Some might not know that I have spent the last week and a half working in the New York. Apparently word got out that I was back in town. By Monday night I had a gig for recording session, the next day people wanted me to listen to there EP at the studio, and so on…
Mind you, where I am currently working it pertains to music but it has been about 6 months since I’ve been in a Music Studio doing something other than just overseeing or being a suit. I’ve spend almost every night for the past week in a studio. Even though I’ve been away for some time is seems like it was only yesterday I was in these studios.
I don’t know how to explain it.
It’s like something that is inside me. I remember being 4 and hearing my dad’s LP and 45’s of The Beatles… and even though they where recorded in mono they sound great. The earliest memory of me listening to music is the Sgt. Pepper LP and Yellow Submarine. Unbeknownst to my father, The Beatles would play a bigger part in my life than he thought.
See The Beatles are the greatest band in the history of the modern music. I have to say modern music because there are great musician that created the scales, the modes and music theory which is what we now use to create the music me listen to.
Going back to The Beatles… well not quite, to their producer and arranger, George Martin – the Fifth Beatle, one of the most recognized producers of all time. Before the Beatles everything was recorded at once… there was no multitrack, there was no stereo recordings… there was no playback. Everything was recorded at once and you only had one chance to get it right. It was recorded directly to vinyl or shellack. Because of the Beatles and by extension George Martin we can appreciate modern music.
Today I spent hours in a studio that was build back in the 60’s. Everything was intact. Tube amps, the mixing board had tubes, the speaker were huge cones. But this is no ordinary studio, this is a listening studio. I spent most of the afternoon and evening listening. I heard SACD, DVD-A, 7.1 LPMC, Dolby True HD, DTS-HD both High Resolution and Master Audio on Blu-ray (24 bit/192 Khz), HD-AAC, and MP3HD. All of these are the best digital codecs for audio out there at the moment. It’s crisp and sharp yet it was very bland, lifeless, very linear and cold. When I heard recordings of 1″, 2″ tape, vinyl and shellack; it had pops and cracks and ambient noise but a much more fuller tone, rich and warm. What was most convincing was when I heard the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album. I played the 320 kbps AAC version I had digitized and remastered from my dad’s LPs, an ALAC (Apple Lossless), the 1987 Remastered Stereo CD and the original LP in Mono. Nothing sounded like the the original Mono. I was like hearing a completely different album.
Mind you, these are personal taste, and my hearing is bit better than others… My sister, for example, can’t hear the difference between 128 kbps or 192 MP3. While I, on the other hand, can hear the difference between MP3 and AAC in all bit rates. But this got me thinking on other things.
Too Much Music
Sometimes, I feel the rise of MP3s made music too easy to obtain. Instead of taking time to appreciate good work, we now devour as much music as we possibly can. My music collection feels increasingly impersonal, to the point that I have albums I’ve forgot I downloaded. Sometimes I’ll listen to an album I like just once, and never touch it again. Why?
Because at any given time, I have about 10-20 other new albums I’m wanting to check out. There’s just not enough time to give every album the same attention, and when you try to really get into a handful of albums, you miss out on 100 other new releases.
The MP3 era is enabling the music junkie’s futile quest to stay up on all music, at all times.
But that’s not to say it’s all bad. Albums that used to take me months to track down in the past can be found with a few minutes of google ingenuity. I’ve been able to listen to artists I might have only known by name in the past, and not have to wait for corporate America to make their music accessible to the masses.
Despite the greatly enhanced variety of music available to the average music listener, I feel like people’s tastes are actually narrowing, more than they’re branching out. Sure, the hardcore music fan will go out and dig out obscure artists in 20 different genres. But for the casual indie rock fan, it’s just as easy to go out and find 20 other bands who sound just like Sigur Ros.
As a result, you find people digging deeper into genres that they really like, while ignoring the access they have to so many other great genres. The rise of internet forums and communities based around certain kinds of music have only helped listeners to identify with other like-minded individuals and firmly entrench themselves.
However, the rise of unclassifiable, genre-free music this decade would seem to go against my notion of narrowing tastes. Fans have embraced musicians who pull from a variety of seemingly unrelated influences, and reassemble the parts into a whole new beast.
Artists as big as Timbaland, as small as the Avalanches, as weird as Flying Lotus, or as colorful as M.I.A have all made a name for themselves by consciously ignoring the boundaries of genre. And as a result, I’ve seen myself and many of my friends digging into genres, past and present, they previously had ignored. We’re better music fans because of this.
The fall of Music and Music A.D.D.
Music is very prevalent in todays society… it’s everywhere and anyone in theory can produce a “song”. With the advent of the CD and mp3 we have been able to just press a button to skip to the next track instead of listening to an entire album. (There could also be the reason that one does this is that not all the song in a album are worth listening to as there where back in the day.) But on of my biggest problems with my younger sister, when listening to music, is that she can’t listen to an entire song… she listens to half the song and then shuffles to the next on she likes. In the 80’s with the advent of cassingles, that some songs where better than others in an album doing away of the mentality of the LP. To this day, that is the case. I personally buy full albums and it’s true that the a la carte method of buying is working is because not all the songs in the album are worth it.
Before MP3s, when you wanted to listen to something, you at least had to insert a complete album, or at least take the time to piece together a mixtape. Tracklists meant more back then, because it was more difficult to rearrange the order (save for the skip/shuffle functions).
These days, you can crap out whatever you want into an unfocused playlist and take it on the go. Add or subtract songs in a matter of seconds, it’s a thought-free process. There’s no need to give a whole album the time of day anymore when you can just add your favorite. We all have Musical A.D.D.
But the truth is, I’m just being a paranoid purist. When CDs first came out, vinyl purists lamented how too many tracks were packed into the 74-minute capacity discs, and how easily people could just switch from track to track. Before that, the entire pop music culture was formed around 45 RPM singles in the 50s and 60s.
So while the musician in me wants to say that we need to preserve the complete album, the truth is that it’s significance among music fans has always changed and evolved.
As much I want to say MP3s have ruined all our listening habits, the truth is, they’ve just pushed us into the next wave of music culture. Maybe it means the album tracklist really is dead. Maybe I’ll only listen to a complete album once or twice from here on out. Or maybe it just means people need to start making more interesting albums worthy of such attention.
Some parts have been used from Gizmodo as they convey my points very similarly.[Via]