my personal blog

March 16, 2006

Dude, Where’s My Music?

Filed under: music,rants — Alfonso Surroca @ 3:12 pm

I wasn't around in the Sixties and Seventies, but I'm pretty sure that mainstream recording artists and their fans weren't too terribly preoccupied with reliving (and rehashing) music from the Fourties or Fifties. They were too busy creating a generation of groundbreaking music to worry about that. So, why, since about the time "grunge" came and went from our popular psyche, have we been so damn preoccupied with re-recording classic musical styles of past generations? Is it because we've got easier access to music than we used to, better information, and so we are now better able to listen to and appreciate that music? I think it's because there's something fundamentally lacking with music today.

When was the last time you listened to "headphone music", music that you had to close your eyes and listen to headphones to truly absorb, music where you could hear the faintest details? Think about what you hear on the radio. You can barely make out the different parts of the band because everything is "turned up to 11", so to speak.

Since I'm not involved in music production–I'm just a music lover–I never delved into the technical issues, but I have read a few rants about how the age of digital recording has eroded the dynamic range (the difference between the lowest and highest pitch) of recordings by focusing instead on making the recording as loud as possible.

This short article, "What Happened To Dynamic Range?" goes as far as alleging that music sales aren't floundering because of piracy, but because they're selling consumers "noise with a beat". Perhaps our elders were right when they called our music noise? Well, I'm inclined to agree with the author. Music today is such a cacophony that there's no room for the details that truly make a recording great. Seriously. Go and listen to a modern rock recording, and a rock recording from the Sixties side by side (with headphones) and you'll understand what I'm talking about. Yes, you'll have to turn the volume up on the older recording (partially because it's old and partially because you're conditioned to ear-splitting volume). Yes, it won't sound perfectly polished. It will sound, well, live.

The recording industry essentially destroyed music when they stopped promoting fundamentals and instead chose to trade a rich dynamic range of sound for more and more volume. If you haven't noticed what the recording industry has done, then you haven't been listening to enough music from before the digital revolution. The sad thing is, digital recording gives us the opportunity for clarity and range that was impossible to hear on tapes. Instead, we just get more quantity, not quality of sound.

technorati tags: music, sound, rant

1 Comment

  1. I wonder if the trend is the same outside mainstream pop.

    Comment by Bryan — August 9, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress