The Sad State of Music

I am all libraried out for the day. Today sucked, but sucked in a typical Murphy’s Law workday kind of way, with no humor… Just one pain in the balls after another, all day long.

Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to an interesting article that I read in Rolling Stone entitled, “The Death of High Fidelity.” I was aware of the practice of audio engineers compressing tracks to boost overall perceived volume levels, but this article (along with the video below) does a great job of illustrating what happens to a recording that is compressed vs. a recording that is left to breathe. The compressed tracks sacrifice the nuanced subtleties of dynamic range in order to compete for the typical consumer’s short attention span.

Although this might make sense from a marketing perspective, it really short shrifts music as an art form, and we the consumers miss out in the end. This is a relatively new phenomenon in the industry, say 15 years, and represents a disturbing trend of noise over quality. Some artists and labels do their best to keep compression at a minimum, but it’s becoming harder and harder for them to make their mark this way in what has become a very noisy world.

I like all kinds of music from Mozart to Black Sabbath, and I sincerely hope that record producers reconsider the mess they’re making each time they compress a track that would otherwise be an amazing piece of ear candy. There is often much beauty to discern in subtle things… Thanks for “listening.”

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~ by Woeful on December 28, 2007.

4 Responses to “The Sad State of Music”

  1. I read the same article in RS. It was eye opening for me, because in this new world of “mobile” music, I hadn’t really considered the impact mixing and compression might be having on purists. It is sad but until the industry can find a way to be more profitable I doubt the path they’re on will change drastically.

  2. so many times I’ve played a cd after listening to the mp3s in my car and went, “what the hell is that?” at the new sounds that got stripped away by my lame encoder (and lame is good). and now there’s no way to go back and compare to the original analog recordings because their all gone, sold long ago to buy weed.

  3. oops, “they’re” all gone… (I hate ruining posts with typos)

  4. Hi Effing: I’m as audiophile anyone can be on a librarian’s budget, so I rip all of my stuff with Apple’s Lossless Compression, alas this takes up quite a bit of disk space. LAME is good… As oxymoronic as that may sound to people who don’t know that LAME is a compression scheme. I hear that Ogg Vorbis is good too but I’ve never used it. At any rate, compression really does degrade sound quality. If someone is only listening to songs on a PC or via an iPod it probably doesn’t matter much anyway. The sad thing is that there is a whole generation of kids who haven’t heard what a good recording sounds like, through a decent stereo system. At the very least, ditch the earbuds that come with the iPod and get a decent pair of headphones like the ones made by Etymotic Research.

    The same can be said regarding the YouTube video that I posted featuring David Lynch. Watching a movie on a tiny screen might be a good distraction, but it isn’t an “experience” (not a good one anyway). We are sacrificing a lot today for convenience. It’s always faster and more these days, but that comes at a cost. There are tradeoffs with everything, and the primary tradeoff with a lot of new technology is convergence and convenience over quality. Another good example of this is texting. All that pig latin is going to cause repercussions down the line. I know it hasn’t helped my spelling…

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