands-on training on-the-job under a skilful master or sifu. This system proved workable for thousands of years but is almost nonexistent in today’s modern society.

Modern schooling, especially here in Hong Kong, is heavily focused on degrees and exams. The students are bombarded with tons of theory and rigorous curriculums. What is completely absent from the schooling however, is the aspect of learning how to learn – the technology of studying itself.

How do your parents teach you something at home? Do they give you a 300-page cooking book and tell you to go off and read and then expect you to come back and be able to make your own dinner? I think not in most cases. Rather you would be standing next to Momma preparing the dinners and observing and learning step by step. Eventually Momma will delegate some aspects to you, like doing dishes and maybe cutting up the vegetables or cleaning some produce. Eventually you have experienced pretty much all aspects of dinner making and you can start taking over more and more functions – at first under Momma’s supervision and later by yourself.

I believe the original intention by sending the young to school in the first place was to teach them to operate in society and being able to perform jobs and functions with understanding. It appears this is not necessarily the goal anymore as by evidence students are pushed for degrees and exam results but with little attention to their ability to actually apply.

Learning is a step-by-step gradient approach learning one skill at the time. It always starts with some fundamental rudiments:

  • The student has to be of the mindset that he doesn’t know everything about the subject already. If you already “know” everything, i.e. being know-best, the student will not learn a single new thing.
  • The teaching itself has to be done with a balance between theory and practice. Without demonstrating the practical application, ideally with hands-on drills, the theory will not be absorbed for a longer duration. You can learn to memorize something for an upcoming exam, or parrot some information for an oral exam, but two weeks later that knowledge is pretty much lost to the student as he never put the information into a practical context. When one has done so one retains that knowledge or skill for life. When you’ve learned to ride a bike, you never forget it!
  • At the beginning of every subject it is important that the student understands what the subject is about and why he is studying it. If he/she sees no use in the subject but just studying it because he is “supposed to” the student will never retain the subject and certainly not be able to apply it.
  • At the beginning of any new subject it is important that the subject itself is properly defined before further study ensues. This includes the basic principles and jargon. Unless that is fully understood first, the rest of that subject will be seemingly “ungraspable”. This is the problem with math and physics in modern schools. The students are not taught the basic definitions and basics of math and physics, so any consequent studies appear “over their head” and the students naturally “hate” the subject.
  • For a student to become a real master at a subject, it is important that the student is really enthusiastic about the filed which he/she is studying. Enforced study because of the will of a parent or some other supposed-to reason will never result in a true master. It has to come from the heart.

Not only was I taught this way at my university in Sweden, but I was also trained under various sifus at early age, including my grandfather who taught me to survive in nature, fishing, etc. as well as my Jeet Kun Do teacher while a teenager. It became very clear that putting each piece of theory into practical application made me retain the knowledge from there on out – step-by-step.

I have trained dozens of people in this way in the field of audio and taken completely green people and made them into professionals in their field, all by applying this system of hands-on apprenticeship coupled with a gradient-approach theory study, starting with the basics of the subject.

This is what I am trying to do at IAFT and hopefully will result in students being able to apply sound in their future film making careers.

 

– Katie Riley, Marketing Co-ordinator

As promised here is the second part of my interview with genius when it comes to all things sound Ulf Olofsson! We had the chance to discuss interesting topics such as the Hong Kong music industry (about which he made some rather both statements!) and his unique teaching style to name but a few, and he definitely had some thought provoking ideas.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did chatting!

 

KR: What is your dream? Is there something you’ve set your sights on that you are yet to achieve? 

UO: It was always my dream to work with music and audio/sound and that’s what I have done my entire life. I’ve also had a dream to be able to change conditions in the society for the better through my artistic work in film and music. This will never be accomplished as a “done” but rather is a continuing action. Many projects I have worked on were in direct alignment with this purpose, like the Human Rights campaign I mentioned earlier, but unfortunately many projects were just done for entertainment or for profit, meaning marketing or sales. I have not yet been in a position financially where I can simply pick and choose what I work on, but if there was an unaccomplished dream, it would be that of only working on music or projects which are creative, with honest, sincere and caring co-workers for a cause that helps to improve humankind in some form, while being able to fully support myself and my family while doing so.

 

KR: What do you like about living and working in HK?

UO: Well, HK has its pros and cons. Being a country boy from Sweden I’m naturally drawn to nature and big, wide open spaces as a preference which isn’t exactly abundant in HK, but the area which I live – Clear Water Bay – is quite nice and I like living there. I only go into “town” when I absolutely need to; otherwise I stay out of the crowded malls, MTR, etc.

As far as work I will say that the professional competition here is much less than in a city like LA which makes it easier to stand out and get job opportunities. This is a big plus for me. It takes some getting used to however. From what I have experienced so far in both the film and music industry here, Hong Kong is like this isolated island with its own ideas, rules and ways to go about things. Often they don’t relate to the rest of the world and often they even go against fundamental basics which I am used to and have worked with since the beginning. I have interfaced or worked in or with the majority of cultures and areas where films and music are produced around the world and though there of course are differences, certain aspects seem to be globally accepted and applied. Not so necessarily in Hong Kong. I am not sure exactly why, but this is what I have experienced personally.

For example, whether you’re in Sweden, the US, or pretty much anywhere in Western Europe or Australia, music artists usually make it because they have either good talent or some fresh new idea or sound to bring to the market. Especially in Sweden, artists usually write their own songs and they have a message to deliver. Here in Hong Kong the “artist” is more a marketing commodity which requires in most cases a good look and tandem work in film, TV as well as appearing in marketing campaigns. Only a handful of these artists are musically trained or trained as vocalists and a basic like having the ability to sing in pitch is not a requirement to become a “star”. There are examples of this in the Western world too, witness Justin Bieber and others, but it is seemingly the industry standard here. Except for some Indie bands I am not aware of a single male or female artist who writes his or her own songs.

This results in all music sounding pretty much the same, as it is written and produced by a handful of people. Those same people believe this is the “way” and therefore have no need of change as it is more of a business. This is how 80’s ballads are still mainstream in Hong Kong.

I believe this also is a factor why no Hong Kong music artist has any real International acclaim outside the Chinese market. Take some award winning artists like Alicia Keys and Adele. They write their own music and when they sing they sing from their heart – a communication from them to the listener. Yes they eventually gathered a huge marketing and publicity team as well, but it started with musical talent, good voices and having something they considered important to say.

I hope that my work in Hong Kong will eventually release the potential creativity I know exists with many talented people here and bring music and audio productions back into the field of the arts as opposed to a purely commercial enterprise. Maybe a bit naïve but nonetheless something I’m aiming for.

 

KR: Our students have mentioned that they loved, and really learnt from the very hands-on approach you take in your classes. Is that how you’ve learnt/do you think it’s the best way to learn in this industry?

UO: I’m really glad to hear this feedback. I am a big fan of the old “apprenticeship system” where a young apprentice does supervised, hands-on training on-the-job under a skilful master or sifu. This system proved workable for thousands of years but is almost nonexistent in today’s modern society.

Modern schooling, especially here in Hong Kong, is heavily focused on degrees and exams. The students are bombarded with tons of theory and rigorous curriculums. What is completely absent from the schooling however, is the aspect of learning how to learn – the technology of studying itself.

How do your parents teach you something at home? Do they give you a 300-page cooking book and tell you to go off and read and then expect you to come back and be able to make your own dinner? I think not in most cases. Rather you would be standing next to Momma preparing the dinners and observing and learning step by step. Eventually Momma will delegate some aspects to you, like doing dishes and maybe cutting up the vegetables or cleaning some produce. Eventually you have experienced pretty much all aspects of dinner making and you can start taking over more and more functions – at first under Momma’s supervision and later by yourself.

I believe the original intention by sending the young to school in the first place was to teach them to operate in society and being able to perform jobs and functions with understanding. It appears this is not necessarily the goal anymore as by evidence students are pushed for degrees and exam results but with little attention to their ability to actually apply.

Learning is a step-by-step gradient approach learning one skill at the time. It always starts with some fundamental rudiments:

  • The student has to be of the mindset that he doesn’t know everything about the subject already. If you already “know” everything, i.e. being know-best, the student will not learn a single new thing.
  • The teaching itself has to be done with a balance between theory and practice. Without demonstrating the practical application, ideally with hands-on drills, the theory will not be absorbed for a longer duration. You can learn to memorize something for an upcoming exam, or parrot some information for an oral exam, but two weeks later that knowledge is pretty much lost to the student as he never put the information into a practical context. When one has done so one retains that knowledge or skill for life. When you’ve learned to ride a bike, you never forget it!
  • At the beginning of every subject it is important that the student understands what the subject is about and why he is studying it. If he/she sees no use in the subject but just studying it because he is “supposed to” the student will never retain the subject and certainly not be able to apply it.
  • At the beginning of any new subject it is important that the subject itself is properly defined before further study ensues. This includes the basic principles and jargon. Unless that is fully understood first, the rest of that subject will be seemingly “ungraspable”. This is the problem with math and physics in modern schools. The students are not taught the basic definitions and basics of math and physics, so any consequent studies appear “over their head” and the students naturally “hate” the subject.
  • For a student to become a real master at a subject, it is important that the student is really enthusiastic about the filed which he/she is studying. Enforced study because of the will of a parent or some other supposed-to reason will never result in a true master. It has to come from the heart.

Not only was I taught this way at my university in Sweden, but I was also trained under various sifus at early age, including my grandfather who taught me to survive in nature, fishing, etc. as well as my Jeet Kun Do teacher while a teenager. It became very clear that putting each piece of theory into practical application made me retain the knowledge from there on out – step-by-step.

I have trained dozens of people in this way in the field of audio and taken completely green people and made them into professionals in their field, all by applying this system of hands-on apprenticeship coupled with a gradient-approach theory study, starting with the basics of the subject.

This is what I am trying to do at IAFT and hopefully will result in students being able to apply sound in their future film making careers.

 

– Katie Riley, Marketing Co-ordinator

IAFT Cebu

IAFT Cebu

IAFT Cebu, Philippines is a film school that delivers an educational experience that reflects Hollywood roots and traditions. Founded in 2004, IAFT Cebu offers Certificate and Diploma programs in film , acting and 3D animation. Located in: One Hollywood Blvd
, Bigfoot I.T. and Media Park, Lapu-lapu City, Cebu, Philippines. Email: cebu-admissions@iaft.net, Contact Numbers: Globe/Viber: +63-917-314-3456 Smart: +63-947-991-9659 Phone: +63-32-495-2111