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  Sound Philosophy - An Unlimited Approach  

Q) Why on earth must we analyze every little bit on a CD, soundfile, DAT, ADAT under the microscope and come to the conclusion that there are differences in the sound? A 13-year old won't know the difference anyway! -Julian

There are those of us who do not consider the high-resolution aspects of these components in a scientific way. We consider it in a scientific way as well as an artistic way. It's the love of the art that compels us to the refinements that the average 13 year old won't discern. However, that doesn't take into account that there may be some 13 year old genius along the way who can and will discern. It also doesn't take into account that there may be some sonic "memory" or influence that a 13 year old may carry into the future as a result of hearing something that's breathtaking. Perhaps that 13 year old will become the next Alexander Graham Bell, or the next Rembrandt because of that fine recording. The only reason you wonder why anyone will care is because your view of what's possible is limited.

Our jobs as engineers is to make sure that the product sounds excellent on all possible player and speaker combinations

That's a portion of our "job" - and another aspect of engineering is an engineer's passion. Take a NASA engineer's passion - getting to the stars may require details that to the average person are indistinguishable. However, once that photo comes in from the Xipppity Do Dah Galaxy and the next Copernicus is born, we'll understand how the ripples of inspiration can spread - and those details will have paid off!

Do we really need to go that far?

Certainly it's not my need. I happen to think it's darn fun!

Will the artist be any better if he/she/they were recorded at 48bit rather than 24? If they sucked, it wouldn't make a difference because nothing can save them!

I agree completely. That's why I try to talk about practising scales and arpeggios as well as the bits and bites. Part of my philosophy is that overdoing the quest to have the loudest CD in town (sort of a "more perfect"-ish concept) takes the dynamics out of the music. The music becomes less listenable, and I've come to feel that's part of why people don't buy as much music these days.... on top of there's a general harshness to the material (musically speaking) that just wears people out. I think people are tired of being hammered by anger, angst, discord, disrespect and vicitm-based mentality in music. But then.... I'm from the '60's....

A little side-bar here... Ya know how some people have a little "tag" phrase sometimes at the end of something they post on an internet blog?  One guy's tag said, "I don't have to be nice - it's not the '60's anymore." Why are so many people into this frown-and-brown approach to life?  What does it say when it's cool to be the biggest bully on the block?  I mean, what's so wrong with being nice? Does more happiness come from not being nice? If people love to be unfriendly, why not start an unfriendly club with like-minded people, go to a boxing web site and knock yourself out!

You can get picky with gear, but there is a line that once you pass it, it really doesn't matter anymore.

So long as you maintain a limited view of what's possible, and keep holding people as being incapable of rising to a new level of perception, of excellence, of passion that is beyond what we are experiencing now. How about if we didn't want to get picky when black and white TV came out?

Quantum science is blowing our minds on a daily basis.... in fact, it's re-constructing what our "minds" are.... but most people are content with what's comfortable... with what's acceptable... with what's standard, and they lead lives of quiet desperation waiting for something to come along that will revolutionize their life... but they want someone outside of themselves to do it for them, rather than taking responsibility for taking their own lives into the next dimension.

There are still a lot of people who would rather download a crappy sounding mp3 than buy the beautifully-mastered CD.

I'm perfectly happy allowing people who are content in mediocrity (by my standards) to remain content in their standards. That's their business, and if if works for them, cool! I, however, believe in the unlimited gifts of our species and imagine that there is at least one person out there who is ready to express the unexpressed... and bring into being that which is waiting to become.... and that one person may make a difference in the audio field and we'll all get to enjoy that next level. Bring on 192k!

There goes all that hard work ... because they only care about the song!!

Good point - the most important aspect is the song, then it's the singer, then it's the performances, then it's the star quality, then it's the production, the sound, the lights, etc. (The massive tape hiss on cassettes didn't stop people from buying their music that way.)

That's a large portion of why the music biz is hurting.... the most important element (the song) isn't what it's been at other times... For instance, take all those songs like "You Make Me Ill" and "Gotta Build A Prison" and "It Doesn't Even Matter".... I mean doesn't that subject matter just make you want to snuggle up to your honey and go procreate?

Don't make it sound perfect, because it takes time, and a lot of Tylenol.

Mick Jaggar's voice isn't exactly my idea of perfect and he's certainly sold lots of records, so that supports your point. I'd take drum tracks that weren't perfected by a digital workstation any day, so long as they were played well from the beginning.

Listen, all this Pro Tools stuff is great for a lot of things. But it can lose something when it's used to edit the heck out of a performance. Music translates emotion best when it comes from within us, and I think a lot of the Pro Tools thing puts the skill outside of us, rather than it coming from the source, the artist's heart and soul.

However, there can be a perfection that is a soulful perfection. Perhaps you aren't seeing the soulful side of the detailed high-end sonics inherent in the mastering approach. Sound excellence, in a way, is just a quest for the closest reproduction of the "juice" of a live performance, because that's when we're closest to the heart of the performer.

So maybe all of this digital perfection and bits and bytes (spell it how you like it) is really just a way of manifesting a closer connection to the heart. That's what it is for me. It's not about being better than anyone else, more right than anyone else, more discerning than anyone else. I love the heart of music, and I want to get as close to that as I can, without investing in Tylenol. It just depends on the resilience of the seeker - whether it makes any sense or not.

Even the time of the day and your body temperature affects the way you hear things...

Very accurately put.

so just get by and make it sound good...

Mediocrity within the context of my standards just doesn't' work for me.

No mediocrity, don't get me wrong; I'm very passionate about my work and I strive for excellence whenever possible. However, I still think there are way too many variables to keep track of, and there is that "line", that once passed, the difference won't be perceived. ...life is too short to get stuck on such a boring subject.

Whoever passed the idea onto you that "life is too short" is someone who doesn't think you can live to be 200 years old, or older if you look into ancient texts that describe what's possible. There's a million things to experience in a lifetime, and for me, I want to do so richly. It's not boring for me. Boring to some, yes. God bless them for their interests in other areas. Auto repair bores me to no end, so therefore I feel blessed that someone else enjoys taking that one on.

I'm grateful when people such as yourself write to me to share their views. I strive to share the concept of unlimitedness, because I think we keep that which we share. I hope your fulfilment every day is unlimited - it's a great vision that can be shared.


Date created: 05/20/03
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