Re: For the music technology nerds

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I feel like I'm missing something with these posts. I've never claimed to be an audiophile -- I don't even own a component stereo system! -- but it seems to me that, in both cases (movies and records), the crux of the issue is not the resolution at which things are presented, but the fact that most of what's out there (and certainly most of what is heavily marketed) is just pabulum. Of course nobody's going to pay for a higher-quality version of top 40 pop songs, they're essentially disposable anyway (cf. The Roots' analysis on Things Fall Apart). The same is true for movies to a large degree. If I buy Criterion, it's not because I just need to see that film, right now, no matter what. It's because I want the artifact, with reasonable guarantees of its quality, so that I can revisit it again and again. This does not apply to Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, nor to Spider-Man 3 (although maybe it does to Twilight, at least for some segments of the market.)


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:04 AM
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That's not the issue. Not everyone listens to top 40 pop songs. Virtually nobody cares about the quality of any kind of music. Unlike movies.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:07 AM
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It also depends on how you use music. How many people are sitting down to devote their entire attention to music, the way they would while watching a movie? I'm assuming that for many people music is background most of the time.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:11 AM
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My father's a bit of an audiophile, expensive (!) components and all,* and, though he spends some time seeking "good" recordings of performances of interest (e.g., Johnny Winter's first New York appearance), he doesn't spend a lot of time trying to find "better" reproductions of music that he already owns. On the other hand, he doesn't listen to an iPod much, except at the gym.

* For some weird reason, the staff at audiophile equipment stores are the least solicitous luxury-good salespeople I have ever met. Do audiophiles enjoy being ignored or something?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:15 AM
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but the fact that most of what's out there (and certainly most of what is heavily marketed) is just pabulum.

Everything is out there, at near-perfect quality, if that is what you want. As MM said in comments at NickS's, there really is nothing more to be done with the Mahler 9 or Kind of Blue or DSotM.

The art has matured. We no more need new music or audio improvements at an affordable price than we need a new edition of Moby Dick or Wuthering Heights, or new novels because we don't have enough to read.

Art is not dead, but it is finished. Complete.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:20 AM
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For some weird reason, the staff at audiophile equipment stores are the least solicitous luxury-good salespeople

It's like, analogy ban.

I figure if you don't know exactly what you want they really can't help you. Whatever the differences between 2 3000 dollar pre-amps, they really aren't going to be able to explain to someone who doesn't already know.

Someone who doesn't know and is just spending as much money as they can will be unappreciative of the product.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:26 AM
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2: But it is the issue! That's where the record companies are losing the most money. If whatever the most well-regarded anarcho-punk band in the country releases an album, there's only about 10,000 people in the US who'll even care. A couple of thousand of them could be counted on to buy it, and another few thousand would download it if they were given the opportunity. So press a few thousand CDs and you'll probably do okay. If Mariah Carey puts out an album, 20 million will care, but probably only a few thousand would prefer to buy it over downloading it, and 10,000 units aren't even going to cover the fee for the producer's assistant's bottled water.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:27 AM
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I think part of the problem is that the music industry has spent the last 15 years training consumers not to care about the quality, by compressing the dynamic range on CDs and making everything LOUD. Now, to be fair, it's not entirely a one-way process. Apparently some morons do complain when their CDs have quiet parts, because apparently they are unable to turn the volume up manually if it's reallly impossible to hear. But the overall point is that people won't notice a difference between CD quality and compressed MP3 quality, because in a very important sense there is no difference.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:40 AM
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The music industry wants to sell music to people who might not want to spend big bucks on expensive equipment (even allowing that most of the expensive stuff is a total scam) and might also want to listen to music in less-than-ideal listening situations (and who can blame them?); training consumers to care about audio quality would be extremely counterproductive, like if Charles Shaw gave free wine appreciation courses.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:52 AM
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Audiophiles are not like the rest of us. I'm as huge a music snob as you are likely to find and I do want my recorded music to clear a certain threshold of decent sound. The thing is, though, that even compressed audio, played on an iPod, easily clears that threshold. In the universe of reasons most people enjoy music, audio quality—provided it isn't distractingly bad—just doesn't seem to have a very big effect.

Obviously, "distractingly bad" is different for different people. And really nicely recorded music played on a very expensive system can be a real pleasure. But I'm much more interested in (among other things) notes, rhythms, timbres, lyrics, musical architecture, and musical expression.

For that reason, not only do I get annoyed by the implicit suggestion on the part of hardcore audiophiles that I'm not really enjoying music if I'm not hearing it in ultra-high quality, I find myself almost tempted to turn the same charge around on them. It feels to me like a failure of imagination.


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:05 AM
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8 is a good example of what irritates me.

Also it doesn't surprise me rhat audio salespeople are unhelpful since I think the industry (such as it is) as a whole doesn't treat its customers well.

As for the comparison with moovies -- I was just thinking about they way in which netflix helped the transition from video to DVD and the difference between a culture of renting movies and owning music. I think that most people end up spending more time with the music they like than they do with movies, but that they devote more attention to movies for a first (and only?) viewing.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:06 AM
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10.3 -- I hope I don't come across that way.

Out of curiosity, do you get annoyed at people who insist that you can only properly appreciate movies on the big screen? I realize that theaters are the "native" format for movies in a way that live performances aren't for pop.music.

It isn't that I want to criticize people who listen to music on cheap headphones -- I just think that an industry that treats that as the default experience of their product is, on some level, inviting piracy.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:17 AM
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Coupla more things:
1. The problem with
The Problem With Music

Yes, record companies fuck over new bands. Nobody denies that. But that's why they call it the music "business" not the music "everybody doing whatever they feel like and at the end of the day we're all happy". Take the reasonable CD sales figures out of the equation Albini presents and you see why the music industry is in such a state. Especially when you consider that a scenario like this for an indie 4 piece was pretty much subsidized by the consistent top 40 hitmakers the whole time.
2. I don't think anyone really expects bands to make much on merch. But they could make more off touring than they usually do. I was just talking with a friend who works in booking at a local club. We were expressing amazement at the number of fairly minor-league bands that show up at his 250-person venue with a huge fancy tour bus and a trailer full of equipment to play a 3/4-full all-ages show. Of course, it sucks if your crappy tour van breaks down in Pocatello and you can't make the gig in Seattle, but there's no reason to blow all that money on over-priced luxuries when you could be keeping most of it for yourself. If you're gigging regularly in a medium-sized city, doing a 3 week tour every 9 months or so, and are signed to a really independent label, sure, you're not going to be living in a mansion, but you can do okay and make music as a hobby that more than pays for itself. What do we need more rock stars for anyhow?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:24 AM
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"In his photo-book Amerika (1925), Erich Mendelsohn worshiped the functional essences of both the skyscraper and the grain elevator." ...Janet Ward

Thinking about Charles Sheeler

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Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:27 AM
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Oh, to tie that back into the OP: Just let it die. For now. The recorded music industry is barely 120 years old and it's seen gigantic changes on a fairly regular basis. The fact that the current iteration has come to an end is hardly something to bewail. Something different will come along and become the new institution.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:29 AM
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I feel that I must be the one to point out that the music that heebie likes is totally the music that's driving the issues NickS complains about.

Also, it's perfectly possible to pirate music that isn't encoded with lossy compression. It takes a bit more bandwidth, sure, but you've never seen music quality nerds like the music quality nerds trading FLAC rips of Japanese pink triangle releases of The Wall for 24bit audiophile vinyl rips or whatever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:40 AM
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I'm inclined to think nattarGcM got it right on NickS's blog: if people can't tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio in blind tests, you're going to have a hard time convincing them to spend more money to hear uncompressed audio. Most of the music I have on MP3, I also have on CD; but I play the MP3's because they're more convenient (I can stream to my stereo from iTunes, play things on shuffle, etc, without having to find the right CD, put it in the tray, press the buttons....), and I can't tell the difference. I can't tell the difference between MP3s encoded at 160 kbps and 256 kbps, or between 160 kbps and a CD. Maybe if I trained myself, I could, but what's the point in that?

Video is different -- the difference between non-HD and HD is dramatic. It's no surprise that people are willing to pay more when they can see a clear difference.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:40 AM
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Also the idea that a recording of a song is a thing you can sell like it was a physical object is stupid and no longer at all true. Good riddance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:41 AM
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12: Not at all, I appreciate your realistic take on it. (For example, you and I clearly agree that there's a lot to enjoy about high-quality audio, but that there are sharply diminishing returns for hugely expensive audio systems and the like.) And to be honest I actually don't listen to music on particularly cheap headphones, but I plug my semi-expensive ($150—it seemed like a lot of money to me) headphones into an iPod and listen primarily to compressed audio.

I think my skepticism is simply of the very premise that record companies could possibly put out a product, no matter how gorgeously engineered, that would strike more than a small percentage of people as requiring uncompressed audio and good equipment to appreciate. It just seems miles from what most people care about (and, as I said in my comment, from what strikes me personally as interesting about music in most cases).

I enjoy seeing movies on the big screen as much as the next person, but I think I'm dubious on the whole that it would be possible for a very good movie to be recognizable as very good only on the big screen. Film buffs who insist that you just can't enjoy some particular movie at home on DVD are, like hardcore audiophiles, a little baffling to me. But on some level I find I'm a bit more sympathetic to it in the film world. If I had to speculate as to why, I guess I'd just say that I think compressed audio through cheap headphones is a better reproduction of music than a nicely-shot movie on a very small screen is of film.


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:42 AM
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I can tell the difference between uncompressed digital, compressed digital and vinyl on my stereo, but who gives a crap. Most of the stuff I have in mp3 is ripped at a pretty high rate, and while there's a little bit of artifacting and a little bit of detail lost in quieter high-end stuff, it still sounds great.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:43 AM
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In other words, I agree with essear in 17—even in the slightly less obvious case where you can tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio. It just isn't that big of a deal in the face of all the many things music consists of.


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:45 AM
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Re: the movies comparison.

If the music industry would develop a subscription service at about the price of Netflix and with access to the same sort of comprehensiveness in catalog, I think they would capture most of the market that casual piracy take away. Of course, you don't really need record companies in such a world. Artists could just negotiate directly with the subscription service for access to their catalog.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 10:57 AM
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16:Bandwidth & storage is ever cheaper.

The latest appears to be something about 5.1 DTS something or other. I haven't a clue, except your average album now runs 2-5 gigabytes of audio info.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:05 AM
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Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:06 AM
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22: Sounds like Spotify. Their catalog isn't quite as deep as Netflix's, but I only managed to stump it once or twice when I was playing with it.

Last I heard they were supposed to be launching in the US sometime this year, but I don't know exactly when.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:06 AM
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We all have our own lists, and I put worrying about the difference between the sound of a normal CD and how good that sound might be very low on the list.

As to movies, though, there are definitely films -- parts of films, really -- where the difference in screen size is material. The buffalo hunt in Dances with Wolves. Most of Jeremiah Johnson. Some of 2001.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:07 AM
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Most of this has been covered in previous comments, but the analogy between audio and film seems inapt to me. Top 40 pop, which is the overwhelming bulk of consumer music sales, is specifically designed to withstand suboptimal listening conditions, because the industry understands that most of the time that we are exposed to Top 40, it will be playing over commercial radio, on your car stereo, or over the loudspeakers in a bar or a club. It doesn't matter how rich the audio is, because the music is made -- i.e., the genre is designed -- so that you'll be able to appreciate it even if your audio quality is completely shitty. Film just isn't like that -- while there are a lot of films where the visuals aren't that important, and while you can still like and appreciate a film when you're watching it on your little 13 inch Toshiba at home, you do get something real and amazing and better when you see Pixar or Terrence Malick or Michael Mann on the big screen.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:07 AM
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Hypothesis: Most people who buy high end entertainment systems do it for the status, not because they have particularly discerning tastes. High end video equipment carries more status than high end audio--it is newer, more high tech, more obviously flashy. Therefore there is a bigger market for high end video than audio.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:08 AM
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The analogy between film and music is inapt for a number of reasons, not least because film is a fully engrossing multi-sensory experience in a way that listening to recorded music is not (but that going to a concert is). People who watch movies in the background generally don't care if they're in Blu-Ray. People who want to sit down and have an immersive experience generally do. The same goes for music, except that far more people listen to music in the background.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:17 AM
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The opposite of "apt" is "inept". Umlaut!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:27 AM
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Oh, to tie that back into the OP: Just let it die. For now.

I'm inclined to think nattarGcM got it right on NickS's blog: if people can't tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio in blind tests, you're going to have a hard time convincing them to spend more money to hear uncompressed audio.

This gives me the excuse to point out that the title of my original post was not an accident.

Seriously, I don't have any proposals for what the audio industry should be doing, and I ultimately agree that it's hard to imagine sound quality ever being a major selling point.

At the same time, it makes me sad. Selfishly I'd prefer if that wasn't the case.

I do think that in some way, the niche that popular music has claimed, for the last 40 years, is that of "ubiquitous, and familiar." Setting aside quality for a moment, pop music has not been sold on the basis of scarcity, but abundance, and I do think that's part of why file sharing was such an easy sell.

compressing the dynamic range on CDs and making everything LOUD

To go back to this, for a moment, I want to acknowledge that it isn't new. Motown compressed the heck out of everything to make all of their recordings louder on the radio and, not coincidentally, a lot of them sound terrible now. On the other hand, part of why I'm stuck in the musical past is because there's a lot of music from the 70s, and indie music from the 80s that sounds fantastic.

Also, it's perfectly possible to pirate music that isn't encoded with lossy compression.

Absolutely true, my claim is just that it was, originally, music pirated with compression that was significantly losses that build the popularity of file sharing.

Also, it's perfectly possible to pirate music that isn't encoded with lossy compression.

It isn't that I think they're the same just that, for me, thinking about film as an analogy makes me feel like the audio industry has painted itself into a corner, by comparison.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:31 AM
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The opposite of "apt" is "inept". Umlaut!

I think I, for one, will go with the OED over neb on this one.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:32 AM
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While I do agree with both 27 and 29, they both strike me as a bit insufficiently skeptical of an implicit claim (not necessarily on NickS's part, although I can't really tell) that at least some musical contexts really do require top-notch recording and reproduction for basic enjoyment of what they're all about. I wonder what an example of one of those contexts would be. (Stipulating that the listener is not a totally obsessed audiophile.)


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:33 AM
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Download compressed music. Unzip. Play. Listen.

Is audio at home over consumer electronics or live ?

E., not generally a big fan on live albums.


Posted by: Econolicious, Bang And Olufsen | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:33 AM
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The same OED that lists inept as being from "f. in- (IN-3) + aptus APT" and defines it as meaning, basically, "not apt"?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:35 AM
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Sounds like Spotify

I was going to mention satellite radio, but that looks like a better comparison. I would still expect some resistance to a purely rental model but we'll see.

Also the idea that a recording of a song is a thing you can sell like it was a physical object is stupid and no longer at all true. Good riddance.

See, that makes me sad. I'm inclined to agree the with comment that RS made on my blog,

I know many good players who would not bother to put the work into recording now because it is too much work for the money that can be made through sales. They haven't given up playing, but they have stopped recording. Additionally, a lot of good engineers have stopped doing that work because there is no money in it.
Listeners can decide that they don't want to pay for music recordings -- but one inevitable result will be less recorded music. Less recorded music may be good for the culture. . . .

I don't know what will happen to the recording industry but, as somebody who likes recorded music, I'm not willing to believe that we can change the paradigm of recordings as a commercial product, without loosing something. It might ultimately be for the better, but I'm not willing to say "good riddance."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:36 AM
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The OED also directs the person looking up "inapt" to compare "inept", and gives dates for the former uniformly later than those for the latter.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:36 AM
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The same OED that lists inept as being from "f. in- (IN-3) + aptus APT" and defines it as meaning, basically, "not apt"?

But which also lists "inapt" as a word meaning, among other things "not apt", and with slidely different shades of meaning than "inept".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:38 AM
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gives dates for the former uniformly later than those for the latter.

I didn't realize we were discussing English as she was spoke in the seventeenth century.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:39 AM
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38 has a comma problem. Oops.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:39 AM
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I like "slidely."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:41 AM
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an implicit claim (not necessarily on NickS's part, although I can't really tell) that at least some musical contexts really do require top-notch recording and reproduction for basic enjoyment of what they're all about.

I can certainly think of a couple of albums that I own that, to my ears, only sound good on absolutely top quality equipment.

The two think I immediate think of are the CD release of Big Wold which mostly sounds thin and unexciting but sounds absolutely great on the best systems that I've heard it on (I only assume the vinyl release was better, because more people seem to like that album that I would expect based on my experience) and Officium in which it makes a huge difference to be able to hear the echos and the space clearly.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:41 AM
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I like "slidely."

Oh wow. I must have been typing entirely too fast there.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:42 AM
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"Not adapted or adaptable; not suited for ({dag}to) a purpose; without aptitude; unsuitable, unfit." and "Not suited to the occasion; not adapted to circumstances; out of place, inappropriate." vs. "Not adapted to the purpose or occasion; unsuitable, inappropriate, inapposite.", essear?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:42 AM
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inept, 2: "Absurd; wanting in reason or judgement; silly, foolish."

vs

inapt, 2: "Not apt; wanting in aptitude or skill; unskilful, awkward."

While it's true that they both mean "ill-suited" or "inappropriate", I would suggest that these secondary definitions shade the connotation, such that "inept" comes across as harsher criticism than "inapt".

In any event, inapt is a perfectly goddamned good English word, and this subthread started with you implying that it is not.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:46 AM
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I'm taking off for a while, but I wanted to say thanks to Heebie for linking to those posts. I enjoy the conversation and, at least for me, talking about it here helps me continue to clarify my thinking.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:46 AM
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I would never asperse "inapt".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:50 AM
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One more thing, off the subject of audio quality, I have another, recent, example of why I'm glad theirs a market for recorded music.

I recently bought this box set which I love. Before I got it, I read this review which notes, "The sound quality is outstanding: clear, warm and full of life (the result, says the press release, of 'thousands of hours of meticulous audio production by the Smithsonian Foklways team' - all credit to them)."

That is a clear example of something that wouldn't exist if they couldn't make money selling it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:56 AM
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30 looks like a case of asperser's syndrome to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:56 AM
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I would still expect some resistance to a purely rental model but we'll see.

From artists or listeners? I don't think you would see much issue with listeners. If I could, say, pay LastFM $15.00 a month to listen on-demand to every song in their catalog, whatever I lose in not having the stuff permanently on my hard drive I also gain from having a lot of free disc space. I have music on constantly, and half the stuff in my iTunes library has a play count of 3 or less over the three year span in which I've pretty much exclusively listened to recorded music via MP3s and a small (i.e.,


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:56 AM
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27: It doesn't matter how rich the audio is, because the music is made -- i.e., the genre is designed -- so that you'll be able to appreciate it even if your audio quality is completely shitty.

This isn't remotely an original thought, and perhaps has been touched on in the discussions at Nick's, but one thing one might be sad about is precisely that the quality of the media is and will drive, and has driven, the nature of the music made.

Boo, one would think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:58 AM
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I'm just trying to expand horizons, essear.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 11:59 AM
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If I could, say, pay LastFM $15.00 a month to listen on-demand to every song in their catalog, whatever I lose in not having the stuff permanently on my hard drive I also gain from having a lot of free disc space.

Really? That would seem to me like good news for the industry, if that was viable, but wouldn't you require the ability to copy the music onto your iPod or be able to loan it to friends?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:00 PM
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Pretend 51.1 was grammatically correct.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:00 PM
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Don't know why the internet ate the rest of 50. In conclusion: given that I listen to half the files in my MP3 library at a rate of at most once a year, a model in which I trade payment for on-demand access to music in exchange for more hard-disk space would be welcome.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:02 PM
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insufficiently skeptical of an implicit claim (not necessarily on NickS's part, although I can't really tell) that at least some musical contexts really do require top-notch recording and reproduction for basic enjoyment of what they're all about

But there are musical contexts which don't translate sufficiently well on CD and basic audio. The difference for example between attending a symphonic orchestra, or even a chamber orchestra, and listening to a recording on a CD on my home stereo, is so huge that it may as well not even be the same music. And contra pop music, the color and the complexity of the music is a huge part of the experience, such that an enormous part of the enjoyment is lost.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:04 PM
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copy the music onto your iPod or be able to loan it to friends?

I would say copying onto an iPod or other device would be important, but I don't think being able to loan it would be a killer feature. Some kind of social bookmarking feature would probably be good enough. I would guess if the service was done well I would expect most of my friends to be using it anyway. Most of my friends already use Pandora where you can share stations. That is probably the main way I currently consume music.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:04 PM
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56: But there are musical contexts which don't translate sufficiently well on CD and basic audio. The difference for example between attending a symphonic orchestra, or even a chamber orchestra, and listening to a recording on a CD on my home stereo, is so huge that it may as well not even be the same music.

Yeah, of course. I am primarily a classical-music guy myself and completely agree with this. My earlier comments were just addressing the question of: assuming I'm going to listen to a recording, how much does it matter how good that recording is in terms of audio quality? I'm saying personally not much, once a certain level of fidelity has been reached. And so given my choice of the best classical recordings in terms of audio quality versus my favorites in terms of everything else, I'm going to opt for the latter in nearly all cases.


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:13 PM
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I don't know what will happen to the recording industry but, as somebody who likes recorded music, I'm not willing to believe that we can change the paradigm of recordings as a commercial product, without loosing something. It might ultimately be for the better, but I'm not willing to say "good riddance."

The model is broken. Whatever the benefits are of having a massive institutional apparatus in place to support the kinds of high-labor, high-dollar recording techniques that were the height of high-tech in the late 50s, they're much outweighed by the downside of a dying industry struggling mightily to strip away whatever civil liberties they can -- and simultaneously working to guarantee that the vast majority of music ever recorded cannot be legally procured -- in order to prop up a financial model that simply won't ever work again.

As far as the idea that people will stop making quality recordings if the money isn't there, I think that's silly. For one thing, the kind of high-end recording on analog gear that I assume you're talking about was on the way out well before the era of Napster. Among all the other democratizing effects of digital technology is the increasing availability of inexpensive digital mastering gear (and software). Mics -- even extremely good mics -- and mixers simply aren't that expensive, so a low end studio now has access to the same state-of-the-art mastering technology as any high-end studio, once you take analog out of the equation. The era of the superstar audio engineer might be over, but so is there era of the superstar hand-photo-retoucher, and that distinctly does not mean that nobody retouches photos anymore.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:36 PM
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WAHHH.


Posted by: OPINIONATED STEVE ALBINI | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:39 PM
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one thing one might be sad about is precisely that the quality of the media is and will drive, and has driven, the nature of the music made

When was this ever not the case?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:43 PM
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The rise of the internet means Fleetwood Mac's Rumors will forever remain the apotheosis of the recording arts.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 12:50 PM
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Isn't the point here a simple misunderstanding of the market structure? To have any use for extra-high bandwidth recordings, you've got to have an audio chain whose worst element isn't bad enough to limit the whole chain's quality at that level. Therefore, you must have lots of disposable income to spend on audio kit. Therefore, you're probably your father, who indeed doesn't listen to anything after Rumours.

Further, the record industry has already sold your dad LP, tape, VHS, CD, DVD, boxset, remastered CD/DVD, and God knows what other copies of Rumours. He may not be willing to buy it again, and you'd certainly be a fool to base a business model on that.

They could have done something interesting; they chose to spend the whole of my life trying to persuade my parents to buy their record collection several times over.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:02 PM
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61: Presumably never. I wasn't suggesting that it had ever not been the case -- at least since the advent of recorded music.

What I was suggesting was that, given this fact, we do see fluctuations and shifts in the nature of the music produced for the popular media at hand. In this case, the widespread popularity of MP3 players means that the music most promoted is that which will sell to (be palatable to) the widest audience using those media. That means, in this case, that we see less and less music produced that has ... let's say, those quiet moments that register as drop-out to the iPod listener. There's a drop off in richness and depth.

So be it, no doubt.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:07 PM
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Also, isn't the demographic "obsessively keen on new music" pretty much guaranteed to be hellishly price sensitive because they have no money? It's like being a drug addict - you pay what you have to pay, but if you can get the stuff cheaper, you'll walk through walls posing as Sir Denis Thatcher to make the deal.

(I still have a tape copy of Pulp's Different Class with L/izzy R/eid's very neat handwriting on the track listing. Instantly recognisable. Not that she was my girlfriend or anything, but she did have a CD copy of it.)


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:07 PM
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When was this ever not the case?

My understanding is that many recordings back in the day were made with much greater fidelity at the master tape level than could be reproduced at the mastered vinyl level.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:35 PM
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58:is so huge that it may as well not even be the same music.

And here I thought I had listened to the Hammerklavier, but I don't know it from Elton John.

Insufferable bullshit.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:53 PM
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Actually, I think that jms is right about orchestral music, for some value of "the same music".


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:55 PM
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That recordings of play performances are comparatively rare leads me to believe that the art is considered by the artists to be unrecordable.

That classical musical was recorded constantlly implies that Glenn Gould or Bruno Walter did not believe they were providing garbage for cretins.

IIRC, Gould worked very hard at recording.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 1:58 PM
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recordings of play performances are comparatively rare

While true in the U.S., this is not the case in Germany, where successful productions are quite often recorded for television. Many of them end up being an odd cross between theater and television, with the set design and acting clearly from the theater, but close-ups and camera work that are outside of the experience of live theater.

With postdramatic theater productions, though, it is much more difficult to give a sense of the theatrical experience in a recording.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:05 PM
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jms is definitely right for some pieces, such as Boulez' Rituel.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:07 PM
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postdramatic theater productions

aka the boring ones.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:07 PM
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Yeah, sometimes. Robert Wilson is certainly a yawn and a half. I'm pretty partial to text-based theater, myself.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:09 PM
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It was a joke. Post-dramatic. You understood, maybe.

It's a rhetorical question.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:10 PM
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But no, it's true. Sometimes you get exhilarating, multimedia atmospheres, states, moments, but sometimes you just get no plot.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:25 PM
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In fact, I was earlier this afternoon wondering if many pieces, for examples the Mahler 9 or Holst 'Mars" or much Webern, were impossible to hear in a concert setting in the way the composer intended, for a meaning of "intend." There are not only the crowd noise and lights, but the social ambience creates inhibitions. In one sense perhaps composers do intend their work be heard communally and socially, but in another sense they are writing in isolation and certain of their successes are of a purely technical or abstracted nature.

In any case, I cannot imagine any concert experience of the Mahler 9 being as satisfying as what I have at home, in the dark, with headphones, crying without shame.

Don't even attempt to tell me that experience was inferior, or worthless. It will enrage, justifiably I think.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:29 PM
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Cry, cry, Mahler 9, cry.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:36 PM
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Don't even attempt to tell me that experience was inferior, or worthless.

I wouldn't suggest it; I hear most music the same way (that is, through recordings). But simply as an acoustic experience, it's different, and live versus engineered performance is also different.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 2:36 PM
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Speaking of 19th Century British fiction and free digital content: British Library making 65,000 titles available as free e-books.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 3:59 PM
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As far as the idea that people will stop making quality recordings if the money isn't there, I think that's silly.

It would seem to me eminently correct that if people don't get paid, they won't do stuff.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:00 PM
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80: how much is your per-comment rate?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:29 PM
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How much does commenting cost?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:32 PM
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I am not sure I would like to see the pop music equivalent of an unfogged thread.

(& of course, look at the demographics here...)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:40 PM
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82: Sometimes, a marriage.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:40 PM
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84: I think of it as a leave-a-marriage, take-a-marriage system.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 4:43 PM
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re: 20

Yeah, I can tell the difference between vinyl, compressed and uncompressed audio in mine, too, but only if I'm really listening and only with relatively low bit-rates on the compressed stuff. I recently burnt an album from emusic where I own a companion album [same period, same producer, same artist], and the 160kbps emusic download was easily disgtinguishable from the album I own -- the difference was actually more noticeable than I'd have anticipated. I'm not sure -- I certainly wouldn't want to swear to it -- that I could tell the difference much over the 200kbps sort of level, though. I have a second copy of all my lossless rips, in 192kbps MP3, which I use for my little portable player, and that always sounds pretty good to me.

I like having a decent system enough to pay a moderate amount of money for it. I have stuff that was pretty spendy/state-of-the-art when it was new, but which is affordable to me now because I bought it second hand. So the idea that good sound is important enough for me to pay a bit of money for it isn't alien. Where I'm not convinced is in the idea of HD audio formats. I don't want multi-channel sound, and no-one's proved to me that there's any reason to buy music at any higher quality than 44.1khz, 16-bit audio. I have some higher quality stuff, but only because it wans't any more expensive or hard to obtain than standard CD/vinyl.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 5:14 PM
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86.1: I can tell the difference between LAME -v0 and CD on my (pretty darn good) main stereo when listening to music with lots of tricky quiet bits (Autechre, in the case at issue), but I would definitely not want to bet money on a blind test under other circumstances.

My stereo fits the same parameters as yours. It was the height of ridiculous high tech many years ago, and is now quite affordable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 5:19 PM
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My stereo fits the same parameters as yours. It was the height of ridiculous high tech many years ago, and is now quite affordable.

Yeah, although if I recall from previous conversations, you have some serious speakers. Mine are not [currently a set of Tannoys that you could buy second hand for $200]. The rest is OK though: Meridian/Naim.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 5:22 PM
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And I suppose my stuff was never the height of high-tech. It wasn't top of the range from the manufacturers involved, even. But it was still pretty bloody expensive when new.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 5:58 PM
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Where I'm not convinced is in the idea of HD audio formats.

As I said, I also haven't been tempted by HD audio formats, and you'd think that I would be in the target market.

[T]he widespread popularity of MP3 players means that the music most promoted is that which will sell to (be palatable to) the widest audience using those media. That means, in this case, that we see less and less music produced that has ... let's say, those quiet moments that register as drop-out to the iPod listener. There's a drop off in richness and depth.

That is my sense as well, and I certainly think that I've read interviews with recording engineers complaining about this trend.

For one thing, the kind of high-end recording on analog gear that I assume you're talking about was on the way out well before the era of Napster.

One of the things that gives me hope is that I believe that a major influence on the sound of music in the 70s (which I think was a good era) was that studio gear had become cheap enough that people could play around with it more freely, but synthesizers hadn't become ubiquitous.

I think that a drop in price for recording gear can have a very positive effect in making smaller projects possible and letting people relax more in the studio.

I think there is something to the idea that, if some people are not recording because the economics don't work, there are more people who are recording now that wouldn't have been a generation ago, because access is easier. At the same time, those groups aren't equivalent. I would expect that the combination of those two effects would be to shift the demographics of people making recorded music younger.

If it ever happens that recordings cannot be sold for money, I think that will have a large and (in my guess) negative effect on the amount of energy and care put into recorded music, but I'm still happy about the ways in which the current environment makes it easy for a band that's just starting out to make a high-quality demo recording and make it available.



Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 7-10 9:09 PM
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Hypothesis: Most people who buy high end entertainment systems do it for the status, not because they have particularly discerning tastes.

Evidence: the number of times I've seen such a system being demonstrated by putting on a Phil Collins record.


In fact, I was earlier this afternoon wondering if many pieces, for examples the Mahler 9 or Holst 'Mars" or much Webern, were impossible to hear in a concert setting in the way the composer intended, for a meaning of "intend."

That way lies the ultimate music snobbery: reading the score because that's the only way to get the music the way the composer intended.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 1:22 AM
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It's status you're after, you'll buy a fancy watch or car or some other category of toy that most people know about. Audio is a category of luxury spending that most people are either indifferent or hostile to (e.g. above). After I discovered good audio I quickly learned not to talk about it and to buy unobtrusive stuff.


Posted by: Colin | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 2:33 AM
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re: 90

I think ultimately the major impact on the production and availability of music is going to be financial, as you say. If people aren't buying music in the same way -- paying less for it, or not paying for it all -- that's bound to have an impact.

I don't know how much that's going to impact on the quality of the recorded sound, though. I think it's probably cheaper now than it ever was to make good quality recordings. I've mentioned before how poorly recorded a lot of classic music used to be [at least by my own taste]. I have maybe a dozen or so well-regarded classical recordings of the 1960s and early 70s, on vinyl, and to my ears [golden age, or no] they sound pretty woeful compared to the best jazz and popular music recordings of the time. I wonder how much that was driven by economics, and how much just by varying expectations and standards?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 5:12 AM
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91: That way lies the ultimate music snobbery: reading the score because that's the only way to get the music the way the composer intended.

Like, instead of listening to a recording or live performance? Is that an actual thing that anyone does? I'm a real live music theorist and I've never heard of anyone doing that.

Of course, there is much to be gained by score study. Score study is what I do all day. But you have to combine it with listening, if the goal is to have actual musical experiences. (When it's just checking my students' part-writing for parallel fifths, I can do that in silence.)


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 5:49 AM
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I've never seen anybody admit to doing this, but heard stories of it, both historically and contemporary. It's certainly a well known enough phenomenon for Terry Pratchett to parody it in his Discworld novels.

I don't understand it either.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 7:12 AM
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I've seen people sitting in a concert reading the score while the orchestra plays. I imagine they're professional musicians or critics who are trying to follow how the piece is being interpreted, but I don't know. I've never heard of anybody sitting in their living room reading scores the way you'd read a novel.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 7:29 AM
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(When it's just checking my students' part-writing for parallel fifths, I can do that in silence.)

You're never tempted to put on some early 90s rave anthems by way of reference?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 7:43 AM
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Evidence: the number of times I've seen such a system being demonstrated by putting on a Phil Collins record.

His music might suck, but he's the Eisenstein of gated reverb.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 7:44 AM
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I've read scores along with CDs, but only guitar pieces where I might conceivably want to learn it, or where I'm curious what's actually played in a passage I really like the sound of. or occasionally transcriptions of improvised horn parts, because I'm curious why a particularly cool phrase sounds like it does. I can't imagine doing it for orchestral music, or chamber music on an instrument I don't play.

re: 97

Or changes played using rock power chords, which are just root and 5.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 7:50 AM
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Kobe esoteric!


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:20 AM
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re: 100

I just looked up some of those prices, and holy shit!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:36 AM
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That way lies the ultimate music snobbery: reading the score because that's the only way to get the music the way the composer intended.

Ultimate snobbery and, in many cases, ultimate ignorance. Often you definitively cannot get the music just from the score.

20thC examples: James Tenney's "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion"; those discussed here; other minimalist practices (anywhere the composer has a dedicated ensemble, less information needs to be put in the score, because more can be distributed among the players, plus the composer's right there if you're curious what s/he thinks about x, y or z (all of which might be acceptable and pertain to the same part of the piece, so wouldn't really be candidates for going into the score).

Pre-20thC examples are legion, of course.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:37 AM
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I find a quiet perusal of the score to be the best way to appreciate the music of Lightning Bolt.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:50 AM
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Incidentally "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion" is fantastic.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:51 AM
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I've mentioned before how poorly recorded a lot of classic music used to be [at least by my own taste]. I have maybe a dozen or so well-regarded classical recordings of the 1960s and early 70s, on vinyl, and to my ears [golden age, or no] they sound pretty woeful compared to the best jazz and popular music recordings of the time.

The interesting contrast to that is how good some of the pop and jazz recordings sound -- better than pop music today.

I don't know much about classical recordings but it wouldn't surprise me if new recording techniques were/are adopted at different times by different genres.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:55 AM
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I've never heard of anybody sitting in their living room reading scores the way you'd read a novel.

Meet my boyfriend! (Well, we're transitioning into ex-, but let's not talk about that.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:01 AM
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95: Pratchett is the only place I've come across someone reading the score instead of listening to the music, rather than as well as listening; and the Pratchett character (the Patrician) is meant to be scary smart and intellectually rather odd. So I'm doubtful it happens much...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:01 AM
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105: I have a vague belief that being a recording/technology nerd was respected in the 50s/60s jazz community -- I wonder if the explanation here is that the tech people were thought of as part of the music-making process in the jazz and pop communities, while classical musicians thought of tech people as outsiders whose job was to hang microphones in the concert hall, and so technical expertise didn't get properly applied to classical recording.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:01 AM
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:(, JM.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:02 AM
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Eh. It's old news, really, I just haven't been talking about it.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:07 AM
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I just looked up some of those prices, and holy shit!

For what it's worth, the headphones that I mentioned in my original post were the Grado PS1000 which, apparently, are selling for £1,795 in the UK -- talk about holy shit.

106: . . .

(I won't say anything, at your request, but still . . .)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:07 AM
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108: eh, I think insofar as classical composers/ensembles thought of a recording as a finished product, they paid as much attention to the production as anybody; somebody like Stockhausen came very much from the classical world, and was endlessly fascinated by recording technology, obviously. They just came to that idea much later. I wonder if some of that had to do with how segregated the music world was; if jazz musicians wanted any kind of crossover success, they had to achieve it by selling recordings, since they weren't going to get booked at venues white audiences would go, outside of big cities.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 11:27 AM
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re: 105

God, yes. Take the Sinatra 'melancholy' concept albums of the mid to late 50s: "In the Wee Small Hours", and "Sings for Only the Lonely". Just amazing sound quality. Everything, from his voice, to the strings, brass, percussion, the lot, is beautifully recorded. Both in the very spare sections, and the lush. I put on the 'Only the Lonely' album sometimes and the sound of it just sweeps you away.* This is just personal taste, of course, but to my ears that stuff sounds so much better than some of the orchestral stuff I have that's a little later.

I presume it was partly about differing standards, since a lot of classical music and jazz were recorded in the same studios, so it can't be a difference in budgets or equipment. It might be Rudy van Gelder in the room one day with the Miles Davis Quintet, and the next it'd be some classical producer/engineer recording Alfred Brendel.

There might be some truth in 112. I really don't know. And perhaps there's some classical buff somewhere complaining about how rich and lush jazz piano recordings sound. Not dry, and tinny like piano is supposed to sound ...

* plus all the little jokes in the arrangements, e.g. the lengthy quote from the Rite of Spring in one tune...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 2:50 PM
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re: 111

I have a set of 100-quid Audio Technica headphones, and apart from the fact that they don't isolate very well [a problem at work], they are plenty good enough for me. I hope I never acquire a taste for expensive headphones as the market is increasingly wild.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 2:52 PM
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On the subject of music, recording, and record companies, I just found myself looking at the track listing for Revolutions in Sound: Warner Bros. Records -- The First Fifty Years. I feel like it deserves some comment -- there's an addictive quality to looking over the track list (and frequently wondering why they would chose that particular track from that artist), but I don't have anything pithy.

The concluding paragraph of the AMG review feels appropriate to this conversation:

But that's the story of the majors: they started relatively small, got big and then got bigger, before they eventually all collapsed. To hide that would give Revolutions in Sound a bit of a false note, so it's good that the story ends anti-climatically. Because even with that slightly sour coda, it's hard to look at Revolutions in Sound and not feel a slight pang for the era of major labels and mass pop culture, especially because nobody did it as well, or as weirdly, as Warner.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 2:55 PM
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I have this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfecting-Sound-Forever-Story-Recorded/dp/1862079420

on my current 'to read' list. It looks interesting.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 2:58 PM
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116: I have a book on the history of recording that was recommended to me. I just started it last night, and it looks interesting. I can't remember the title at the moment, but I'll look it up when I get home.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 3:04 PM
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The book that was recommended to me is Repeated Takes by Michael Chanan.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 6:24 PM
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This has been an interesting discussion. The only thing I can think to add is an anecdote of talking to a sound engineer/record producer friend of mine. He was talking about his favorite trick for when he hears from an artist something like, "It just doesn't sound right."

He tweaks here and there but is really just raising the volume level. Says it works every single time, but also conceded he is part of the problem when I brought up the Loudness Wars.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 8:58 PM
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He tweaks here and there but is really just raising the volume level. Says it works every single time, but also conceded he is part of the problem when I brought up the Loudness Wars.

Raising the volume level in the studio doesn't seem like that much of a problem. If he's cranking up the gain on the compressor maybe that's a problem.

But of course that's the thing about the loudness wars: heavily compressed music does sound very good, at first. Punchy and super lively and so on. It just wears on you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:10 PM
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120: I think he was raising it on the recording itself, but I wondered if was just non-chalantly turning the master-volume knob up, because that's funny.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:11 PM
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^he


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:12 PM
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You know, a lot of mastering is basicall balancing apparent loudness and dynamic range. A lot of it boils down to clever ways to turn the volume up, even when you're not trying to engineer for MAXIMUM LOUDNESS WARS DOMINATION. Uncompressed master recordings do indeed sound very weird and quiet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:20 PM
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I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's not that I'm soullessly indifferent to music, but rather that I just don't like loud noises.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:27 PM
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I can point you to some extremely quiet music if you'd like.

Also, the thing to understand about compression is that it isn't actually making the music louder (this may have been covered in the linked articles); there's a maximum volume that you can reach on a CD, and basically every CD hits that level at some point. You're increasing the perceived loudness, because the way your mind interprets volume isn't based on the peaks, but is instead based on the average (RMS) sound pressure level. This totally was covered in the article, wasn't it?

Oh well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:30 PM
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WHAT, LB?!?!

I'm actually feeling a bit hearing lossy in my left ear tonight, after practicing a set with a metronome click going loudly via earbud. My hearing's so fucked.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:30 PM
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But of course that's the thing about the loudness wars: heavily compressed music does sound very good, at first. Punchy and super lively and so on. It just wears on you.

There's more to it than that. Listen to the samples .


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:33 PM
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127: first of all, he totally cheated by lowering the peak volume on the second mix and second of all, that music sucks however you master it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:35 PM
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And of course there are lots of tricks to keeping the drums and stuff punchy even when you're cranking the shit out of the compression, things like putting notch filters on the bass to bring out the kick and whateverwhatever. But yes, it ends up being mostly annoying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:38 PM
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he totally cheated by lowering the peak volume on the second mix

But that's part of the point. Heavily compressing stuff does more than just allow you to make it louder. In order to isolate the one effect you've got to control for the others.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:38 PM
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130: well, sure, but nobody's actually ever turning down the master gain on their amp so the RMS on an overcompressed mix matches the RMS on a properly engineered mix. In any given real world scenario, the overcompressed track is initially going to sound better, because it's going to seem way louder; especially if you're using a multipressor, you'll get more pop from the bass, the lead lines will be brighter and more present, and the hi-hats will seem crisper. It's all a lie, yes, but that's what will happen, perceptually, until it starts making you fatigued and uncomfortable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:43 PM
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The sizzle cymbal will be nicely charred! The floor toms will stand up! The ride will give the crash a lift! The banjo will be more forthcoming! The trumpet will be less muted!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:54 PM
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The Ondes Martenot will always march a lot!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 9:56 PM
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I can point you to some extremely quiet music if you'd like.

I can point you to some uncompressed music if you'd like.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:00 PM
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the weak link in my audio reproduction chain is usually the noise from my heater or cars driving by on the road.

and speaking of loudness war, MAJICKJACK MAJICKJAKC MAGICKJACK STFUDIEDIE


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:37 PM
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I can point you to some extremely poorly mastered music if you'd like, LB.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 8-10 10:39 PM
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There are also other benefits to some degree of overall compression on a mix. I have some pre-loudness wars classical vinyl, which has a monster dynamic range.* A couple of times I've set the volume, gone for a bath and then leapt out about 10 minutes later as suddenly the entire flat is booming with the sound of a full orchestra and timpani going mental; and I've nearly jumped out of my skin. Of course I wouldn't _really_ want it to be more compressed/limited, but sometimes big dynamic ranges in music can really bite you on the arse if you aren't paying attention.

"Hmm, this string section is really rather lovely... [turns page in book] ... yes, very nice [sips coffee] .. HOLY SHIT! ARGGGH"

* I think we've discussed this before


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 9-10 12:13 AM
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108: yes, jazz people seem to venerate recording engineers and write obits for them. Dub and reggae has a similar tradition.

Meanwhile, four-figure headphones? Madness. Even in these times when it's become acceptable to wear honking great cans on the tube. I thought spending £35 on Sennheiser earbuds was extravagant (but the sound is actually better than any other audio system available to me, or at least it was until I plugged them into an old 747 IFE socket and did something bad to the electronics).


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02- 9-10 1:35 AM
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I can point you to some extremely quiet music if you'd like.
I can point you to some uncompressed music if you'd like.

I can get you a toe. By 3 o'clock this afternoon. With nail polish.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 9-10 7:51 AM
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In case anybody is still following this thread, I just want to say that Repeated Takes is, in fact, great. I'm about a third of the way through and it is consistently interesting; very readable and also dense with information.

It feels knowledgeable in the manner of somebody who has been mulling the subject over for an extended period of time.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-11-10 8:52 PM
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In case anybody is still following this thread, I just want to say that Repeated Takes is, in fact, great. I'm about a third of the way through and it is consistently interesting; very readable and also dense with information.

It feels knowledgeable in the manner of somebody who has been mulling the subject over for an extended period of time.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-11-10 8:52 PM
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I'm really not sure how I did that. I typed the comment in a separate window which I closed after posting. Curious.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-11-10 8:54 PM
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